Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Who at Target Center, Minneapolis 11.27.2012

Well, another band to check off my bucket list. I started dabbling in The Who in junior high, around the same time that I was discovering old records by the Stones. I saw The Kids Are Alright at the Northtown Cinema in 1979, and from that point on remained a marginal Who fan, but for some reason never bothered to see them in concert until yesterday.
The Who at Target Center in Minneapolis (photo by Pioneer Press)
The tickets for last night's show went on sale quite a while ago (I want to say it was in the spring), and since I typically dislike arena shows and hate large ticket prices I went for the cheap seats. When we got to the Target Center last night we learned that our seats had been upgraded from upper to lower level (score!), because the show was not a Sell Out (obligatory pun). It was the Twin Cities' loss -- The Who did an incredible show last night.

For me, last night's concert was a super sweet icing on the Quadrophenia cake that I've been eating for the past few months. In September I bought the 2011 vinyl re-issue of the legendary LP (which cost more than my concert ticket!), and it soon became one of my most played records of the year. I've owned a hand-me-down copy of the record for years, along with the soundtrack to the film that I bought when it was first released, but for some reason this was the year for me to finally dig deep into its contents. To see the album performed in its entirety last night after listening to it for months was surreal; I'd been living with this music and now here it was in front of me being performed live, and beautifully at that.
Roger Daltrey (photo by Pioneer Press)
The show's multi-media content was phenomenal, showing vintage clips of the band as well as historical photos and relevant period footage (adding a very nice context to the story). Roger Daltrey, who recently finished a solo Tommy tour, was in much finer voice than I was expecting, and Pete Townshend appeared very relaxed and confident throughout the night. Unexpected highlights: 1) a highly charged, isolated bass track (and video footage) of Entwistle playing "5.15", accompanied by the incredible Zak Starkey on live drums, and 2) perfectly synced vocals from Keith Moon (with video) on "Bell Boy".  John & Keith were fully woven into the performance by way of the musical themes and footage on multiple screens. An appropriate tribute, but also a simply necessary inclusion of half of the band that created this fantastic music.

Following Quadrophenia there were band introductions, and then a quick blast through a half-dozen classics: "Who Are You", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Pinball Wizard", "Baba O'Reily", "Won't Get Fooled Again", and ending with only Pete and Roger onstage for the acoustic (and intimate) "Tea and Theatre".

And with that they were off. A fantastic night, and for me, very possibly, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of rock's biggest bands.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Beatles Live in Japan


So a few months ago I took the plunge and started a music podcast, cleverly titled "Jeff's Fancy Podcast" (what else would I call it?). This coming Tuesday's (11/27/12) podcast will be my 25th, which feels like a milestone.  I've enjoyed this podcast thing quite a bit. Posting my Tuesday podcast has become another of my weekly rituals. Having rituals built into the week is important for me since they establish some normalcy and discipline into my weekly routine, which helps to keeps me on track during this PhD completion process.
If you've not yet tuned in to my podcast, I hope that you take the time to check it out. Listen while you're at work or doing mundane stuff around the house. You can also listen from your mobile device via (just search for "Jeff's Fancy Podcast")! The tentative podcast schedule for the coming weeks:
Tues 11/27 - #25: Special WHOcast (in honor of Tuesday night's Who concert in Mpls)
Tues 12/4   - #26: Countdown of the Top 10 fanciest songs of 2012 Quarter IV
Tues 12/11 - #27: Countdown of selections from the Top 10 fanciest LPs of 2012
Tues 12/18 - #28: Countdown of the Top 20 fanciest songs of 2012
Tues 12/25 - #29: Special countdown of Jeff's 10 Fave Christmas records
To those of you who have already been listening, THANK YOU for tuning in!  Rock on...


Monday, November 19, 2012

11.15.2012: "An Evening with The Monkees", State Theatre, Minneapolis MN

I don't usually wait so long before posting my thoughts following a concert. I'm not sure why I've waited four days to get this one started - it could be all of the other things I've got going on at the moment - but, here goes...
photo by Tina Curtis
Last Thursday was my first Monkees concert experience that included Mike Nesmith. It was very exciting to see Nez, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork play together on stage, since the three of them were basically the instrumental nucleus of The Monkees from the time they began playing live concerts in 1967. They were also the core of the band's sound on their iconic third album, Headquarters, which celebrated its 45th anniversary this year, and was a focal point of this year's 12-date tour.

From the opening notes of "You Told Me" (played by Nesmith on a replica of the 12-string Gretch he played in the 60's), that Monkees garage folk-rock sound was immediate and unmistakable. This was the Monkees, old-school style: Nesmith on guitar, Tork on banjo, and Dolenz on drums. Throughout the Headquarters portion of the show Peter switched between banjo, bass, keyboards, and guitar. On "For Pete's Sake" Mike played organ, just as he did on the record. For me the highlight of seeing the band playing these songs was that they often faced each other, as I imagine they would during rehearsal. It was an intimate glimpse into how the trio worked together as a unit, and it was exciting to watch.
Mike, Micky, and Peter: The Monkees (photo via City Pages)
I resist using the word "bittersweet" in reference to this show, because it's been used in almost every write-up I've seen, but it seems to be the most appropriate word to describe the thrill of seeing Mike with the sadness of the obvious absence of Davy Jones, who died unexpectedly last February of a heart attack. This is where I have the most trouble putting my thoughts about Thursday's experience into words. It's not as if I missed the songs Davy typically sang in concert: "Valleri", "A Little Bit Me...", "I Wanna Be Free",  "Girl" (which was always preceded by a Brady Bunch story), and even "Daydream Believer" were all songs I'd seen him perform so many times that they'd become opportunities in the show for me to go to the restroom or the merchandise table. Davy was the heartthrob of the group, and his songs (at least in concert) tended to cater to that role.

What Davy contributed most, I think, to The Monkees' live performances was his enthusiasm and spirit. No matter who was at center stage, Davy's energy kept the show electric. He was in many respects the glue that held everything together, whether he was simply playing acoustic guitar or banging the tambourine, he had an intuitive gift for knowing how to pace the show. I also noticed the absence of his harmonies. Even with this tour's addition of Micky's wonderfully talented sister Coco on vocals and percussion, I noticed spots on songs where Davy's back-up vocals, often sang in close harmony with Peter, were clearly absent. Peter's voice rang clear as a bell, but it simply sounded different without Davy in the mix. I found myself at times singing Davy's parts just so it would sound right in my head.

To give Davy's band mates proper credit, they did honor him more than once in the show via the video content, as well as through a singalong of "Daydream Believer", before which Micky explained that the song no longer belongs to The Monkees; it now belongs to the fans. The audience took the lead on Davy's biggest Monkees hit, and there was barely a dry eye in the joint.  Yet, as sad as it was, it felt very much like a celebration of Jones' life and legacy, and I'm sure for some folks in the State Theatre it was an opportunity for some much needed healing. It was an unexpectedly powerful moment in the show.

The artistic triumph of the night, in my opinion, was not the Headquarters performances, but rather a segment dedicated to all of the songs from the band's 1968 film HEAD.  For me, this was the first time I got to see Mike sing "Circle Sky" in concert, in addition to "As We Go Along", which Micky sang beautifully.  Micky also performed "Porpoise Song" with more heart than I'd ever seen at previous shows. He even stepped behind the drums for the song's climactic ending, which I've never seen them do before. The absolute best performance of the night, I thought, was a scorching version of Peter's "Long Title: Do I Have To do This All Over Again?".  The band just kicked into high gear for that song, and even Mike (who could occasionally be seen expressionless on his side of the stage) seemed to be enjoying himself.
The 2012 merchandise table (photo via City Pages)
The show concluded with "Listen to the Band" (during which Micky introduced the members of the band, which currently includes Michael's son Christian Nesmith), followed by the always awesome "Pleasant Valley Sunday". Overall, an incredible night filled with a great mixture of tunes (roughly two-thirds of which were written by the band themselves). At least a half-dozen songs, including "Daily Nightly" and "Tapioca Tundra", were ones I'd never seen in concert before, and it was worth the $80 price tag if only to hear those songs. Here's the night's complete setlist, along with songwriting credits to show just how many Monkee originals were performed:
  • Last Train to Clarksville (Boyce/Hart)
  • Papa Gene's Blues (Nesmith)
  • Your Auntie Grizelda (Boyce/Hart)
  • She (Boyce/Hart)
  • Sweet Young Thing (Nesmith/Goffin/King)
  • I'm a Believer (Diamond)
  • (I'm not your) Steppin' Stone (Boyce/Hart)
  • I Wanna Be Free (video tribute to Davy)
  • You Told Me (Nesmith)
  • Sunny Girlfriend (Nesmith)
  • You Just May Be the One (Nesmith)
  • Mary, Mary (Nesmith)
  • The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Nesmith)
  • For Pete's Sake (Tork/Richards)
  • Early Morning Blues and Greens (sung by Peter) (Hildebrand)
  • Randy Scouse Git (Dolenz)
  • Daily Nightly (Nesmith)
  • Tapioca Tundra (Nesmith)
  • Goin' Down (Hildebrand/Dolenz/Jones/Nesmith/Tork)
  • HEAD set:
    • Porpoise Song (Goffin/King)
    • Daddy's Song (Nilsson) (video performance from the film, with Davy's vocal plus instrumental backing from the live band) 
    • Can You Dig It? (Tork)
    • As We Go Along (Goffin/King)
    • Circle Sky (Nesmith)
    • Long Title: Do I Have To do This All Over Again? (Tork)
  • Video montage/tribute to Davy, followed by "Daydream Believer"(Stewart)
  • What Am I Doing Hangin' Round? (Martin-Murphy)
  • Listen to the Band (Nesmith)
  • Pleasant Valley Sunday (Goffin/King)
...reminding you as always to Save the Texas Prairie Chicken!
What comes next for The Monkees is anybody's guess. Personally I would love to see them write and record a follow-up to 1996's Justus (which was released on vinyl for the first time just last month). Musically they all have their chops fully intact. Peter's voice is as good as ever, and Micky's has actually gotten better with age. Mike Nesmith remains a tremendous talent, and you could tell at the show that the others still take cues from him, despite his fifteen year absence. Ultimately, only The Monkees themselves can decide whether this tour serves as a farewell or the beginning of a new chapter in their uniquely interesting history.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In all her glory...

The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set

New Beatles vinyl on's 100 bestseller list

As of 11:28 a.m.:
  • #1. The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set
  • 5.  Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • 6.  The Beatles (White Album)
  • 10. Abbey Road
  • 12. Revolver
  • 14. Rubber Soul
  • 15. Magical Mystery Tour
  • 16. Let It Be
  • 33. Help!
  • 46. Past Masters vol 1 & 2
  • 55. Please Please Me
  • 68. Beatles For Sale
  • 69. A Hard Day's Night
  • 77. With The Beatles

Beatles Day

That's right, I've named it. Today is officially (according to me) Beatles Day, at least in our house (and numerous homes across this great land). Today in NYC, Los Angeles, Santa Monica & Hollywood, double-decker Beatle Buses are serving as mobile "Pop-Up Shops", allowing folks on the street the opportunity to buy the newly remastered Beatles catalog on fancy deluxe 180g audiophile VINYL. How groovy is that?
The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set, 11.13.2012
Although I've got plenty of writing I am hoping to do today, I am currently way too amped up to do anything but wait for the FedEx truck. It's out there on the streets, somewhere nearby, with MY Beatles Box Set on it. I feel like I may just a) piss myself, b) crap my pants, c) see my heart jump straight out my throat, or d) all of the above. I haven't opened a brand new Beatles album since Abbey Road, which is the only original Beatles LP to have remained in print in the U.S. over the past few years. Today I get to marvel at fourteen new Beatles LPs at the same time. It's a milestone day in the life of a nerdy vinyl Beatles fan.

Look through my window

A frosty Minneapolis morning...
The view looking out from our front porch