[Top: The Psychedelic Furs, First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, Sunday, October 14, 2012;
Middle: Calexico, Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis, MN, Tuesday, October 16, 2012;
Bottom: Publicity still for the movie “Charlie is my Darling; Ireland 1965”]
(Our sleep-deprived Northern correspondent, Harry Gebippe, reflects on a veritable musical cornucopia in the Twin Cities for the week just ended.)
There was something for everyone – and too much for anyone – if you were looking for reasons to go out to see live music in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area this past week. From the bars to the theaters, concert halls and arenas, it seemed as though a number of bands and artists were looking to get their obligatory Twin Cities dates in before the snow flies. Teen idol (formerly Tween Idol – my, they grow up fast!) Justin Bieber did the shake-and-bake on the Timberwolves home court. Speaking of Justin: just in time for Halloween (rim shot, please!), the newly reconstituted – and seasonally-appropriately-named – Smashing Pumpkins shook the creaky, sonically-challenged old Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, while the original lineup of 80’s sludge rockers Dinosaur Jr. rocked The Cabooze. Like up and coming female pop songsters? Then you should have been at the State Theater for Regina Spektor. How about the blues? Johnny Copeland’s daughter, Shemekia, brought the house down at the Dakota. Prefer your music acoustic? Bela Fleck teamed up with the Marcus Roberts trio for some furious banjo-pickin’ jazz, while Leftover Salmon noodled and jammed their way through . . . whatever entered their heads at the moment. Alt-country more your bag? Then shame on you if you missed the Old 97’s celebrating the 15th anniversary of their “Too Far To Care” release at First Avenue. Did I forget anyone? Oh, yes; renegade country pickers Whitey Morgan and the 78s lit up Lee’s Liquor Lounge downtown, while in Uptown, Commander Cody punished the 88’s at Famous Dave’s BBQ & Blues Bar to close out the week. Whew!
And you know what? We didn’t see any of the above, and we still managed to fill our musical plate and push away from the table stuffed and satiated. For starters –
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14: The Lemonheads and The Psychedelic Furs, First Avenue.
The front men of these two bands were a study in contrasts. Where Evan Dando of The Lemonheads was reserved and workmanlike, by contrast Richard Butler of the P Furs was all about the show. Dando churned out big thick chords on his white Gibson SG to accompany his 90’s college-radio friendly songs (“Down About It,” “It’s About Time” “It’s A Shame About Ray”) but was terse in his comments to the audience. Still, the cognoscenti were singing along to every tune and the loud ovation at the end of the ‘Heads set gave way to an equally loud groan when the large TV screen began lowering, signaling that there would be no encore. Like the Lemonheads, the P Furs played it smart and safe, sticking to the tried and true old songs, which the crowd lapped up like free beer. Opening with “Only You And I,” the band quickly segued into their second biggest hit, “Love My Way,” with R Butler belting out the lyrics with that distinctive foghorn voice. He prowled the stage from side to side, whirling and twirling, slapping hands with the fans up front, and generally acting the male equivalent of a diva. The set list was strong, leading up to the inevitable crescendo of “Pretty In Pink.” It was surprising that this mega-hit, with its instantly recognizable power chord opening, was neither the set closer nor the first song of the encore. Equally surprising was the arrangement, in which the power chords were nearly drowned out by Mars Williams’ sax. Although still a crowd pleaser, it came off more Springsteenish than the familiar post-punk anthem. As The Missus and I left the club at the end of the night, smiling and humming the chorus to that song, I noticed for the first time the color of the wristband the door guy puts on you when you enter the club. Pink. And pretty, too.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16: Calexico, Fine Line Music Cafe
It’s a challenge to attempt to define Calexico’s sound. As the name implies, the band has one foot on either side of the border, melding Latin jazz and traditional Mexican music with North-of-the-border rock and country. The songs are alternately dreamy and ethereal (“I can hear the desert in their music,” commented The Missus) or punchy and up-tempo. The 2-man trumpet section of Jacob Valenzuela and Martin Wink dictates the pace and mood, from the urgency of the new single, “Splitter” to the slow-building “Victor Jara’s Hands,” off the 2008 release “Carried To Dust.” In this, their first Twin Cities appearance in over 2 years, the band offered a generous sampling of new songs and old standbys, the latter including a stunning version of “Crystal Frontier,” (reputed to be wounded Congresswoman Gabby Gifford’s favorite). This is truly an international band, including the aforementioned Mr. Wink, from Germany, Spaniard guitarist Jairo Zavala, and Latinos Valenzuela and Sergio Mendoza (keys). Given the varied backgrounds of the band members, the multi-influenced sound of the band is not surprising; if anything, the surprise comes from the fact that the co-leaders of the band are a couple of Anglos, Joey Burns (lead vocals, guitar) and John Convertino (drums, percussion). It would be tempting to add a comment here about how much better this world would be if nations could cooperate as beautifully as do these diverse musicians. But, I’ll demur.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19: “Charlie Is My Darling,” Parkway Theater
OK, this wasn’t a live show, but it was a major musical event nevertheless. “Charlie” is a black and white film chronicling the Rolling Stones 1965 sweep through Dublin and Belfast. The movie was filmed by Peter Whitehead, at the direction of Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who claimed, in a post-movie interview with Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, that it was never intended to be released commercially. Instead, said Oldham, given the Stones’ exploding popularity (“Satisfaction” had just gone to # 1), the idea was to get the band used to the ubiquity of cameras – not just in interviews or during performances, but in virtually every aspect of their lives. The title itself comes from Oldham’s observation that “the camera loved Charlie [Watts],” a comment I found curious, since the predictable space-eater, Mick Jagger, seemed to find his way into more frames than any of the other Stones.
The concert footage was riveting. The band hit the ground running in the first show, with “This Could Be The Last Time,” and never let up. Jagger showed us the manic dance moves he’s replicated thousands of times in the four-plus decades since, teasing the audience by doffing his white jacket and swinging it back and forth toward the front row, before tossing it backward toward the back stage. Psych! “Time Is On My Side” and others from that era whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Pandemonium broke out, with fans and security personnel alike being pushed aside and trampled by a couple dozen determined concert-goers who stormed the stage, running amok, knocking over equipment and bringing the show to an abrupt end. I wonder how those folks feel about their grandkids moshing, slam dancing and crowd-surfing today? The more candid, off stage footage was equally intriguing, showing the Glimmer Twins working up a new composition in their hotel suite, or goofing on Elvis tunes while getting progressively drunker. Excerpts of backstage interviews with each individual Stone were both humorous and revealing. “I’m not a musician,” declared Charlie Watts, “I just play drums.” “The future as a Rolling Stone is uncertain,” intoned Brian Jones. And, Mick Jagger’s remark to close the movie: “There isn’t any secret [to the Rolling Stones]; it’s all pretty obvious!”
Before the movie started, the video for the Stones’ brand new single, “Doom and Gloom” (from the greatest-hits-plus-two release “Grrrr”) was shown. Just when you thought it was time to write their obituary, the band proves that there’s still life in those old bones. Calling the song “classic Stones” is both cliche and understatement. It is a stunningly good, hard rocking tune, albeit with somewhat apocalyptic lyrics. Sure, it’s only rock ‘n roll, but we like it, love it, yes we do!