Monday, October 15, 2012

nick lowe concert

Kids notwithstanding, I went to the Nick Lowe concert that I'd been so looking forward to.

Downside first: Apparently Nick doesn;t come out to sign autographs. That was a dissapointment. One of the nice things about being a fan of musicians who are, to be polite, not at the peak of popularity, is that getting autographs or a simple handshake is relatively possible. Oh well.

I was in the tenth row, near the center, in a venue that doesn't really have any bad seats. I wasn't as close as I was at the recent Wreckless Eric concert, but I was close enough to see Nick's expressions, and to feel that I was truly seeing him (as opposed to ants at a distance or an image on a jumbotron. Nick performed solo. Just him and an acoustic guitar. For some reason I thought he'd have a band behind him. No matter.

Predictably, Nick concentrated on songs from his cronner era, which is generally placed at The Impossible Bird and everything since. Disagreeing with conventional wisdom, I don;t think of Bird or his subsequent album, Dig My Mood, as part of that era; they were kind of transitional. I think the crooner stuff began with The Convincer. That would mean it currently consists of that lbum, At My Age and The Old Magic.

He opened with "Stoplight Roses" from Magic, and also did "Sensitive Man," "Somebody Cares for Me," "I Read a Lot" and "House for Sale." from that album. There may have been others -- I wrote down titles as he played the songs (there were 21 in all, including two encores), but I am writing this from memory. There was also "I Trained Her to Love Me" from Age, "Lately I've Let Things Slide" from Convincer and "Soulful Wind" and "I Live on a Battlefield" from Bird. About the latter song, Nick told the audience that Diana Ross did a cover of it. It wasn't her finest hour, he said, but it did buy him a new bathroom.

But along with the new, he did play some older Rockpile-era (and even pre-Rockpile-era) songs. The second number he performed was "Heart" from the Rockpile album, and he did "When I Write the Book" from that album as well. At other points he performed "I Knew the Bride," "Raining Raining" and "Without Love."

"(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace Love and Understanding," another of his early numbers kind of annoyed me. He has explained in many interviews that it was written as a sarcastic piece, poking fun at hippies. When he did it with Brinsley Schwarz it had a certain acerbic bite. That was accentuated when Elvis Costello covered it turning it into a real snarling thing. But after 9-11 it has been retrofitted as a serious plea -- sort of Nick's answer to John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." And, of course, in this day --when we are at war, with the situation worsening in post-war Iraq, and talk of possible forays into Syria or Libya or Iran -- such a song goes over quite well in deep blue area like Port Washington. But I see the plea as very simplistic. I would prefer the sarcastic version of the song.

After performing his one US hit, "Cruel to Be Kind," Nick noted that some of his contemporaries feel trapped by their lone hit -- they have to keep playing it over and over, and they don't like it. (Was that, BTW, a jab at opening act Jim Keller who didn;t play "867-5309/Jenny"?) But he still loves to play his hit. And that was a good example of Nick's charm with the crowd. His between-song patter was relaxed. He talked about how this was his first time playing in the area (Port Washington specifically, nit the whole New York metro area). He then went on to note that the mayor of some town in the upper west -- he named the town, but I don't recall -- picked him up at the airport, that some other town in Nebraska is the home of the Nick Lowe sub sandwich. But here he is unrecognized and can walk down the street undisturbed. He hopes, he said, to change that.

I will say that I thought Elvis Costello's "Allison" was an odd choice to end the show. Why such a downbeat vinegary close?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

the first concert i went to

Writing yesterday's post about concert venues reminded me of the first concert I attended back in 1983. It was Nick Lowe at the Nassau Coliseum. For those who don't know, that's the arena on Long Island where the Islanders play. So we're talking about a big venue, though not the monster venue that is the Meadowlands. I should note that it wasn't really a Nick Lowe concert. It was a Tom Petty concert, and Nick Lowe was the opening act.

And, of course, I went for the opening act. Nick was supporting his then-new release, The Abominable Showman. I remember the thrill when he took the stage. I remember shouting "We want action!" at several points, in a vain attempt to request the opening track on the new album (which was titled "We Want Action"). I remember being dissapointed that he didn;t play that song, although he did play "Ragin' Eyes" after pointing out that he had a new album out. I don't really remember what else he played. I do remember that I couldn't really see him clearly, because of the distance. But I didn't really mind. I was at my first rock concert and I was thrilled.

I left after Nick's set, so I didn't see Tom Petty's performance, though I saw a few bits as I was walking trying to find the exit. If I had it to do over, I'd probably stay to see his act.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

i prefer a small venue

After I went to see Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby perform, and anticipating the upcoming Nick Lowe show (which is this coming Sunday, by the by), my wife found a deal on Bruce Springsteen tickets. Half price to see him at the Meadowlands (technically, Met Life Park, or whatever it is that they call the big football stadium where the Giants and Jets play their home games).

I passed.

$60 for a ticket to see a concert at a huge venue like that doesn't really appeal. The problem with huge venues is that I don't really feel like I'm seeing the musician live. I'm so far away that all I can see is specks on the stage. I know that that speck in the middle is Bruce Springsteen (or whoever, depending on the show), but I can't really see him. There are lots of big screens to help out, but I may as well be watching a screen at home. Never mind the traffic and other logistics of getting to such a show -- although I'll admit that that is particular to the show. A concert at Shea Stadium Citifield would be easy for me to get to but still has the other drawbacks.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mean to diminish Springsteen. I know he's a great performer and showman. I'm told he puts on four hecks of a show. And I even like a godd bit of his music, though I could hardly be classified as a rabid fan. But the downsides of such a show are just too much.

In that sense I am lucky that my favorite musicians aren't exactly household names. My ticket to see Amy and Eric was $15. I was sitting maybe ten feet from the stage -- and I could've been closer if I'd wanted. I could feel the vibrations when Eric jumped. And it's not because the sounds were amplified. I could see the strings on his bass quivering. I could see his face squished in concentration. When Amy broke a guitar string I could see it dangling from the headstock. I could see it getting in the way of her fingers on the frets. And I don't mean that I could see it in an image projected on a Jumbotron. Looking directly at her guitar I could see the strings and the fingers and the frets themselves. That's more esciting than anything I'd see at the Meadowlands. And I talked to Eric and Amy before and after the show. I got to connect with the performer.

And the upcoming show... $45 for my ticket -- yes that's significantly higher than the Eric and Amy ticket, but Nick Lowe is a bigger draw for a variety of reasons. At any rate, it's still cheaper than the Springsteen ticket would have been, and that would have been half price already. My ticket is in the tenth row, just off-center. As with the Eric show, I'll be close enough to see everything. It won't be quite as intimate -- this is a real theatre with seats -- and assigned seats at that -- while the other was the basement of a bar. but it'll still be good

Monday, October 1, 2012

when names change

One thing that causes my anal-retentive self a bit of agita is when bands either change their namess or are inconsistent in their spelling.

I like to organize my music alphabetically by band or artist. Admittedly, my CDs haven't been organized for quite some time, but that's another story -- and even so, there's still the database that I'm forever trying to complete. But my organizational efforts are hampered by a few bands that don't have the decency to be consistent.

Now, when a band records under a completely different name (e.g., Brinsley Schwarz recorded and released some tracks as "The Knees"), that's fairly straightforward. I enter those tracks as recorded by the band under whose name they were recorded. In the example cited, I list those tracks as being by The Knees.

But there are other cases where things aren't quite so easy for anal-retentive me. Following are a few examples:

The Toy Dolls
The British punk rock group's tenth album, Orcastrated,  has their name on the cover spelled as "Toy Dollz." Note the "Z" at the end. I could ignore the missing "The" at the beginning -- lots of bands add and remove "the" all willy nilly without regard for the anal-retentive among their fans. But the "Z" bothered me. Alphabetically, keeping the album separate wasn't a big deal, since "Toy Dollz" comes right after "Toy Dolls." But part of me wants to list them as a different band, and list all the tracks as by the "other" band. Of course, many of those tracks also appear on compilation albums, so those albums would show tracks by both "Toy Dolls" and "Toy Dollz." I've resisted the urge, but it does bother me.

There was a contemporary American band called "Tight Squeeze." So to avoid confusion this British group was, early on, billed as "U.K. Squeeze" in the States. And their first album was  released as U.K. Squeeze. For the longest time I filed that album under U (while all other releases were filed under S. And my database reflected tracks from that first album were reflected as being by U.K. Squeeze instead of Squeeze -- even when they appeared on compilations. A friend (who is a bigger CD collector than I am (though he doesn't keep a database on computer) summed it up succinctly when he found out. "That's mental" he sneered. Perhaps so. What made me change it and file everything under S? Some epiphany that it was mental? No. When I found out that, in Great Britain, the band was always billed without the "U.K." in front of its name and the album was released as Squeeze. Of course, even though my copy of U.K. Squeeze went back to S with the other Squeeze albums, I kept it after Sweets from a Stranger because the album title still had "U.K." in it even if the band name didn't. I have also since learned that the band was also known as U.K. Squeeze in Australia. That was because of an Australian band called Squeeze, and lasted much longer.

The Flamin' Groovies
The Flamin(' -- ?) Groovies made some great music, but for some reason they couldn't decide whether their name had an apostrophe in it. Or maybe they simply changed their minds after three punctuation-less albums. Part of me really wants to reflect two different bands in my database. I also never really know whether to use the hyphen when I write their name. I tend to prefer to include the apostrophe, since it just doesn't look right without it. So the one band in my database has the apostrophe in its name. I'm guessing that if I were to ask Roy Loney or Cyril Jordan about the name, and whether the apostrophe should be there, they'd look at me like I was nuts. Or maybe anal-retentive. Did I mention that I'm anal-retentive?

Lynyrd Skynyrd
When the band reformed in the late '80s after the airplane crash-induced hiatus, here were legal battles over use of the name Lynyrd Skynyrd. As a result, the 1991 album was released as Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991, and the album notes made it clear that the band was also known by that name. I find it interesting that, while Wikipedia mentions and briefly discusses the legal battles, I can't find anything about the band being billed under the expanded name.My database still reflects it as being a different band. I suppose if I liked them better and became a completist when it came to their music I would have to do the resaerch and decide how to reflect them. But I don't and I'm not so I probably won't.

John (Cougar) Mellencamp
When he first started out, John Mellencamp reluctantly agreed to use the stage name "Johnny Cougar" because his manager felt that "Mellencamp" was too difficult a name to market. He went back and forth between John and Johnny. Eventually, when he had had some measure of success he was able to add his real surname to the mix, so several albums were released as "John Cougar Mellencamp." It wasn't until 1991 that the "Cougar" was gone and he started releasing albums as "John Mellencamp." It makes me glad that Jason Ringenberg had a band behind him so his last name didn't become an issue.