The Music Of The Rolling Stones @ Carnegie Hall March 13 2012

Hang in kids, this might be a long one.

Big giant tribute type shows are always risky. Put many artists on the same bill with a house band, doing songs written by someone else, and things are bound to be treacherous.  Equally, there are bound to be some great moments.  Its like a sandwich where you’re surprised/terrified with each bite.

Michael Dorf, creator of the original Knitting Factory, has been doing these type of shows for a while now.  They benefit various childrens music charities, and I think we can all get behind that.  Unless you want to get political, and instead of supporting music in schools, have a tax cut or some shit for wealthy job creators.  Anyway.  They pick an artist, a bunch of people do a song.  Its a classic formula, don’t mess with it.

I saw one of the first of these, a tribute to Bob Dylan.  There were some beautiful moments, Alan Toussaint doing “Mama You Been On My Mind” and Ryan Adams going way over his allotted time on an “Isis/Love Sick” binge.

Last night, a varied roster took on the Rolling Stones classic collection Hot Rocks.  One artist for each song, 21 in total.  Let’s talk about some highlights and other things.

Before the music, we have to talk about the crowd.  This venue was basically a living Portlandia sketch, with Fred Armisen playing every character.  There’s the dude with the hilarious spiked hair and the tye dyed “No Security” Stones shirt, wearing binoculars and a backpack, moving seats at every chance he got.  There’s the 50 year old guy with a braided pony tail, moving to the end of the balcony, dancing and snapping along like he’s at a Flamenco show on acid.  There were the slightly-overdressed slightly too old to be dancing like a drunken college girl-woman, who could not resist the urge to flail about.  What do these people do during the day?  I would love to find out.

OK, on we go.

TV On The Radio opened the evening with Italian singer Jovanotti performing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” with a children’s choir. The band sounded great, but I’m pretty sure everyone got lost near the end of the song and just kept repeating the chorus, but that’s pretty much what these things are about.  You rehearse the verses and chorus so much, that you forget to come up with an ending.  It did teach me one important lesson – its all about the ending.

Ian Hunter best demonstrated this.  The Mott The Hoople front man played “19th Nervous Breakdown”  Which was not overly exciting, but his band was clearly well rehearsed, and looked like they spent lots of time coordinating outfits, which I also respect on this occasion, I mean, its Carnegie Hall, man.

The evening had 2 clear standouts.  First, you’re pretty much not going to top David Johansen on this bill.  Its an event made for him. He came out looking like every NY Jew’s aunt from Long Island who goes on too many island vacations.  White pants, white shoes, giant sunglasses, hair helmet.  “Get Off Of My Cloud” is as close to a NY Dolls song as there is in the Stones catalog…or it’s probably the opposite.

The frontrunner in all advance betting was Glen Hansard.  The man has more charisma than Obama, and is just so endearing.  He silences a crowd with solo acoustic performances. So hopes were high.  What we got was a lovely concise version of “Under My Thumb.”  With just upright bass and electric guitar, he might have owned the night.  After asking the crowd to snap along, then slowing everyone down saying “Come on guys, on the BACK of the beat, that was definitely a white snap”  the first half of the song was just bass and vocals.  He ended with a trademark segue into GLORIA, just for the hell of it.  His most insightful comment was “What kind of headspace do you have to be in to write a song like this?  This is definitely a Keith tune”

I don’t feel in the mood to dish any negative dirt, except for the fact that if you’re an actress who was in Natural Born Killers, that does not give you enough rock and roll street cred to do a Prince Style motivational breakdown in “Satisfaction”

An interesting dilemma arose about the Stones recently.  I was watching the fantastic documentary “Lemmy” about the Motorhead frontman, examining his life and approach to music.  He made the point, and I will paraphrase since I don’t remember the quote, that everyone was always arguing over who were the real “bad boys” the Beatles or the Stones.  He said there was no question, it was the Beatles.  They were from the much richer Liverpool, they played in the dangerous clubs of Hamburg, they were the real thing.  The Stones were from the suburbs, they went to art school, they were just faking it for image.  Now what impact this has on legacy, who knows, they wrote some amazing music.  But a little later on Dave Grohl made another point.

When people talk about the “Rock and Roll Lifestyle” or whatever bullshit you want to call it, they think of the Stones.  His point was, fuck that.  They’re off banging some supermodel traveling first class, while Lemmy is sitting at a bar in LA drinking Jack Daniels and working on his next album.  He doesn’t care much for image, he just is who he is.

Again, this does not dispute the fact that there was an abundance of amazing music written, it’s just something to think about.  How much do we like a legendary band for what they stood for (or what we thought they stood for) purely based on image?

Just something to think about.  Mull it over while listening to Its Only Rock And Roll.

Ryan Adams Dec 6th 2011 at Carnegie Hall Review

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I consider myself a man of science.  Not an active practitioner of science, but certainly an enthusiast.  (this basically means when Planet Earth or NOVA is on, you know where I’ll be.)  But some things defy common knowledge.  I was thinking of my old friend Eric yesterday, a bass player in a former band, and all around unique character.  We hadn’t spoken in nearly 2 years, he’s not on Facebook, I figured he dropped off the map.

That evening, I’m walking home from purchasing a synth in the most sketchy craigslist transaction of all time (and thats saying a lot) it’s pouring rain, and my phone rings.  Its Eric.  How do these things happen?  These weird little experiences happen to all of us, lets get someone to fund some research on this shit.  Anyway, he asks “Want to see Ryan Adams tonight? I have a free extra”  To that there is only one response  “Is he performing as his Rap and/or Metal alterego?”  If the answer to that question is “No” then the followup response is “Yes, of course”

This is the only pic from the night you get, I'm not loading up the post with shit like this
This is the only pic from the night you get, I'm not loading up the post with shit like this

I tried to get tickets to this event initially, it sold out very quickly, and was very expensive.  Its strange how things like that work out sometimes.  I have had 3 live experiences with Ryan Adams in my life.  First, he played a Bob Dylan tribute at Lincoln Center, and lit the venue ablaze with a cover of “Isis.”  Next, I met him in a Deli, told him I enjoyed the “Isis” cover, to which he was very nice and responsive.  Finally, I saw The Cardinals at Town Hall.  Adams came out in giant leather moon boots, with a little ponytail on top of his head, and played a very long set of what sounded like Grateful Dead covers, lots of solos…we had to take a break.

This tour seemed a little different, Adams was performing solo acoustic, he had taken time off from music for the last year, he had cleaned himself up, it’s worth a shot.  I haven’t heard much of his new album, a friend commented “it almost seems too easy for him, like he just wakes up and writes 45 fairly decent songs”  You definitely get that vibe.  None of his songs are hideous, but only a few are truly great.  I won’t go into a full on “Heartbreaker vs the 297 albums that came after” analysis, but you know what I’m getting at.

Adams came out, picked up his red white and blue guitar, and went into “Oh My Sweet Carolina”  Things were pretty much all good from there out.  While I was up in the nosebleeds, Carnegie hall is a beautiful sounding venue, made for music like this.  You could hear every quiet note, the natural sound of the room enhancing everything.

The show was not without its signature Ryan Adams banter, calling out various photographers “thanks for bringing your camera from 1981, do you have to change the flashbulb after each shot?” Commenting on the snakes in the balcony (one dude kept shushing everyone who clapped at parts of a song) and creating several on the spot songs – One woman yelled “That was beautiful!” he responded “did you say Howard Is Beautiful?”  a full song about Howard being beautiful followed.  Apparently Howard gets all the Apple products first, and controls inter-dimensional force fields.

The highlight of the show was unexpected.  We heard all the hits, “Winding Wheel”  “Come Pick Me Up” all that, but I was blown away by “New York, New York”  Played on piano rather than guitar, and slowed down a whole bunch, it just got to the heart of the song.  It bypassed the sax solo and conga parts that made it the pop song it was, and stood up completely on its own.  You got the feeling that when Adams is at the top of his songwriting game, he taps into some magical shit.  How many others could hold the attention of a venue like that completely on their own?  It’s almost as if you could see these mythical women he writes about, a cartoon version of all his famous exes combined, 14 feet talk, swinging one of those spikey ball chains from fantasy thriller movies.

We did get a cover of RATT’s “Round and Round” and a closing number thanking everyone, including C&C Music Factory, a running joke throughout the evening.  So until he puts out 16 albums in a row about space travel, or decides to write a series of novels about a sea captain trapped in a worm hole with Tom Brokaw, I’m confident in saying, he can still perform a serious show.