Buckingham – World Café Live at the Queen – Wilmington DE – June 11, 2012
Lindsey Buckingham spent
quite a bit of time discussing the big machine and the small machine at his
recent solo show.
“The big machine” is of
course Fleetwood Mac – a long-lived British blues band that became one of
the biggest groups in the world after Buckingham and then-girlfriend Stevie
Nicks joined in 1975. The couple turned out to be just the thing to turn a
cult band into arena rock superstars, and it was greatly attributed to
Buckingham’s smart and artistic pop songwriting. Their 1976 album
Rumours, written and recorded around Buckingham and Nicks’ personal
relationship fracturing as well as bandmates Christine and John McVie’s
divorce, is arguably the definitive break-up album in rock history,
eventually selling over 19 million copies.
“The small machine”
is Buckingham’s solo work, which was critically acclaimed though more
earthbound sales-wise, though he did have a few hits in the early ‘80s such
as “Trouble,” “Go Insane” and “Holiday Road,” the theme to the comedy
National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Buckingham’s career with
Mac is getting further in the rear-view mirror. He originally left the band
in the late 80s and re-upped in 1997, but in the 15 years since returning to
the fold the group released one live album, one studio album of original
material and mounted three tours, the most recent in 2009.
This solo one-man-show
was a bit of an experiment even for Buckingham, who said that when he
started touring solo he had a 10-piece band, then for years toured with
three other musicians for years. Now it was just he on stage. Though
coolly, for a one-person-show there was a bank of at least twelve different
guitars – electric and acoustic – all of which were used on one song or
The stripping down worked
well for Buckingham. The sparse arrangements took away from some of the
slickness of his studio work – particularly the Mac songs – and gave them a
new ragged urgency.
Take, for example, his
mid-80s solo single “Go Insane.” Buckingham slowed the tempo greatly and
ramped up the vocals, giving the song a bleak desperation that is probably
more in tune with the lyrics than the upbeat pop of the original recording.
The song was completely reinvented, making a very good tune even better.
Even when he was faithful
to the original arrangements (or at least as faithful as a single man can be
on band songs) he enjoyed teasing the melody. After starting of with a very
upbeat, swinging version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back,” Buckingham
suddenly bogged down the arrangement in the middle, stretching the lyrics
out as if they were painful to get out, before returning to the original
There was also a slight
feeling of melancholy over the proceedings – although Buckingham did not
acknowledge this – because the show happened a matter of days after the
suicide of Bob Welch, the guitarist that Buckingham essentially replaced in
frugally between band and solo tunes, offering up Fleetwood favorites like
"Go Your Own Way" and "Big Love" with lesser-known solo tracks like the
lovely "Cast Away Dreams," the wistful "Seeds We Sow" and the blistering
"Come" (it's amazing all that sound came from one guitar). He even did an
instrumental version of the early Buckingham/Nicks song "Stephanie."
He encored with a strong
version of the semi-obscure “Rock Away Blind” when a cute
blonde in the front row begged for it. Buckingham good-naturedly joked that
it wasn’t on his set-list and now everyone will be expecting him to take
requests. You won't get that with the big machine.
The set was loose and
passionate, fun and frisky, dark and ultimately hopeful. The show proved
that while Lindsey Buckingham is great with a band, he sure as hell doesn't
need one. The small machine was working pretty damned well all by itself.
Jay S. Jacobs
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Lucy Woodward – Highline Ballroom – New York, NY – July 17, 2010
There was probably a
certain amount of wishful thinking involved when the emcee at this show
introduced Lucy Woodward as “The star of stage and screen” – but even if he
somewhat over-inflated her importance, in a better world those accolades
would be deserved.
Instead, Woodward was
playing the show for her terrific third album Hooked – her first
album for the legendary jazz label Verve Records – and way too many people
have never heard of her.
In fact, to this day,
Woodward is best remembered for her 2003 hit single “Dumb Girls” as well as
writing Stacey Orrico’s hit single “There’s Gotta Be (More To Life).” Both
are wonderful songs, however they couldn’t be farther artistically from where
Woodward is now. Back then her label was trying to sell her as an Avril
Woodward showed her true
colors a couple of years ago when her second CD Lucy Woodward is Hot and
Bothered reintroduced her as a modern jazz chanteuse, a good-natured
jump and jam artist whose sound is timeless and at the same time a tougher
continues Woodward’s metamorphosis into a jazzy song
stylist, with a broad stylistic palette and a warm, inviting vocal style.
The Highline show was a return home for the Bronx-born singer who has
recently moved to California. She seemed comfortable and welcoming in this
homecoming show, where she introduced the new album to her old hometown.
And she was not just playing with some hired hand jazz band,
her musicians were smoking hot.
The show was very
specific to Hooked – playing every song on the album except for her
gorgeous cover of “Stardust.” In fact, the only complaint I have about this
show is that none of the songs from her amazing previous album Hot &
Bothered were performed at this show – unless you count “Slow Recovery”
which was originally on that album and has been rerecorded for the new one.
That gorgeous heartbreak
ballad, which is Woodward’s current single and would be a smash in a just
world, sounded quietly and defiantly strong in a stripped-down more acoustic
In fact, the live
versions often improved on the already good versions on Hooked. For
example the live setting brought out the humor and desperation of the
ticking-biological-clock torch song “Babies” in a way that the more lushly
orchestrated studio version doesn’t quite achieve. She was also even more
playful in the sexy “Ragdoll” and even more desperately sad in the torchy
“My Purple Heart.”
The only non-album track
done in the show was a sultry take on Jace Everett’s “Bad Things” (a.k.a.
the theme song to the HBO series True Blood.) The version smoldered
and simmered with passion and Woodward should rush back into the studio like
yesterday to record this tune.
Jay S. Jacobs
Leonard Cohen – The
Academy of Music – Philadelphia PA – May 12, 2009
When was the last time you saw a man who was 75 years old give a
Leonard Cohen – the quietly polite gentleman, recent Rock & Roll Hall of
Fame inductee, novelist, poet and humble son of a tailor – seemed determined
to offer maximum entertainment value for the rather expensive tickets.
(They were just under $200.00 apiece! Not that anyone in the crowd seemed
to feel exploited at all.)
Perhaps it was the knowledge that Cohen doesn’t tour often (his last
Philadelphia show was in 1993.). Perhaps it was the unspoken understanding
that this may be his last go-round. Perhaps it was just a personal bucket
list experience for many in the crowd.
Whatever it was, Cohen had the audience in his pocket from the opening notes
of “Dance Me to the End of Love.”
Cohen filled the grand old opera hall with his unusually eloquent musical
tales of love, lust, war, religion, darkness, chaos, heartbreak, aging,
betrayal, apocalypse and redemption.
From the sexual politics of “Everybody Knows” to the doomsday scenario of
“The Future” to the artistic dread of “Tower of Song,” Cohen explored the
human condition with exceptional insight. Yet, from all the darkness there
was hope – as he sang in “Anthem”: “There is a crack in everything. That’s
how the light gets in.”
Cohen’s voice – always a gruff and not a naturally beautiful instrument –
has taken on nuances and shadings with age which fit his divine words in
unusual and trenchant ways.
For example, he reclaimed “Hallelujah,” which is arguably his best-known
song, from the ethereal cover done by Jeff Buckley. His slightly cracked
vocal brought passion and befuddlement and betrayal to the uneasy religious
quality of love.
The set list was nearly identical to Cohen’s current album Live in London,
which was recorded last year. Only three songs were added to the
queue – “Chelsea Hotel #2,” “Waiting for the Miracle” and “Famous Blue
Raincoat” – and one or two other songs were switched out of position.
(“Sisters of Mercy” was definitely played earlier here than on the London
Even much of the between-song patter was word-for-word identical. However,
this makes a certain amount of sense. Much more than most artists, words
are vital to Cohen. Everything out of his mouth is artistically structured
and measured for maximum impact, so it is only natural that when he found
the perfect phrasing he would stick with it.
After three encores, Cohen – always an elegant gent – closed the show with
an impassioned speech thanking everyone involved in the concert: from band
members, to the lighting and sound crews, roadies and even the catering
people. However, mostly he thanked the audience for sharing the night with
"I don't know when I'll pass this way again, so until then, take care
friends,” he said. “The weather's kind of tricky out there, so don't catch
a cold. If you have to fall, fall on the side of luck. And may you be
surrounded by friends and family. And if this is not your lot, may the
blessings find you in your solitude. Thank you so much for your warmth and
your hospitality. We greatly appreciate it. Good night, friends."
From some artists, this would sound insincere, but you get the feeling that
Cohen has truly come to appreciate his lot. For all of the craziness and
hypocrisy and pain and desperate love in the world, there is nothing more
vital than to shine a little light and spread a little beauty. To
paraphrase a line in “Chelsea Hotel #2,” life can be ugly, “but we have the
But, perhaps Cohen captured his own power even more simply as he signed off
“Sincerely, L. Cohen.”
No one should ever question his sincerity.
As someone who has been to hundreds of shows, I
can say without hesitation that this show was one of only a handful of truly
transcendent concerts that I have been privileged to experience.
Jay S. Jacobs
Nickelback, Seether &
Saving Abel – Wachovia Center – Philadelphia PA – March 9, 2009
sometimes a little easy to forget how many Nickelback songs you know and how
ubiquitous their music has been on the radio for the last several years,
simply because so many of their songs kind of sound alike.
However this long – closing in on two hours – set shows that while it is
easy to take their meat-and-potatoes rock for granted, this Canadian group
has put themselves together a pretty neat set list. Even if you aren’t a
fan, you probably like more of these songs than
you ever realized.
the moment that they shot out of the gates with the funny/sexist anthem
“Something in Your Mouth” the group had the crowd in his hand – making jokes
about dive bars, half-jokingly asking the women in the audience to see their
tits, cannoning t-shirts into the crowd – Nickelback has the blue-collar rock
star role down pat.
Whether doing an acoustic guitar version of their admittedly funny music biz
parody “Rockstar” to slamming down a fiery version of “Figured You Out” to
the sensitive balladry of “Far Away,” the band was hitting on all cylinders.
group also kept an interesting show going behind them on the big screens.
For example, they made a virtual slideshow video for their nostalgic hit
“Photograph,” giving the audience a Polaroid snapshot history of the band
members – growing up, partying, in school, in concert, back stage and back
street. They also kissed up to the local crowd, mixing shots of the recent
World Series parade, the Eagles, the LOVE statue and the Phillie Phanatic.
Nickelback played pretty much every song a fan would expect – though they
did skip over lead singer Chad Kroeger’s side project hits like “Hero” which
he did for the first Spider-Man movie with Josey Scott of Saliva and
his Carlos Santana collaborations “Why Don’t You & I” and “Into the Night.”
Even without those songs, it is a pretty perfect night of Nickelback.
please guys, knock it off with the fake gunshots
explosion sound effects in the middle of
the sets. I know you love loud noises, but you scared
the shit out of me several times.
Rounding out the bill
were a couple of bands that are quirkier but every bit as rock. South
African band Seether kept the audience rapt with their hardcore hits like
“Remedy” (which sounds disturbingly like Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” in
spots) rocked out seriously, as did the acidic “Tongue” and their rather
surprising cover of Wham featuring George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.”
However, the band
sounded best when they slowed down the pace a bit, particularly in their
shattering ballad “Broken” and the poppier “Rise Above This.”
Singer Shaun Morgan
also returned to the stage with Nickelback to do a shredding cover of
Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot.”
Opening act Saving
Abel also gave a strong short set – with the standout performances being
their hit single “Addicted,” the soldier’s tribute “18 Days” and the
pissed-off rant “Out of My Face.”
Jay S. Jacobs
Nikka Costa – World Café
Live – Philadelphia PA – October 21, 2008
Nikka Costa’s new tour they were selling t-shirts with a lightning bolt and
70s-styled fat fonts which read “The return of the funky white bitch.”
After watching Costa stalk the boards for nearly two hours all I can say is
“Hallelujah! Yea, she is back!” Costa, the daughter of jazz legend Don
Costa (Frank Sinatra was her Godfather) has deep-fried soul down to the
is a funky diva in the tradition of Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Millie Jackson,
Patti Labelle and number of soul mamas. She is a singer out of time – if
she were around in the 60s or 70s she’d have been huge.
Instead, after two critically acclaimed but mostly overlooked major label
releases she comes back swinging on a smaller label – but it is a revived,
legendary soul label, Stax; home of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Booker T and
the MGs and Isaac Hayes. Her album may not have as much corporate backing,
but it’s got just as much fire.
do-it-yourself credo is achieved in her latest live gigs (which she referred
to as an Obama-styled grass roots tour) in which Costa testified and
screamed, jammed, cooed, burned, crammed and creamed.
a whip-tight backing band full of brassy horns and enough wocka-wocka guitar
magic to make Isaac Hayes blush, Costa sizzled with a retro abandon that
more mannered current divas would just envy. She even lost herself so much
in the encore ballad “I Wish I Loved You Less” that she teasingly slipped
her hand deep inside her pants – but it wasn’t gratuitous and dirty, it was
fun and frisky.
She’d tell her guitarist “Gimme some of that chicken shit” and get a
scratching funky sound straight outta a blaxploitation flick. Songs like
the almost-hit “Everybody Got Their Something,”
“Keep Pushing,” “Cry Baby” and “Happy in the Morning” built up a playful
soulful sweat that got every booty bumpin’.
funky white bitch is back!
Jay S. Jacobs
Stevie Wonder - The Hollywood Bowl - Hollywood CA - July
simple mathematical equation. Stevie Wonder + Hollywood Bowl = one special
night of music. After the passing of his beloved mother, Lula Hardaway, in
June of 2006, Wonder, long absent from the touring circuit, has returned to
live performance. He's currently finishing up a US leg and getting set for
an European jaunt beginning in September. On Monday, July 7th, Stevie Wonder
was back on his home turf performing a spectacular two and a half hour show
for a packed hometown crowd at The Hollywood Bowl, which included legendary
Motown Records icon, Berry Gordy and Adam Levine of Maroon 5.
a ridiculously rich catalog of timeless classics spanning the Sixties though
today, Wonder simply owns the concert stage, embracing his time honored
legacy with a contagious enthusiasm and winning exuberance. Kicking off a
typically incandescent set, Wonder dipped heavily into his 1980 LP,
Hotter Than July and knocked
out five gems from the record including the set opener "As If You Read My
Mind," "Master Blaster (Jammin')", "Did I Hear You Say You Love Me", "All I
Do" and a rare airing of the moody "Rocket Love." Drawing from all facets of
his illustrious career, Wonder's set indisputably proved he's a master
stylist, comfortable in a myriad of musical idioms including R&B, pop, funk,
soul, jazz, reggae, prog-rock, avant-garde and Tin Pan Alley pop.
the fun of a Stevie Wonder show is witnessing the pure joy and spirit that
he exudes while performing. Whether executing complex piano motifs or
stomping clavinet grooves or unleashing supernatural acts of elastic vocal
acrobatics, it's clear that Wonder revels in the enjoyment of being in the
moment, uniting artist and crowd in a wondrous musical communion. Nestled
alongside a slew of quintessential Wonder penned classics like "Sir Duke,"
"I Wish," "Isn't She Lovely" and "Do I Do," Wonder also drew heavily from
his 1973 album, Innervisions;
his impressive thirteen-piece band, ably led by bassist Nathan Watts,
interpreted a winning cross section of material from that seminal album
including "Higher Ground," the Latin-tinged "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing,"
the breezy majestic pop of "Golden Lady" and the funktastic, urban-charged
anthem, "Living For The City," its gritty message resonating even stronger
today than when it was first recorded more than three decades ago.
the show, Wonder also unveiled a few lesser played tracks from his
double-album masterpiece, Songs In
The Key Of Life, embracing the picture perfect pop of "Knocks Me
Off My Feet" and a beautiful and moving rendition of "If It's Magic," the
solitary harp stylings provided by a member of the 25-piece orchestra, who
also lent their rich and supple instrumental flourishes to a number of songs
in the set. Boding well for his next musical project, Wonder also
introduced a promising new song, "Keep Foolin' Yourself Baby", which the
artist informed the audience that the song is earmarked for his next CD,
provisionally titled Through the Eyes
of Wonder. Other surprises were a funky, vocoder flavored
version of The Spinners' "People Make The World Go 'Round", the instrumental
"Spain" by Chick Corea and "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life," which
showcased a radio contest winner on duel lead vocals with Wonder.
was also a family affair in the truest sense of the word; Wonder's daughter,
Aisha (she was the inspiration behind "Isn't She Lovely") sang strong
background vocals throughout the show. His older son, Mumtaz, lent his
soulful lead vocal expertise to a dynamic mini-reading of "Ribbon In The
Sky" while his six-year old son, Kailand, sat in on a miniature drum kit
during show closer, "Superstition," which also featured Howard Hewitt,
former lead singer of Shalamar, on guest vocals.
KT Tunstall - Roseland Ballroom - New York NY
- November 21, 2007
This was one of very few KT Tunstall US
shows in 2007 to promote Drastic Fantastic
Tunstall's follow-up to last year's slow-burning smash CD Eye to the
This Thanksgiving-eve show was a low-key
affair. Tunstall didn't even bring her whole band, just doing an
acoustic set with only herself on guitar and vocals, a drummer and two
female backing vocalists.
And yet she rocked this
legendary venue, with her enthusiasm, strong vocals, sweet-natured charm and
already-rock-solid songbook easily seducing the packed house.
You knew you were in for a
different night early on, when an stripped-down version of the normally lush
"Other Side of the World" stunned with new textures and and even more direct
longing than the band performances.
This was just the first
of many wonderful surprises
– the most significant of which is how well the
songs of Drastic Fantastic, which has seemed to receive more public
resistance than the debut album, held up with the earlier, more well-known
Tunstall gave a hilarious insight into the writer's head when she explained
her motivation behind writing the good-natured tune "Ashes."
Apparently, Tunstall was surfing the net and stumbled across a site which
offered to take the cremated ashes of family members and pets and turn them
into jewelry. "You can turn man's best friend into a girl's best
friend," she cracked.
Other new songs which stood out were her
current-kinda-hit "Hold On"
in which Tunstall gamely mocked her own
as well as the wonderfully well-grounded (for an
entertainer) "Saving My Face," which argues for aging naturally.
Of course it goes without
saying that the songs from Telescope rocked the house, with "Another
Place To Fall," "Under the Weather," "Stopping the Love" and "Black Horse
and the Cherry Tree" keeping the audience rapt. By the time she wound
down with a propulsive "Suddenly I See," the audience was totally in her
This concert was a hell
of a place-holder for Tunstall. Still, as much as I enjoyed this show,
I'm looking forward to her returning again with a full band.
Five For Fighting & Chantal Kreviazuk - The Keswick
Theater - Glenside PA - May 9, 2007
Ondrasik is not just a singer, he is an old-school storyteller, as
demonstrated in the live setting. Whether sitting at the piano or
standing alone with a guitar, Ondrasik had the audience rapt with his
gorgeous melodies and warm, funny explanations of the songs' inspiration.
could be tongue-in-cheek (a winking story of realizing he was getting old
because he heard his song "Easy Tonight" played at a bar by a guitarist who
told him he learned the song as a kid) or heartfelt (the beautiful story
about the soldier and his father who inspired the song "Two Lights.")
course the stories wouldn't work if the music wasn't good, so Ondrasik kept
the beautiful melodies coming. He did his new charity single "World"
with warmth and skill. There was also a beautiful acoustic version of
perhaps his most impressive song
– "If God Made You" which was dedicated to
– as well as a rollicking ode to his '65 Camaro.
the few semi-missteps was when Ondrasik decided to do a slightly flamboyant
cover of one of the last songs in the world that you'd expect anyone to try
to cover –
Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." Not that it is
a bad song, it is just a song that is so particular to its author.
More importantly, Ondrasik played the song way too broadly, going for a wink
rather than the tongue-in-cheek seriousness of the original.
covered that gaffe quickly, though, teasing a heckler who yelled out for
"100 Years" by saying that Billy Joel told him to always play the hits last.
Then he settled into the bench and started tinkling the very recognizable
intro to "Superman (It Ain't Easy)," his even bigger smash from 2001.
Then he dove right into the sweetly yearning "100 Years," closing the show
on a warm high.
Opening act Chantal Kreviazuk
who has never quite become the recording
star she deserves to be, but has become an in-demand songwriter-for-hire for
the likes of Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera and Pink
was very much FFF's equal, doing a charming
act full of new songs ("Ghosts of You," "Wonderful"),
oldie-almost-hits ("God Made Me") and some soundtrack
faves ("Time" and "Feels Like Home.") Like
Ondrasik, Kreviazuk is talented at stage banter and has a warm piano-based
sound. It was an inspired pairing.
Fountains of Wayne - The Trocodero -
Philadelphia PA - April 28, 2007
The best live rock band in
Fountains of Wayne?
It's not so far-fetched.
The Fountains rocked the
joint recently in this gig, a show which only benefited by the venue's
colorful history (it was a burlesque joint in the 1920s). This past
seediness lent depth and color to FOW's power pop short stories of
desperate outsiders trying to make it in a world that really doesn't give a
shit about them.
band has a mastery of styles and
irony that if possible is
even stronger in person than on their CDs. For example there is the
spaghetti-western dry lament "Hackensack," in which a loser in a small town
in New Jersey still pines away after a first-grade crush, who has since
become an A-List actress. Beyond being a surprisingly beautiful song,
the depths of the narrator's self-delusion is touching.
Then there are the lovely
flamenco touches of "Hey, Julie" in which a worker drone has only his
girlfriend to look forward to in life. The band turns up the rock on
"Bright Future In Sales," about a kid out of college who is being
overwhelmed by his first NYC job, perhaps because he is getting plastered
every night in Manhattan. They also slammed out the grunge-flavored
early hit "Radiation Vibe."
By the time the familiar
power chords of their biggest hit
the fractured MILF fantasy "Stacy's
rang out over the crowd, they had the audience eating out of their
hands. Great tunes, funny banter...
and there were periodic
jokes at the expense of Neil Sedaka (who they had backed in concert in New
York the night before.) What more can you ask for in a rock show?
Jay S. Jacobs