Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Dido - Union Transfer, Philadelphia, 6/22/2019, Her Performance was Powerful; Jack Savoretti Delighted the Dido Faithful with His Opening Set

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Dido played Philadelphia's Union Transfer Saturday night, June 22nd and offered her usual masterful performance. Although she played the much larger Tower Theater the last time through, Dido reportedly opted for smaller venues this tour. Perhaps because it had been fifteen years since she last toured here, she wanted the intimacy of smaller houses. When the show was first announced last winter, it sold out immediately.

The upshot of all this was that the fans secured their tickets early, and I did likewise when the show was announced back in January. And so, the multi-generational crowd was missing the component that you usually get at a weekend show, the folks that just want to go out on a Saturday night. That's the sort of crowd that talks continuously through the show; venues generally deal with that by running the sound at a bludgeoningly loud level.

The sound mix was superb. Every instrument was well defined, even when loud, yet there was always room in the mix for Dido's voice. At full tilt this band could rock out gracefully with the excellent drum sound of Adam Falkner augmented by Jimmy Sims' ballistic bass guitar and by propulsive percussion played by Jody Linscott, reprising her role from Dido's last tour in 2004. Switching between piano and other keyboards was Jamie Norton. Guitarist Pete Rinaldi played some really tasty electric leads when he wasn't accompanying Dido's voice on acoustic.

Dido's twenty song set was well proportioned from her five studio albums, with most of the selections coming either from her new album or the first two. When she documented her first two albums with the Live at Brixton Academy DVD/CD, I found those live recordings to be the definitive versions of those songs. Although I usually consider studio albums versions to be definitive, Dido's live renditions at Brixton were so much more powerful.

Fifteen years on, the excellence of Dido's live performance continues. When a concert stays with you after it's over, and for the next week or so you are recalling songs from her set, you know you've been to a good one.

Watch "Life For Rent" complete with Dido's stage comments:

Setlist: Click on linked songs to listen
01 Hurricanes
02 Hell After This
03 Life For Rent
04 Hunter
05 No Freedom
06 Grafton Street
07 Sand In My Shoes
08 Give You Up
09 Thank You
10 Friends
11 Sitting On the Roof
12 Quiet Times
13 Here With Me
14 See You When You're 40
15 Mad Love
16 End Of Night
17 Take You Home
18 Take My Hand
19 Have To Stay
20 White Flag

Dido's Website
Dido's Twitter
Dido's Instagram
Dido's Facebook

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Jack Savoretti opened the show thanking Dido for giving him the opportunity to tour with her. Although he talked about this being his first time visiting Philadelphia, Washington D.C., etc., his latest album Singing To Strangers is his sixth.

In the UK, Savoretti generally headlines and has sold out some major venues in the London area. Singing To Strangers represents his first time reaching #1 on the British album charts. He has a good band and a voice that when energized sounds a bit like Joe Cocker.

Watch Jack Savoretti explain the significance of the title, Singing To Strangers.

Setlist: Click on linked songs to listen
01 Home
02 Other Side
03 Better Off
04 Singing To Strangers
05 Candlelight
06 When We Were Lovers

Jack Savoretti's Website
Jack Savoretti's Twitter
Jack Savoretti's Instagram
Jack Savoretti's Facebook

Saturday, August 03, 2019

The Japanese House - The Foundry, Philadelphia, 5/26/2019, The Foundry Crowd Gave Amber Bain the Old Philadelphia Welcome; Art School Girlfriend Opened With Polly Mackey's Songcraft with a Side of Electronics

Photo: Courtesy of The Japanese House

The Japanese House played The Foundry reportedly for the fourth time, on Sunday night, May 26th. The Foundry is located inside the Fillmore in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. The Japanese House is essentially Amber Bain, a musician, singer, and songwriter from England. Judging by the reception she got from the sold out Foundry, the crowd reaction sounded much louder than the venue's capacity of 450.

The crowd sang along throughout the set, and not just when asked. I was imagining that this must be what her performances might be like at home; at least we made her feel welcome here in Philadelphia. Home (away from home) is the place, incidentally, that was the source of the name. As the story goes, when Bain was young, her family went on holiday and stayed in Kate Winslet's house, which was called The Japanese House.

The Japanese House first caught my ear when I heard a single included in one of Lee Bennett's excellent playlists associated with his blog Teases and Dares. The promise of that single was more than realized when The Japanese House released their first full length album, Good At Falling, earlier this year after four solid EPs. The songwriting was exceptional and the execution was superb. At times, the album reminds of Imogen Heap's breakthrough record, Speak For Yourself, while being totally original and highly personal.

The set contained a nice mix of most of the new album along with some well chosen prior tunes. The crowd loved every one of them. There was a nifty cover version of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" contained within Bain's own composition "Saw You In A Dream"; nice.

As a full band, The Japanese House sounded phenomenal. Bain handled the lead vocals and played electric guitar throughout. The rhythm section, when it kicked in, sounded like the bass and drums were so in sync it was mind blowing, as you can hear in the videos below. The band also included a keyboard player who contributed some background vocals and duetted with Bain as well.

Watch "Lilo", and enjoy the audience participation.

Setlist: Click on linked songs to watch
01. Intro
02. Face Like Thunder
03. Cool Blue
04. We Talk All the Time
05. Somebody You Found
06. Lilo
07. Follow My Girl
08. Still
09. Sister/Everybody Hates Me
10. f a r a w a y
11. Saw You In A Dream - includes "Dreams" (Fleetwood Mac cover)
12. You Seemed So Happy
13. We Went To Meet Her
14. Maybe You're The Reason
15. Leon
16. Worms
17. Clean

The Japanese House Website
The Japanese House Instagram
The Japanese House Twitter
The Japanese House Facebook

Photo: Courtesy of Art School Girlfriend

Art School Girlfriend is the group name used by Polly Mackey, an electronic musician, singer, and songwriter. She is currently touring with The Japanese House, another instance of pairing artists who have significant potential to appeal to each other's audience.

Mackay possesses a terrific voice. At The Foundry she played guitar and also controlled the electronics using a rig that included a laptop computer. The full sound of Art School Girlfriend was the result of her remarkable solo performance.

Art School Girlfriend has released two EPs and a number of singles. She opened with "Bending Back", which came from her debut EP Measures (2017). There were two songs, "Low" and "Distance (Blank)" from her second and latest EP Into the Blue Hour (2018). Her set included two recent singles from this year, "Come Back To Me" and "Diving", and she did one composition "Eyes On You" that has yet to be released. According to Mackay, it will likely be on her next record, in 2020.

Seeing Art School Girlfriend open for The Japanese House at The Foundry was an unexpected treat.

Watch "Bending Back"

Setlist: Click on linked songs to watch
01 Bending Back
02 Come Back To Me
03 Diving
04 Low
05 Eyes On You
06 Distance (Blank)

Art School Girlfriend Website
Art School Girlfriend Instagram
Art School Girlfriend Twitter
Art School Girlfriend Facebook

Monday, July 15, 2019

American Football & Pure Bathing Culture - Union Transfer, Philadelphia, 5/17/2019; A Dynamite Pairing If There Ever Was One

Photo courtesy of American Football

It's really sweet when you hear about a group you love being booked to play your town and you find out that they are second billed and although you're unfamiliar with the headliner, when you go listen to their latest release you love them too. Such was the case when American Football & Pure Bathing Culture played Union Transfer, Friday night May 17th.

American Football began their set with an epic version of "Silhouettes", which also leads off their latest album LP3. The song included sections where the xylophone mixed with rhythm elements that almost sounded like something that Yes once played on their Topographic Oceans record. In concert, the rhythmic last section added a trumpet and went right into "Every Wave to Ever Rise", which completed an impressive live suite of the new album's first two tracks.

They didn't just stick to LP3, their set provided a good mix of old and new. With that epic opening, their set started out super strong and it just got stronger with each composition they played. This band, American Football, playing live is a beauteous thing to behold. On the three songs from LP3 that featured guest vocalists (“Every Wave To Ever Rise,” “Uncomfortably Numb” - which the crowd especially loved, and “I Can’t Feel You”), Sarah Versprille of Pure Bathing Culture came out and sang with the band, sounding just terrific.

The first thing about this band that grabbed me was the way their guitar sound sparkles and shimmers. And then its the deliberately unhurried pace of the bass and drums that catches you next, reminding me a lot of the sound of Scotland's Blue Nile. The vocals, at least on record, sound a bit like Prefab Sprout.

I may not have been the oldest person in the room, but it occurred to me later that the crowd was mostly in their teens and twenties and probably were not listening to music during the 1980s and 90s. Heck, some of them were probably not even born yet. I've heard this band called "emo" and I've also heard "inde rock", but I say whatever you call it, American Football has a sound that I cannot get enough of, and their live show was all that and more.

Mike Kinsella - guitarist/bassist, singer
Steve Lamos - drummer, trumpet player
Steve Holmes - guitar player
Nate Kinsella - bass

Watch "Uncomfortably Numb"

Setlist - Click on linked titles to watch
01. Silhouettes
02. Every Wave to Ever Rise
03. My Instincts Are the Enemy
04. Give Me the Gun
05. Honestly?
06. The Summer Ends
07. Life Support
08. Uncomfortably Numb
09. Never Meant
10. I Can't Feel You
11. Heir Apparent
12. Stay Home
13. The One With the Wurlitzer

American Football's Website
American Football's Twitter
American Football's Instagram
American Football's Facebook

Photo courtesy of Pure Bathing Culture

I found every minute of Pure Bathing Culture's set to be a thrill. These two bands are perfectly matched and in my book they could go out and co-headline.

Pure Bathing Culture opened the show with a sound that falls somewhere between Swing Out Sister and Everything But the Girl. It turns out that they recently released a new album, Night Pass. I was familiar with their debut full length, Moon Tides, from 2013; I relish catching up with Pray For Rain (that I somehow missed in 2015) as well as the new one. As much as I like them on record, they sounded even better live.

Pure Bathing Culture's sound is defined by Daniel Hindman's guitar and Sarah Versprille's voice. The backbone of their sound is the rhythm section, which at Union Transfer was provided by their touring members namely Zach Tillman (bass) and Christopher Icasiano (drums). The road band also includes Justin Chase (keyboards); Tillman also adds some keys.

One of the nice things I noticed is that both groups are making well written, well arranged, and well produced music - music to be listened to, music with a meaning, music with a purpose, and not just for the sake of sales. That's incredibly encouraging.

Sarah Versprille – keyboards, vocals
Daniel Hindman – guitar, bass, keyboards

Watch "All Night"

Also watch these videos from the show:

Pure Bathing Culture's Website
Pure Bathing Culture's Twitter
Pure Bathing Culture's Instagram
Pure Bathing Culture's Facebook

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Tash Sultana - The Met, Philadelphia, 5/17/2019, The Multi-Instrumentalist Street Musician from Melbourne Hits the Big Time; The Pierce Brothers Opened with Energy to Spare

Photos: Beverly Kates

Tash Sultana headlined a show Friday night, May 17th, at Philadelphia's new venue, The Met. Both Sultana and show opener the Pierce Brothers came to us from Melbourne, Australia, and all commented on the beauty of the room. And a fine job they did renovating this building and opening last year as a concert hall. The Hidden City website tells us that in 1908:
"Impresario Oscar Hammerstein (grandfather of the famous lyricist) brought his operatic franchise to Philadelphia, where he built one of the grandest opera houses in the nation: over 4,000 seats, a gorgeous design, and a bold challenge to the Academy of Music (run by the Metropolitan Opera Company) downtown. After only two sold-out seasons of grand opera in a full-on Philadelphia opera war, Hammerstein ran into debt and had to sell his wildly popular opera house to his competitor."
From a quick look at the internet, we know that Sultana started playing guitar at the age of three, dealt with drug addiction as a teenager, did busking on the streets of Melbourne, made videos which went viral and successfully converted that into a career, and identifies as gender non-binary using the pronoun "they". Each time Sultana has played Philadelphia, it has been at a larger venue. The Met has a capacity listed at 3,500 and Friday night the seats were nearly filled, which is remarkable when you think that this has been achieved more on the basis of word of mouth and the internet than by traditional radio play. The progression of Philadelphia venues (this is the fourth) isn't even half of the story. As impressive as Sultana's local success has been, according to the internet, the current world tour was already completely sold out in Europe and the UK before Tash even left Melbourne, including a three night stand at London's Brixton Academy.

Sultana's virtuosity on guitar during very intense solo performances may begin to explain the meteoric rise. Tash uses a lot of electronics on stage. In addition to the guitar work, Tash adds some very appealing vocals as well as other instruments into the mix.

The show was mighty impressive. Sultana wowed on guitar, and used the loops and beat box to build and create compelling sonic statements that were both similar to the records and new and unique at the same time. Sultana told Richard Kingsmill of Triple J Radio, "I want live to be a little glimpse of something that's going to happen once and the next night it will be different and the night after that it will be different again and that's what makes it special." (26 Aug 2018)

To the uninitiated it may have been hard to tell where one piece ended and the next began, but when it got quiet there was applause from the crowd and they clearly loved it. The feeling from the stage seemed mutual. Sultana mentioned, at one point, how thrilling it was to have such a diverse crowd: every age, gender, race, etc. It was a nice long show, about two and a quarter hours.

Watch this video of "Notion" (courtesy of shellsbells86)

(courtesy of WXPN's The Key)
01. Big Smoke
02. Gemini
03. Seven
04. Salvation
05. Free Mind
06. Can’t Buy Happiness
07. Harvest Love
08. Notion
09. Synergy
10. Jungle
11. Blackbird (encore)

Tash Sultana's Website
Tash Sultana's Twitter
Tash Sultana's Instagram
Tash Sultana's Facebook

Photo courtesy of the Pierce Brothers

Along for the tour to open for Sultana was the Pierce Brothers. Like their tour mate, twin brothers Jack and Pat got their start busking on the streets of Melbourne. This was not their first time on a world tour with Sultana, and they had the somewhat rare opportunity to be the opener and have a full hour long set.

My first impression was that of an Australian version of Mumford and Son. This talented multi-intrumentalist brother act quickly won me over with their songwriting and performance skill, enormously positive attitude, and their seemingly boundless energy. Watch these videos from the show and you will see what I mean. Jack is the one playing drums, didgeridoo, and all manner of percussion. Pat specializes in guitar. They both play acoustic guitar and they both sing, although Jack is more of the lead singer and frontman. According to their bio, they are delighting audiences worldwide.

Watch the Pierce Brothers open the show with "It's My Fault".

Setlist: Click on linked titles to watch
01. It's My Fault
02. Instrumental Jam
03. Amsterdam
04. Black Dog
05. The Records Were Ours
06. Blind Boys Run
07. Take A Shot At Me
08. Brother
09. Genevieve
10. Golden Times
11. Flying Home

Atlas Shoulders

Buy at Amazon
Buy at iTunes
Stream on Spotify

This is the Pierce Brothers' latest album, released last year. As impressive as their live performance is, I'm liking their recordings even more. In the studio they are a little more relaxed and you can more fully appreciate their songwriting, arrangements, performances and production. There are nuances that get replaced on stage with their energetic performance style. Their live show gets you into the tent and the records close the deal. Highly recommended.

Pierce Brothers' Website
Pierce Brothers' Twitter
Pierce Brothers' Instagram
Pierce Brothers' FaceBook

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Five Greatest Kills In Game of Thrones... And The Five Worse; Those Whose Demise Really Hurt, And Those Who Had It Coming

Photos: HBO

I can't quite believe I'm writing this. A quaker and a pacifist writing about "the greatest killings." I just remember to tell myself that this show is pure fantasy, based on a work of fiction and nobody really dies [spoiler alert!]. So, off we go.

The "greatest" killings in Game of Thrones happen to characters who really deserve it, in the sense that they themselves are responsible for senseless killings and worse, much worse.

The "worst" killings in Game of Thrones are those that happen to beloved characters who usually are good people. These are the ones that really hurt. When a favorite character bites it, you can't help feeling crushed.

These lists are completely arbitrary. If you disagree, or even if you do agree, have your say in the comment section below.

Spoiler Alert: The following includes events through Season 7.

The Greatest Killings

1. Ramsay Bolton, Warden of the North
Among his many transgressions was a particularly painful to watch sequence of episodes in Season 3, during which he tortured both physically (including the removal of his manhood) and mentally Theon Greyjoy, ultimately reducing him to the pathetic character of Reek, a victim of PTSD if there ever was one. Although I'm sure that similar torture occurs in real life, the graphic scenes in Game of Thrones earned the show some of the criticism it has received. Ramsay Bolton's brutality wasn't limited to Theon. When Littlefinger "sold" Sansa Stark to be Ramsay's bride, the wedding night rape was one of the cruelest scenes ever on an entertainment show. So, when Sansa unleashed his hungry hounds to feast upon him in S6E9 and the first thing they attacked was his "package", the manner of his death couldn't have been more fitting.

2. Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, Lord Protector of the Vale
Petyr Baelish, or Littlefinger as he is also known, has been a schemer since day one. He has only ever looked out for himself no matter how many characters he convinced otherwise. When the plans turn deadly, as they often did, he never shied away or displayed any sort of principle. So, it was sweet when Sansa and Arya Stark gave him a dose of his own medicine (S7E7). Littlefinger was also on Arya's hit list when Sansa conspired with her sister to bring the Petyr Baelish storyline to its ultimate and final conclusion.

3. Joffrey Baratheon, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms
King Joffrey was responsible for my #1 worst killing in Game of Thrones, the beheading of Ned Stark. You couldn't excuse Joffrey for his age. The boy king was obnoxious and callous as part of his personality. He would not even have inherited the throne if the secret got out that he was the product of incest. Littlefinger conspired with Olenna Tyrell to poison the wine that Joffrey was served at his own wedding, the Purple Wedding (S4E2). The viewers were not the only ones pleased by this turn of events.

4. Walder Frey, Lord of the Crossing, Lord of Riverrun
Every time Walder Frey appeared on screen he struck me as having an uncanny resemblance to Willie Nelson. That, did not get him killed. The fact that his duplicity knew no bound, did. Specifically, his execution of the plans as devised by Tywin Lannister and Lord Roose Bolton for the Red Wedding merited his throat the special attention of Arya Stark's knife blade (S6E10), good valyrian steel.

5. Tywin Lannister, Head of House Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock
That Tywin Lannister was killed by his son Tyrion, is not nearly as surprising as what took him so long. Mistreated by his father since birth because he was born an imp (How do you even tell with an infant?), he tried to drown his newborn son. Tyrion is a character who appears to be good at heart. Perhaps the final straw was being sentenced to death by Tywin for a murder he did not commit, that being the dispatch of King Joffrey. The method used by Tyrion, killing his father with a crossbow while he sat on the toilet (S4E10), put a fine point on the whole relationship. Note: In losing the Tywin character, the show lost an actor who was a great speaker and orator.

The Worst Killings

1. Eddard "Ned" Stark, Hand of the King and Lord of the North
Even though he didn't make it alive out of Season 1, it is obvious that Ned Stark is one of the most important, if not the most important, of characters in the show. There has been no other character so principled, loyal, and loving. It was crushing, to say the least, when he was summarily beheaded at the order of King Joffrey Baratheon (S1E9). Even worse was the scene in which Ned's young daughters had to see his head paraded on a spike.

2. Robb Stark, King of the North
Robb Stark, son of Ned Stark, died alongside his new bride Talisa and his mother Lady Catelyn, not to mention their 15,000 man army at the now infamous Red Wedding (S3E9). Watching these murders at their wedding banquet came as such a shock, and such a disturbing one at that, Game of Thrones actually lost some viewers. Regardless, it was pretty apparent at this point that the Stark family was under attack. This only crystalized viewer fascination with the survival of the deceased King's siblings namely Sansa, Arya, and Bran, also Jon Snow (then known as their "bastard" brother). This killing was intense.

3. Lord Randyll (father) and Dickon Tarly (son, and brother of Samwell Tarly)
Despite the name of his second born son with whom he died, Lord Randyll Tarly was such a "dick" to his first born, Samwell, that Sam took the family sword with him when he went north to the Wall to serve on the Night's Watch. But that was not a factor when, after his army lost badly, he refused to bend the knee with son Dickon standing bravely by his side refusing also to bend the knee. Both were burned to death by Drogon (dragon) at the behest of Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and all that (S7E5). The new boss turned out to be a lot like the old boss.

4. Ygritte, Soldier in Mance Rayder’s army and Jon Snow’s lover
Long before Jon meet Dany, he was involved with Ygritte, one of the wildings. The wildings were an enemy living north of the wall. They had captured Jon Snow and Sam Tarly during a foray beyond the wall and as the wildings led them back to camp Jon was under the charge of Ygritte. One thing led to another and yada, yada, yada, they became lovers ...or should I say frenemies. Later, during a battle of wildlings vs. crows, Ygritte received an arrow to the heart and died in the arms of Jon Snow (S4E9). And Jon was not alone in feeling that her death was tragic.

5. Jon Snow, Commander of the Night’s Watch
Even before we learned the true details of Jon Snow's parentage, we knew that he was one of the VIPs of the show. That's why I have included him on this list. That, and the fact that his death (S5E10) turned out to be only temporary. He was brought back to life by the ministrations of magic and Melisandre. When he first returned to life, it was uncertain whether he would be the same. He is and he isn't...

HBO Game of Thrones Website

Monday, April 15, 2019

Game of Thrones' Return on HBO Merits Inclusion in the Top Ten Television Moments That Captivate the Culture; Plus Two GOT's Podcasts You Will Enjoy

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) riding one of her dragons
Photos: HBO

On the Season 8 preview Nerdette Recap podcast, Peter Sagal said something to the effect that the internet seems to be inundated with Game of Thrones right now. No kidding.

The nearly two year hiatus between Seasons 7 & 8 hardly seems as cruel now as it did in 2017 when it was first announced. The real problem was that the show got ahead of the books by George R. R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), upon which the series is based. Although critics have complained that as a result the writing in Season 7 was not quite up to snuff, as it were, the delay has obviously worked to the advantage of HBO's most watched and most expensive show. In the last couple of weeks (Season 8 debuted last night), attention on the internet has grown to a fever pitch. And the attention is only likely to increase over the next six weeks as Game of Thrones winds to its conclusion.

And so it is that Game of Thrones has touched many nerves and in so doing it takes its place in the pantheon of television 'moments' that have captivated the culture. The following list is completely arbitrary and you can decide for yourself where Game of Thrones falls in this context. Feel free to add your input by posting a comment below.

1. Last episode of M*A*S*H
Topping every list of series finale viewership is the dramatic, two hour conclusion titled, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" (I'm getting choked up just writing the name). M*A*S*H had so endeared itself to viewers during its eleven season run, which ended in February 1983, that the finale directed by Alan Alda drew nearly 106 million viewers.

2. Dallas: Who Shot J.R.?
On the hit show Dallas, Larry Hagman played J.R. Ewing, a character that America loved to hate. In March of 1980, the third season finale ended with J.R. getting shot. Viewers had to wait eight months to find out whether the character was alive or dead and CBS had a field day with the rampant speculation that went on all summer until Episode 4 of Season 4 aired that October. The conclusion to the Who Shot J.R. publicity juggernaut drew about 82 million viewers.

3. Last episode of The Sopranos
On June 10, 2007, America was glued to their sets for the series finale of The Sopranos. Although its estimated 12 million viewers looks paltry compared with the above, The Sopranos was on HBO, a premium pay channel, and had a cultural impact way beyond its numbers. Many attribute The Sopranos as ushering in the current "golden age of television". The open-ended conclusion to the episode left the fate of the characters up to the viewer and has stimulated discussions that continue whenever great series are discussed.

4. Assassination of JFK
If you were alive and sentient on November 22, 1963 you likely know where you were the moment you heard that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. The nation turned to television for news and comfort, many to CBS anchor Walter Cronkite. Dan Rather was a field reporter for CBS that day in Dallas. The collective viewership gasped in shock two days later when prime suspect Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered on live television.

5. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan
We started hearing the rumblings from England during 1963, but The Beatles didn't come to America until February 9, 1964 to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. They performed live on TV and in winning over the estimated 73 million viewers, The Beatles did, in fact, conquer America.

6. Watergate
Watergate, the scandal, took its name from the building where the Democratic National Committee had its office that was burglarized in June 1972 by operatives that were associated with the aptly acronymed Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). The President, of course, was Richard M. Nixon and as the extent of his involvement in this event began to unravel, the very definition of "must see tv" included Senate Judiciary Committee hearings chaired by Senator Sam Ervin. It concluded in August 1994 with Nixon's resignation and departure from the White House. For more Watergate, read this.

7. O.J. Simpson
The murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman unleashed a media firestorm. From the white Bronco car chase to the courtroom trial, presided over by Judge Ito, it was all on TV and the nation was riveted. No matter what opinion you held, the parade of evidence and the fact that all of the participants seemed to come from central casting (including defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit") made for compelling daily viewing in the summer of 1995. Even if the not guilty verdict didn't please everyone, the participation of defense attorney Robert Kardashian insured his family the tabloid recognition that ultimately resulted in a reality TV show that has haunted us ever since.

8. The last episode of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show
Johnny Carson so defined the concept of late night talk show that when he called it a career after 30 years it was the biggest of deals. After doing 4,500 shows, he did a full week of farewells culminating in a final two-hour episode for which NBC estimated a viewership of 55 million.

9. Last episode of Seinfeld
Seinfeld, the weekly NBC television show "about nothing", was so culturally influential and remains so ubiquitous that it's hard to believe that it ended over twenty years ago. Its dialogue became catchphrases and viewers knew the plots of every episode. So, after nine seasons and 178 episodes, Seinfeld took its final bow with a two part episode that aired in May 1998 with a viewership of 76 million.

10. The last episode of The Fugitive
Beginning in 1964, at a time when most television sets were still black and white, The Fugitive was on for only four years. It so touched a nerve in the culture that we remember it still, as well as a hit movie version produced in 1993. ABC made thirty episodes per year and when the weekly ratings dipped in the fourth year they ended the season and the series with a ground breaking finale that set the mold for future series finales. This show was a classic tension builder as the falsely accused title character, played by David Janssen, pursued the one armed man that he saw leaving the scene of his wife's murder, all the while with police lieutenant Gerard (played by Barry Morse) hot on his trail. The finale took place over the last two episodes 1967, drawing an astounding 78 million viewers despite the fact that it aired in August, a time when television networks aired only reruns during the summer.

Spoiler Alert: Do not watch unless you have seen Seasons 1 through 7 of Game of Thrones.

There are many podcasts dealing with Game of Thrones, providing further evidence of its impact on the culture. I've read about them and sampled some, and here are two that I wouldn't miss.

Binge Mode: Game of Thrones
This podcast comes to us from the good folks of The Ringer website. It is essentially a 1+ hour conversation between Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion, two people who are super knowledgable. You might find these two to be way too into it, in a good way. No detail of plot or presentation is lost on them. They really care about their popular culture. To my way of thinking, this is exactly what you want in a GOT podcast. I always listen to this one first.

Nerdette Recaps Game of Thrones with Peter Sagal
This show has high production values for a podcast, very similar to the NPR game show Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me, hosted by Peter Sagal. On the podcast, however, Sagal seems more like the guests than the host. There's a good reason for both things. Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda are always interesting women who do a podcast called Nerdette, about all things nerd. When it was determined that Sagal and they were kindred spirits, they decided to join together for this Game of Thrones podcast. Plus, all of the above are produced under the auspices of WBEZ, an NPR radio station which just happens to produce that hit radio game show. The thing that sets this show apart from the other podcasts is a strong and irreverent sense of humor shared by all three principals. The hour-long conversation is always a fun listen.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) with his direwolf Ghost and Nymeria

HBO Game of Thrones Website
Binge Mode: Game of Thrones Website
Nerdette Recaps Game of Thrones with Peter Sagal Website

Monday, March 11, 2019

Lindsey Webster, The Art of Sound, Lambertville, NJ, 11/14/2018

On Wednesday, November 14th, The Art of Sound, a high end audio store located in Lambertville, NJ hosted a performance by Lindsey Webster as part of their "Unplugged" jazz series. Attendance was limited to fifty by the size constraint of the space; The Art of Sound is located in a former nineteenth century paper mill nestled along the Delaware River and Canal. I had just seen an email from Webster listing two tour dates, one in California and the other in New Jersey. The NJ booking turned out to be The Art of Sound, and we were lucky enough to secure the last pair of tickets to this special show.

The conversion of the paper mill to an audio showroom can be seen in the pictures below. This had to be one of the coolest and most unusual spaces in which to see such an event.

Webster sat on a stool and just sang, accompanied by Keith Slattery on piano. Don't get me wrong, I love her three albums but this show was truly special in that Webster sang a good number of standards, too. She opened the show with a super soulful "God Bless The Child". After that, we might have expected jazz/pop classics like "Autumn Leaves" and "A Kiss to Build a Dream On". Her take on "Over The Rainbow" was beyond the usual making it more personal. As thrilling as it was to hear these selections from the Great American Songbook, it was even more extraordinary to hear Webster doing more modern classics like "Don't Wait Too Long", a Madeleine Peyroux cover, Prince's "Call My Name", and "Make You Feel My Love" her Adele cover written by Bob Dylan (watch below).

Her set was supremely well constructed to then survey all three of her albums with some well chosen originals. Webster's albums and singles have all had great success on the contemporary jazz charts of both Billboard and iTunes.

Webster brought it home with Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" followed by Etta James' "At Last" to end the evening. These were both superb renditions but I must say that the Stevie Wonder tune may have been my favorite number of the set. Regardless of the unlikelihood of Lindsey Webster "hanging out with those hoodlum friends of mine", the message of "I Wish" is universal. Your choice of covers can say almost as much about you as your own material, and I just love that Webster loves Stevie Wonder a much as I do.

The show was captivating in its simplicity. Slattery accompanied Webster with some very jazzy piano parts. Her songwriting and production partner as well as keyboardist in her band, he is also her one-time husband.

The unplugged nature of the event and the intimacy of the venue freed Webster to be conversational with the audience. There was plenty of laughing, stories, song explanations and song information like the tidbit that "Those Three Words" is her personal favorite among the songs she has written. Overall, she seemed to be free of the normal concert format and really enjoyed the performance. For me, as good as her albums are, this show offered a new dimension to this artist, and the backing by Slattery was just perfect; his piano was a joy to hear. Many thanks to The Art of Sound for holding this event, and many thanks to Lindsey Webster for appearing.

Watch "Make You Feel My Love"


1. God Bless The Child
2. Autumn Leaves
3. Don't Wait Too Long (Madeleine Peyroux Cover)
4. A Kiss to Build a Dream On
5. Over The Rainbow
6. Make You Feel My Love (Covering Adele singing Bob Dylan)
7. Call My Name (Prince Cover)
8. Where Do You Want To Go
9. Open Up
10. Those Three Words
11. Love Inside
12. I Wish (Stevie Wonder Cover)
13. At Last (Etta James Cover)

"The Art of Sound’s ongoing quest is to creatively and sincerely deliver the most premium sound in the most uniting, yet technological way, through our state-of-the-art expertise, inevitably propelling one to an utmost time and space, amid a sonic, custom-designed, personal music experience. We relish in the ability to share this with you. Sound never felt so good."

The Art of Sound
19th Century Location
21st Century Technology

Monday, March 04, 2019

Average White Band & Tower of Power, The Keswick Theater, Glenside, PA, 10/20/2018; Defying the Odds, These Two Bands Somehow Manage To Outdo Themselves Every Time

Photo courtesy of Average White Band

This is a special pairing of two bands that are each headliners in their own right. They both live on the road, and since they record new albums very infrequently, they both earn their keep playing live. As they often do, their tour schedules coincided at The Keswick on Saturday, October 20th.

I've seen these bands many times, both separately and co-billed. Historically, Tower of Power has always been the larger band in terms of their number of musicians. As such, I think that the order of performance is pre-ordained.

It's been about five years since I last saw the Average White Band (AWB). Up to that point they had been a five piece. The then-newest member, Klyde Jones, was such a talented multi-instrumentalist and singer that I couldn't imagine the band without him. When he left to spend more time with his family, AWB ultimately added three new members, a lead vocalist and two keyboard players (one of which doubles on sax). As much as I loved the previous version, this "new and improved" model played such a killer set at The Keswick that my jaw just dropped in awe.

In addition to their performing talent, one of AWB's most important qualities is the strength of their material. They rarely release a new album, but they did make one in 2018, Inside Out; and what with their new personnel it seemed like a show not to miss. I was floored by the quantity and the quality of the songs they fit into their roughly hour long opening set. Check out the setlist, below.

There was no shortage of dynamite falsetto vocals in either "A Love of Your Own" or "Walk On By", Jones' departure not withstanding. "Cut the Cake" has always been a delicious slice of funk, but the version they laid down at The Keswick was easily one of the funkiest things I have ever heard (watch video, below). You can also watch AWB pull out all the stops on the new beefier version of their standby "Pick Up the Pieces"; this new mix can also be heard on Inside Out.

Watch "Cut the Cake"

Also watch:
"Walk on By"
"Stop the Rain"
"Pick Up the Pieces"

The Average White Band consists of:
Alan Gorrie (lead vocals, bass, guitar)
Onnie McIntrye (guitar)
Fred "Freddy V" Vigdor (tenor sax, keyboards)
Rocky Bryant (drums)
Brent Carter (lead vocals)
Cliff Lyons (alto sax, keyboards)
Rob Aries (keyboards, bass)

Average White Band Website
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Average White Band FaceBook

Photo courtesy of Tower of Power

Like AWB, Tower of Power also released a new album in 2018, Soul Side of Town. That, together with the fact that Tower of Power has changed lead vocalists since the last time I saw them, made this an opportune time to go. I had been impressed with Larry Braggs on the lead vocals so many times that it was hard to imagine Tower of Power without him. With all due respect to James Brown, since he's left us, I truly believed that Braggs had earned the title of the hardest working man in show business.

All you have to do is give a listen to their latest album to realize that the new lead vocalist, Marcus Scott, is the real deal. He is not only super talented but on the album it seems like his presence has rejuvenated the entire band. The horn arrangements sound a little jazzier, and this could be my imagination, but all of the players seem to have a little more pep in their step.

At the Keswick, Tower of Power did their full set and everyone sounded amazing as they played a great batch of songs, including some numbers from the new album. The setlist (shown below) speaks for itself; if you are familiar with their music the one word abbreviations shouldn't throw you.

During the concert, Emilio Castillo talked about this year (2018) being their 50th anniversary as a band. He said there had been a big 50th anniversary concert in their hometown of Oakland, CA and that a good many of the band's alumni came back to play. Castillo said that they were putting the finishing touches on a DVD of the show, which would be out soon. He further surprised and delighted the crowd with the news that they had already recorded their next album and to look for it to be released sometime in 2019.

Their performance was so good, and the songs they played were so "hip", that they once again blew the roof off the Keswick and demonstrated why no one in their right mind would want to go on after them. In the following video, listen to the purity and strength of the trumpet's tone and the soulful power of Scott's vocal on one of Tower of Power's signature tunes. This is how you do it.

Watch "You're Still A Young Man"

Also watch:
"Soul Side of Town"
"Good Credit"
"This Time Is For Real"

Tower of Power consists of:

Emilio Castillo (tenor sax, lead vocals)
Stephen "Doc" Kupka (baritone sax)
Tom E. Politzer (tenor sax)
Adolfo Acosta (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Sal Cracchiolo (trumpet)

Marcus Scott (lead vocalist)
Roger Smith (keyboards, background vocals)
Jerry Cortez (guitar, vocals)
Francis Rocco Prestia (bass)
David Garibaldi (drums)

Tower of Power Website
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Tower of Power Facebook

Setlist Photos: Bev Kates/Lindsey Mitchell

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Kacey Musgraves, Fillmore Philadelphia, 1/18/2019, Philly Brought The Love; Natalie Prass Opened With A Soulful Set; Also Musgraves Struck Gold At The Grammy Awards With 4 Big Wins

Photo Courtesy Of Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves and her band brought her Oh, What a World Tour to the sold-out Fillmore in Philadelphia on Friday night January 18th. The crowd reaction, when Musgraves hit the stage, was enormous. Even though the band was amplified enough to drown out conversations, they showed that they could both wrap the place in sound yet stop on a dime when needed, and give Musgraves the delicate acoustic backing that some songs require. This was evident right from the top as Musgraves had plenty of space to deliver a gorgeous "Slow Burn" to open the show (watch "Slow Burn" below).

Musgraves nicely paced the set using all of the songs from her latest album Golden Hour, arguably her best yet. She opened the show on a high note with three of my favorites from the album. "Wonder Woman" and "Butterflies" nicely followed "Slow Burn".

There were also three tunes from Pageant Material, "High Times", "Die Fun", and after the band intros a heartwarming "Family Is Family". From her major label debut Same Trailer Different Park came the big guns, "Merry Go Round" and "Follow Your Arrow". The crowd gave her treatment of pop star proportions with what sounded like the entire crowd singing along in unison.

Musgraves also pulled out a pair of tunes not found on any of her albums, her cover of Brooks and Dunn's "Neon Moon" and Gloria Gaynor's disco anthem "I Will Survive" on which show opener Natalie Prass joined in on vocals.

Even though the venue seemed large, it is positively intimate compared to the venues that will likely be in Musgraves' future. Consider that the last time Musgraves headlined in Philadelphia she played The Troc, which holds half the capacity of The Fillmore's 2,400. A second leg of Musgraves' Oh, What a World Tour has just been announced and it includes a return trip to Philadelphia to play The Met on September 11th. I'll note here that Philly's newest venue holds 3,500 and is very nearly sold out already. She has also done stadium tours as an opening act.

Musgraves had fun interacting with the Fillmore crowd. There was what she called The Rainbow Brigade, a group of fans right next to the stage wearing enormous cowboy hats, lots of rainbows, and even a girl in a Texas flag. During the show, a couple got engaged when the guy publicly proposed. All that and Kacey politely declined the joint that she was offered.

The crowd sang along with Musgraves throughout the show and not just on the hits. Her fans clearly enjoyed every minute of the twenty song set.

Grammy Update: Shortly before this article was published, Kacey Musgraves won Grammys for Golden Hour, winning in all four categories in which she was nominated, including the big one, Album of the Year.

Watch "Slow Burn"

Setlist: Click on linked titles to watch.
01. Slow Burn
02. Wonder Woman
03. Butterflies
04. Lonely Weekend
05. Happy & Sad
06. Merry Go Round
07. Western Jam/High Time
08. Golden Hour
09. Die Fun
10. Mother
11. Oh What A World
12. Family Is Family
13. Love Is A Wild Thing
14. Velvet Elvis
15. Space Cowboy
16. I Will Survive (feat Natalie Prass)
17. Follow Your Arrow
18. Rainbow
19. Neon Moon (Brooks and Dunn Cover)
20. High Horse

The Road Band:
Kyle Ryan Hurlbut - Banjo, Backing Vocals, Bandleader
Brett Resnick - Pedal Steel Guitar
Scott Quintana - Drums, Percussion
Adam Keafer - Bass
Kai Welch - Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Nathaniel Smith - Cello

Photo: C. Orth

Kacey Musgraves' Website
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Photo Courtesy Of Natalie Prass

Natalie Prass opened the show with a tight eight song set. It's Saturday night and the crowd is ready to party with Spacey Kacey, as Musgraves sometimes refers to herself. On some level, it must be daunting to open to a sold out house like this. From the stage, I would imagine that the conversation noise coming from the crowd must be unnerving. Just getting them to quiet down and listen might appear to be an impossible task. The amplification in these venues helps. I'm not talking about bludgeoning the audience with sound like Billy Joel at Citizens Bank Park. When the sound is loud but nuanced (as it is at The Fillmore), the punters in the next section who won't shut up are not quite so bothersome.

Prass drew half her set from her latest release, The Future and the Past, her sophomore album. Three selections came from her self titled debut and one number, her last, was "Jass", a tune she has been performing since 2015 but has yet to appear on an album.

She livened up the crowd with a number of mentions of Musgraves and her band, living in Nashville for nine years, plus the tidbit that she is engaged to her drummer Eric Slick. Her four piece band was well equipped to play her mix of rock and soul music. It included Alan Parker on guitar, Jacob Ungerleider on keyboards, and Brandon Lane on bass. By the time she finished her set, the Fillmore crowd had been properly introduced to Natalie Prass and they were quite ready for Musgraves.

Watch "Jass"

Setlist: Click on linked titles to watch.
01. Oh My
02. The Fire
03. Sisters
04. Bird of Prey
05. Your Fool
06. Why Don't You Believe in Me
07. Short Court Style
08. Jass

Natalie Prass' Website
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Natalie Prass' Facebook