Janis Joplin should be turning 70 tomorrow. In her honor, the first Gig Grab Bag of 2013 is this 1969 performance from The Dick Cavett Show. I like this one particularly because it’s such a beautiful song and no one could interpret a heartache ballad quite like Miss Janis. It’s also great quality video and audio. I, for one, will be watching Festival Express this weekend just for the the stirring candid footage of Janis, Jerry, and Rick Danko on the train…
“Janis, I’ve loved you ever since the day I saw you.”
Welcome to 2013 y’all! I just wanted to do a quick and dirty highlight reel of the music news I’m most looking forward to in the new year:
- New Albums: The Milk Carton Kids and Joe Purdy have both announced new albums to accompany the new year. The Milk Carton Kids, recently signed to Anti Records, are set to release The Ash & Clay on March 26th. The album is available for preorder now through their website. Joe Purdy also has a new album forthcoming, with a full band. Not since 2006′s Paris in the Morning have we heard Joe with a full backing band, and if that album is any indication of what we can expect, we’re all in for a treat.
- Hitting the Road: I don’t know about y’all but this girl is waiting with baited breath on the announcement of a Rolling Stones tour. Every member of the band has intimated in one way or another that there will be more than the five 50th Anniversary shows and Keith Richards recent all-but-affirmation was a killer. Suffice it to say I’m saving up both dollars and vacation days in anticipation of a US tour, don’t let me down boys.
- Music on the Screen: Something everyone should be doing in 2013 is going to see Promised Land. Gus Van Sant’s exploration of a microcosm of the fracking debate is not only a terrific film but it features three new songs from That Mercury Sound’s favorite duo The Milk Carton Kids. This spring will see the release of the fabulous Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane, anyone who missed it on HBO will want to pick that up, and everyone who caught it on HBO already knows they need to pick it up.
There’s plenty more on the horizon. What musical event are you most looking forward to in 2013?
Sitar legend Ravi Shankar has passed away at the age of 92. There are already, and will be plenty more fitting eulogies for such a gifted giant of world music. All I can say is discovering Shankar and his music was an important landmark on my own musical awakening and left a deep and lasting impression on me. His incredible talent was staggering, and his groundbreaking crossover popularity pushed the boundaries of western popular music. I thank him for the beauty he brought into in my life.
It only seems natural to pull this Friday’s Gig Grab Bag from the Rolling Stones 50th Anniversary shows that took place this week in London. The first show featured guest appearances by former Stones Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor, along with Jeff Beck and Mary J. Blige. At last night’s show, special guest Eric Clapton sat in on a delicious version of “Champagne & Reefer” that I just have to repost here. Clapton’s guest spot was probably in part a bit of well-timed publicity as he recently announced his own 2013 tour culminating in the fourth installment of his acclaimed Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Nothing like a little bit of champagne and reefer to really kick start your weekend… :)
Most fans know the now-mythic trajectory of The Rolling Stones. A ragtag band of Blues enthusiasts become the anti-Beatles, Brian Jones becomes one of the early casualties of rock excess, Altamont becomes the nightmare coda of the Sixties, Mick Taylor joins the band, Mick Taylor leaves the band, Ronnie Wood joins the band, Bill Wyman leaves the band, through countless drug busts, love triangles, and infighting the Stones roll on. And here we are, 50 years later, celebrating half a century of the most iconic rock band in the world.
If you watched Crossfire Hurricane on HBO last night hoping to take a Ken Burns-style Rolling Stones history lesson, you may have been disappointed. If, however, you were watching the excellent new Stones documentary hoping to see incredible archival performance and salacious behind-the-scenes footage steered by recent interviews with all the band members, you would have surely been as blown away as I was.
While there are several Stones concert films from various points in their career, Crossfire Hurricane provides the sort of artistic retrospective that has been up-to-now missing from their canon. Watching the boys go from fresh faced young rockers (young Mick’s impish smile could melt a glacier) to the hedonistic Midnight Ramblers of the 70’s and 80’s in the span of two hours is a pretty thrilling ride. The only negative reviews I’ve seen have focused on this or that person/story/theme that wasn’t included in the documentary. But there’s always going to be detractors obsessing over what was left out instead of celebrating all that director Brett Morgen was able to squeeze into a feature-film length production.
And there’s a lot to celebrate – black & white footage of the band hammering out one of their early tunes “Sitting on a Fence” is breathtaking, the editing of unseen Altamont footage (outtakes from the legendary Gimme Shelter documentary) painted the eeriest picture I’ve seen of that horrible occasion, and the live performance footage beautifully illustrates their meteoric rise from being mobbed onstage in small theaters to filling massive arenas.
Morgen’s artistic eye creates a visually gorgeous representation of the Stones and his tight editing provides an engaging, energetic experience for the viewer. While it won’t be released theatrically in the US, it will come out on DVD and Blu-ray on January 15 and you can pre-order it now, which I recommend doing. This is truly a must-watch for all Rolling Stones fans. Honestly, I’ll probably watch it again tonight.
I have to end this post the same way I’ve ended my last several posts, with a plea to Mick & Keith for more US tour dates. All the amazing live footage in Crossfire Hurricane was a little bittersweet for this girl, who has yet to experience the frenetic magic of a Rolling Stones concert firsthand.
And magic they certainly are…
Last night was a big night for me. I hit my “Dylan Dozen” milestone (yes, I realize this is a completely made-up life benchmark, just go with it) and I finally had the extreme pleasure of seeing Mark Knopfler live – cross that one off the ol’ Bucket List.
Knopfler opened the show with a gorgeous rendition of “What It Is Now” one of my favorite of his post-Dire Straits hits. Like the rest of his set, the song had a strong Anglo-Saxon folk music bent. There were about eight guys onstage in his band playing a dizzying array of traditional instruments behind Knopfler’s signature lead guitar. I’d heard this from others who have seen him, but his playing is really just a thing of beauty to behold. He makes it look so effortless.
The setlist was predominantly songs from his solo albums. At one point Mark, who must have been getting “Money For Nothing” shouts from the front row, teased the audience “These requests? Yeah, we aren’t gonna play any of those.” He did play a couple of gems out of the Dire Straits catalog – “Brothers in Arms” and “So Far Away” both of which fit nicely into the general tone of his set. (The “I want my MTV” refrain wouldn’t have really jibed with the accordion, mandolin, flute and upright bass onstage).
Between Knopfler and Dylan there was about a 15 minute intermission, at which time I found myself stuck in one of the weirder conversations of my life. The man sitting next to me, who I had been silently cursing during much of Knoplfer’s set for talking to his buddy, struck up a conversation with me before I had a chance to escape. He started by saying that he had gone to high school with Dylan up in Hibbing (this is Minnesota after all folks). I instantly perked up at the thought of having a candid conversation with one of Dylan’s peers, even an annoying chatty one. But everything started falling apart when he told me how he’d been down on the floor before the show and thrown a CD of his own songs to a roadie with a request that it get to Bob. He of course included his phone number and address, in case Bob wanted to meet up with him. He was pretty sure that Bob would remember him and he was now very excited for him to stop by for a chat about the old days. From there the conversation backslid rapidly into how he “should have been dead 11 different times” and “this is a picture of my granddaughter who looks like you” territory… Let’s just say I was more than relieved when the lights went down for Bob’s set.
Bob was in good spirits for his set (Obama victory perhaps?). Knopfler joined him for three songs – “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” “Things Have Changed,” and “Tangled Up in Blue.” For me, it was a magical combination. As someone who first started seeing Dylan shows in the Love & Theft era having Knopfler onstage opened a window into a totally different kind of Dylan. That 2001 album marked the advent of Dylan’s foray into a heavily Country & Western-influenced sound and stage show. Knopfler’s presence added a buoyancy to the tunes and pushed Dylan’s vocals into a place I hadn’t ever heard him go in a live show. The growl was softened, the melody (mostly) adhered to, the music allowed to stretch from a Hank Williams space to a Jerry Garcia space. It was brilliant, and when he left the stage after “Tangled Up in Blue” (not to return for the rest of the night) I actually felt a little deflated. Not that Dylan didn’t bring the show home on his own, he’s more than capable of that, and the rest of his set was great. Dylan-only highlights were a wonderful piano-based version of Hard Rain and the appearance of “Early Roman Kings” off this year’s Tempest album.
It was a fantastic night of music. Two great solo sets and three songs worth of magical overlap. Hearing the synergy between Knopfler and Dylan made the Slow Train Coming album all of a sudden make sense. That album, Dylan’s most Christian creation, was backed by Knopfler along with Dire Strait’s drummer, and their gifted musicianship surely helped to rescue it from spending eternity close to the bottom of the seven million incarnations of Dylan album rankings.
The Dylan concert count now sits safely at 12. And my bucket list has shrunk to just two unlikely list mates (though the idea of a Dolly Parton & The Rolling Stones show is pretty awesome daydream fodder…). Keith and Mick, and I’m ready for that US tour announcement any day now…
Today is the day of reckoning. Tickets to the Rolling Stones’ two Newark dates go on sale at 12ET. Tickets for the two London shows sold out in 7 minutes, so my hopes of getting a ticket today are realistically low, but I am still going to try. The boys have dropped more than a few hints that there will be a tour to follow these dates, but without confirmation I can’t sit back and hope for that to happen. I’ve never seen The Rolling Stones and they are at the absolute tip-top of my bucket list. Maybe that’s why this song is doing it for me today. My Rolling Stones destiny is now in the “Hand of Fate.” Black and Blue is actually one of my favorite Stones albums. I equate it to Dylan’s Street Legal (which I also love). Most critics don’t dig it, and it’s something of a non sequitur in their catalog, but there are some real gems to be found in its grooves.
If you’re also trying to get tickets today I wish you luck, just so long as I get mine first… :)
Quo fata ferunt.