Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pearl Jam - live in Denver 10.22.2014

Went to see Pearl Jam last night.  It was incredible, and incredibly unique.  There was a couple special things about this show that I didn’t know until I arrived and the band mentioned it.   The first is that this was the last night of the tour.  I had no idea, but that is a great sign.  It means the band is going to blow it out tonight, and leave nothing behind.

They did that in spades.

The second was that last night was exactly the 25th anniversary of their first gig together.  Again, this would prove to be a fruitful revelation.  Ed told a story about this (he tells a lot of stories live.  That is what always makes this an intimate show every time) – On this exact night 25 years ago****, the band played their first gig.  The very next day they went in and recorded their 6 song demo.  The very next day after that, Ed flew home back to San Diego to his job at a gas station.  The very next day after that, he gave his notice.   “some week, huh?”

The show started very early, 7:30 pm.  Also, there was no opener.  This is incredibly unusual.  In the 5 or 600 hundred professional national live shows I have been to, this has happened maybe 5 times.  Why so early?  Did they have to get home?  Was there a curfew at the Pepsi Center?  No.  It appears that was so they could play for almost 4 hours.

The venue was the Pepsi Center, which is our basketball and hockey arena.  I imagine most or all of the tour took place in these venues.  It is where I have seen the last 4 Pearl Jam show.  Basically, they are too big to play the sheds, or Red Rocks.  The ‘sheds’ generally hold 12,000 people.  Red Rocks holds about 16,000.  These basketball arenas hold about 20,000 people.   They needed the space, the show sold out early.

Pearl Jam doesn’t come around a lot, at least to our neck of the woods.  Last time they were here was almost 9 years ago.  That show was with Tom Petty.  It was amazing, as Tom Petty (and Benmont) played with Pearl Jam… and Ed came out and sang with Petty’s band.  Here is an amazing video from the show I was at.

Quite impressively, Ed mentioned this show, and that he remembered it.  I doubt that.  They have probably played about 300 shows in the last 9 years.  They probably have an assistant/historian who feeds them this info before each show.  I have seen Pearl Jam a lot.  Every possible chance I could.  I would guess it has been between ten and fifteen shows – dating all the way back to 1991.  First time I saw them I had never heard of them.  They were just thrown on the bill with some headliners- Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Let that sink in, I saw Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and the Chili Peppers together.  Nirvana was just breaking with Nevermind, but they weren’t huge.  They weren’t even the headliners, the Chili Peppers were. 

Sorry, back to my point.  In seeing them so many times, I notice Ed has an amazing ability.  He makes you feel every single show is a very special show to him.  Last night, he talked about how much he loved Denver and how the city was so close to his heart.  Well, bullshit.  They haven’t been here in 4 albums, and Eddie didn’t come here on his solo tours, either.  Last night, though, he made it feel like his favorite place on earth.  He always says things like “I will never forgot this night.  I can’t believe how special this town and this crowd is.”  Because I collect their bootlegs, I know he does his in every town.  I remember his saying that back in 1993 in Phoenix.  He said something like “this is the most important show we have played.  I will never forget this city or this night”.  It doesn’t feel like schmaltz, though.  He really makes it feel like you just happened to catch him on the happiest night of his life.

We (wifey and I) had great seats.  We got them through the fan club, where I have been a member since 1997.  They give priority to fan club seating before general onsale, and in that they give weighting to length of membership.  So, we were close, and with a perfect siteline.  Initially, we had the choice of floor or seating.  Because I have a bad back, I chose seating.  I couldn’t imagine standing for 2 hours.  The show was so great and powerful and fun, I ended up standing and rocking out the whole time…  for four hours!  I didn’t even think anything of it until we left to climb the stairs.  Man, I instantly felt four hours of jumping around like an idiot.

Next; I mentioned the setlist was very unique.  I was disjointed and bizarre.  It was as if they put all their songs in a bingo hopper and just played whatever randomly came out.  Other interesting thing about the song choice and the general vibe – it left like the last night of a long residency in town.  They took so many musical chances, and played SO many songs I had never heard live.  This included a brief acoustic set, and all the members playing acoustics through the show.  This has never before happened when I have seen them live.  Ed played guitar, a LOT.  This is also unusual.  Normally, he may play for 4 or 5 songs.  Last night he probably played on 20 songs.  He has gotten quite good over the years.

The setlist is here.  It was exhaustive in a most impressive way.  Just off memory today, I was able to jot down 25 songs, including everything off Ten.  In checking the setlist, they played 40 songs.  Couple with that Ed stopping to tell long winded and wonderful stories every few songs.  There was a playfulness to the show.  They were just having fun in a manner I have never seen before.  During Rearview Mirror, Mike McCready took to running around the stage.  He did laps through the entire song (about 7 minutes) and was, of course, playing guitar the whole time.  After a bit, the band caught on to this and started to fuck with him.  They put equipment in the way, made him jump stuff, and tried to knock him over every time he passed.  Mind you, this was all during a tight and powerful and super fast performance.  Just McCready running at top speed in circles around the huge stage for no discernible reason.  As I mentioned, there truly was a loose and relaxed fun feeling that was new to me.

As I mentioned, the full setlist is linked above.  Here are some of the standout performances for me.  Leash.  Here is the studio cut, it is one of my absolute favorite songs.  LowLight – this is a beautiful and haunting acoustic jam that I don’t know if they have ever played live.  Betterman – this song becomes magic live.  They play it almost every show, and for good reason.  For the first verse, Eddie gets out of the way and watches the audience sing it to him.  It is really something to listen to 20,000 people sing a song together in perfect form.  Here, it is too cool to explain, so watch this clip from a couple years ago.  Fast forward to 2:40.

As always, Ed had a wine bottle in tow.  Tonight, though, he went through a LOT of wine.  About 4 bottles, and that doesn't count him handing it out to the audience, either.  By the end of the show, he was pretty toasty, as evidenced by him falling a lot.  The crowd was too, so we loved every minute of it.  Here is a great pic from last night I stole from another forum.

Of course, in this marathon show they played all the ‘hits’:  given to fly, alive, sirens, black, even flow, etc.  They played so many songs that I didn’t know about 6 or 7 of them.  That never happens.   I am obviously a huge fanboy.  I have every official release, and about 12 different live show bootlegs.

A note about the ‘bootlegs’.  Quite bravely, Pearl Jam officially allowed recording shows early in their career.  As soon as the technology became available, they began releasing every single live show.  Even more impressive, they allow you to buy the show in advance, and get an un-mastered MP3 of that show the very night it happens.  A lot of bands use this now:  the Dead, Jimmy Buffet, Metallica, and several others.  In fact, the Dead actually sells CDs of the show you were at THAT night!  As you walk out of the venue, they have a whole recording studio you can stop by and get freshly burned CDs of the show that just ended ten minutes ago.  Pearl Jam pioneered ALL of this.  When they started doing all this, the industry went nuts.  The industry hates live show releases.  They don’t make any money off them, and they feel that live shows cannibalize the market for official studio releases – which is where they make all their money.  Well, Pearl Jam (and the Dead long before them) figured out if you are fanatic enough to listen to shitty and oddly mixed live bootlegs, you are certainly enough of a fan who will buy the official releases as well.

Speaking of bootlegs, here is a video I took last night.  It is the band doing ‘Imagine’.  The video is shaky, its just from my telephone.  However, the audio is incredible.  Put some headphones on and give it a listen… you will feel like you were there.  Or, at least you will feel like I was there.

I don’t know what else to say about the show.  It was incredible on every level.  Like only the Dead, when I am at a Pearl Jam show I simply feel like I am hanging out with old friends again.  You can’t buy that feeling.   Well, I guess you can for about $100.  That was the ticket cost after fees and such.  Quite worth a nearly four hour experience.  Thank you to the band for 23 years of amazing live experiences.

*** a further note about bootlegging and the history of it.  I have written somewhat exhaustively on the topic.  Feel free to take a peek.  Start here, then go here, and then here.

****  correction and editors note to self:  it was 24 years ago.  Way to do your research, lazy boy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Harry Belafonte is an American Hero

*** this is a very rare cross post from my main writing site

I have written a bit about Harry Belafonte over the years, but not nearly enough. I am afraid his magnitude may not be appreciated until after he is dead. Harry Belafonte is a great man. You know him as the banana boat guy. There is so much more music. He invented his own sound and style. Think of it, who else sings those happy reggae-ish calypso type catchy tunes? What the hell is calypso? I have no idea, as I hadn’t heard of it before Harry Belafonte. In fact, like Hunter Thompson and ‘Gonzo Journalism’, I am not sure it existed before Harry. There is nothing like it. As I said, you know the banana boat song (god, I hope so) but here are a few more. Yeah, he did ok with music. He was the first artist in history to sell a million records. Read that again. It wasn’t the Beatles, or Michael Jackson, or Nickelback, or Elvis.

Mr. Belafonte has also done so much more for humanity that transcends his music. You love Martin Luther King, right? Yes, we all do. What did you do, though? I mean, not just liking the guy or throwing up a quote to your facebook wall on Feb 1… but what have you personally done about racial segregation in the United States? Right. Me neither. Well, I did write this… but I am no Harry Belafonte. Oh, and I am not waiting until February to acknowledge black history. Here at I am Correct, every month is black history month, crackers! I digress, back to the story.

MLK famously wrote a book called ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’. MLK got arrested, a lot. That is kinda the deal with civil disobedience. Harry Belafonte was the guy who bailed him out every time. That is putting a target on your head. When MLK was locked up in the deep south, he was the most hated man in the country to those folks. In walks Harry and hands them the cash to set him free. That is balls of steel.

Oh, then he discovered Bob Dylan and gave him his first job. When Bob Dylan moved to New York in 1961, it was Harry who gave him his first job. Bob was Harry’s harmonica player. Are you thinking “how is that possible? Dylan is a terrible harmonica player?” You should be, it’s true. I don’t know what Harry saw in Dylan, but we owe him huge thanks for keeping Dylan afloat as he discovered his thing.

Am I going to tell you that Harry Belafonte also invented electricity, and puppies, too? Well, I can’t prove he didn’t.
Each and every one of you has the power, the will and the capacity to make a difference in the world in which you live in. … You should go through life knowing, "I am somebody."
Who said that? Mandela? MLK? Ghandi? Chad Kroeger? Nope, it was our boy Harry. How about this gem from Maya Angelou Harry Belafonte?
You can cage the singer but not the song.
He is still alive and recording and writing and generally being the great fucking human that he is. I am not claiming that Harry isn’t being recognized by society. Thankfully, he very much is. Just this week he is being honored by Harvard. Last year he was honored by the Kennedy Center. It’s a big deal there. I am not sure what they do, or what it means, but the president shows up. So, it’s a big deal.

So, the intellectual elite know all about him. I am not telling them the virtues of Harry Belafonte, I am telling you. Like you, I wasn’t invited to either event. They love Harry, whoever ‘they’ are. I just wanna make sure you do, too. Lastly, he is also impossibly charming. Here is from a year or two ago on the Colbert Report. I would embed it below, but it got pulled from youtube. So, here is a link from Colbert’s official (and very cool) site. Stay for the whole thing. At the 8:30 mark into the interview, they (Colbert and Belafonte) sing together. It’s pretty terrific.

I just found a biopic on Harry here. Can’t say how good it is, never seen it. Truth be told, I didn’t know it existed until 4 minutes ago. I am going to stream it now, it’s $3.

Thank you, Harry Belafonte.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Courtney Love - what to do

I like Courtney Love.  I love how she sings, and love her songs.  I love her bravado.  I love her hot body (link nsfw).  I love that she is still standing. I love that she never apologizes.  I love that she will get naked at the drop of a hat.  I defend her every chance I get.  She gets an unfair TON of shit.  Every time something happens the world jumps on her for being 'skanky' or 'no talent' or 'coattail riding' etc etc.  Yes, Courtney Love is an asshole.  Guess what, she is a rock star.  You forgive Axl, and Mick.  You forgave John Lennon.  John Lennon was a HUGE asshole.  He was a colossal prick who personally broke up the Beatles because he was insecure that Paul's songwriting was better (and it was).  John Lennon put a cigarette out on a Picasso at the Playboy mansion.  (editors note to self:  it was a Matisse)

I admit there is a double standard for women we can't shake.  For example, I keep saying she is being unfairly judged because she is a woman.  If you were to log all her antics and compare them with any other great rock star and take out the gender identifiers... she would pale to most great male rock stars.  So, I castigate you for being shallow.  Yet, I freely admit  a BIG part of why I love Courtney is because I have a crush on her crazy ass.

But then, I have to think of all she has done.  To me, it IS a big deal if someone is an asshole, even if they are a rock star.  It's not a dis-qualifier for me, but I take notice.  I think how Kurt once famously wore a brilliant t shirt on the cover of Rolling Stone that said "Corporate Magazines Still Suck".  Yet, after Kurt died, Courtney sold his diaries and had excepts published in Time.  This is pretty much everything Kurt was against, and she knew that on every level.

This was tough to forgive.  Then, we look at her masterpiece album, Celebrity Skin.  That is an excellent rock album on absolutely every level.  It's catchy, it's deep, it's heavy, it's angry.  It's great!  Look very closely.  Wait, don't bother.  You don't even know where to look, I will look for you.  Courtney didn't write those songs.  Billy Corgan and her guitarist (Eric Erlandson) wrote it.  You should know that Billy and Courtney were  BIG item long ago. Lived together, and actually went to court to fight over a cat when she moved out.

Then, she went gonzo against Dave Grohl.  Sadly, through Kurt's demise and will, Courtney became the primary stakeholder in the Nirvana catalogue.  This meant the two remaning guys couldn't do ANYTHING Nirvana related without going through Courtney.  Stuff like box sets, retrospectives, remasters... all had to go through Court.  Dave Grohl is a god among men.  If you hate Dave Grohl; you hate puppies,  rainbows, and free cocaine.  So, just to be a dick to Dave Grohl (which she has now openly admitted) she blocked any and all Nirvana projects.  That is why Sublime put out 10 records after Bradley died and Nirvana did one.

See, she didn't need the money.  That is past tense.  She just two weeks ago admitted she blew through 27 million dollars of 'Nirvana money'.  Her words, not mine.
“I know that’s a lifetime of money to most people,” she said to Sunday Style last weekend. “But I’m a big girl, it’s rock ‘n’ roll, it’s Nirvana money, I had to let it go.”
You know the old parable about 'first, they came for the jews... I did nothing.  It didn't impact me.  Then, they came for the old and infirm.  I did nothing.... etc etc.  Well, it has come down to this.  Very recently, a recording engineer released some interesting Hole tapes.  He was hired to do live sound at this venue (so his work was specific to the venue, not the band.  That might be pertinent to know, I am not sure).  Now, we know she consistently inconsistent on stage. She rambles a lot, forgets all the words, and storms off stage more than Axl Rose and Axl Rose combined!

Take a look at this photo

That woman on stage is Courtney's assistant.  Let's call her 'fuckface who is in the goddamn way.'  This gal was on stage filming the show from her iPhone for the ENTIRE show.  That is beyond weird, it is selfish and disrespectful to the audience.  You paid $40 to see her assistant stand front and center all night.  At that show, she was better remembered for not finishing a single song.

Yet... she can perform on rare occasion.  Also, on rare occasion, the excellent songs get a chance to shine... as witnessed here.  This is this a full show on Youtube.  It is pro shot and pro sound, and she is topless the second half of the show. It is a great performance overall, and a rare moment for Courtney.  Here, I will embed it below because it is such an overall great performance for her.  I show you this to be even handed.  I have always been a fan of hers, though she makes it so goddamn tough.  Note, after the 1 hour mark, note she is topless.  That is rock and roll.

So, why did I tell you about the recording engineer guy.  Well, one of the shows he recorded at that venue was Hole.  He never got paid for his work, so he kept his masters.  This guy was an audio recording engineer, which means he was plugged straight into the board.  It means he can isolate tracks.  So, he did that with the Hole show.  The results are below, and it's bad.  Really, really bad.

Now, generally speaking, I love isolated audio tracks.  I think they are man from heaven.  Here is an example.  Listen to this - its David Lee Roth doing his audio for 'running with the devil'.  It's powerful.  You can literally hear his confidence and charisma through his voice.

So, what am I with?  She can't sing well, can't remember her own songs, can't write her own songs, worked aggressively to destroy Nirvana's legacy post Cobain suicide.  She freely admits not only that she lost 27 million bucks, but casually dismisses it as not her money, anyway.  "Whatever, it's gone.  It was just Nirvana money.'  Tell that to Grohl and Noveselic's wife and children that it was no biggie you not only hoarked their money, but then you blew.  and you didn't feel bad about it.

I just can't defend her anymore.  Not sure I should.  Oh, and before you comment with something stupid like 'good riddance to her, she is a no talent assclown' - work to prove your point, please.  Agree or disagree, I love either if there is some intelligence and thoughtfulness to it.

Ok, Courtney.  You are on your own now.  Go marry Scott Weiland and leave us all alone.

*** oh, one last thing.  I watched this clip a few times as I was preparing this piece and I found something even MORE lame than her inability to play a single chord.  At exactly the 1 minute mark you see two guitarists on stage.  Neither is the other guitarist, Eric Erlandson.  So, when playing live, they needed FOUR guitarist to play simple power chord rock

*** did I just compare Courtney Love to both German death squads and John Lennon?  You bet your ass I did.