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Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Wellmont Theater, Montclair, NJ: Everybody was singing April 21, 2012

Posted by Anton A in American music, Southside Johnny.
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Southside Johnny and The Jukes returned to the Wellmont for a night of unabashedly emotional rock & soul.







Johnny set the tone for the evening at the start by announcing a song in tribute to “an honest musician.”  The band slammed a home run with their fierce version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.  I liked the way they bracketed the show with Band songs opening and closing the main set, and then Ophelia as the penultimate encore.  Ironically, Levon Helm’s next show was to have been at the Wellmont before he collapsed and went into his final decline.  You could almost feel his spirit hovering over the stage.  God rest his soul.

New horn man John Isley, replacing both Joey Stann and Ed Manion on tenor and baritone sax, acquitted himself well.  Johnny always finds the perfect musician for each part in the ensemble. 


Jeff Kazee left the keys to help out on the drums early in the set.




During the unison horn section solo in Without Love, Johnny asked the guys to change it up and play the solo as a round; they fell into a near-flawless rendition on the spot.  Truly impressive.



After the best version of Till The Good Is Gone I’ve yet heard, Johnny asked a fellow in the crowd for requests.  Someone else responded, Johnny immediately told him, “Shut up, I didn’t ask YOU!”  The original questionee asked for “Everything,” as in I Want Everything, whereupon Johnny asked the band to play everything they know, each member playing something different.  The resulting cacaphony, with familiar melodies weaving in and out of the din, was both hilarious and brilliant.

This was something other than the usual Jukes show; it left me with both the usual huge grin and a bit of a tear in my eye for old Levon.  I thank the stars that we still have a few honest musicians like these guys on this plane.



Here’s the set list: 

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Broke Down Piece Of Man, Woke Up This Morning, I Played The Fool, You Can’t Bury Me, Help Me, Walk Away Renee, This Time It’s for Real, Paris, Tango ‘Til They’re Sore, Love on the Wrong Side of Town, Till The Good Is Gone, Everything (each band member playing every song they know all at once), Talk To Me, Harder Than It Looks, Gladly Go Blind, Forever, Strange Strange Feeling, Without Love, All Night Long, Princess of Little Italy, Chest Fever / The Fever, The Weight

Encore: I Don’t Want to Go Home, We’re Having a Party

Second encore: Ophelia

Third encore: Hearts of Stone

More photos are available here.


Ian Hunter, The Bell House, Brooklyn, NY: Welcome to Babylon March 30, 2012

Posted by Anton A in British music, Ian Hunter.
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Ian Hunter & The Rant Band traveled to Brooklyn tonight.  I could not help but heed the call.







They always deliver a splendid performance; tonight they seemed tighter than ever, perhaps an effect of their recent recording sessions for Ian’s new album.  Whatever the reason, they made the trip from Jersey worthwhile.



I entered the club literally as they were breaking into the opening song, All American Alien Boy.  It was nonstop music from there for four songs with Ian at the keys before he said a word to the audience; the band was rolling like a speeding train and the crowd in the sold-out room loved it.  Ian & The Rant Band play rock & roll like it was meant to be played, to my ears.


The backing chorus for All The Young Dudes consisted of opener Graham Parker – I was sorry to have missed him due to tunnel traffic – Lisa Ronson, Tony Shanahan and Graham Maby.






The occasion for this special show was a sad one; it was a benefit for bassist Graham Maby, who recently lost his wife Mary to cancer and was left with a load of expenses.  Graham, from Joe Jackson’s band, played a tour with the Rant Band a few years ago when Paul Page couldn’t make it.


Ian has expressed his disapproval of publication of set lists when he is playing shows regularly; he feels that this removes the surprise factor for audiences who have yet to see his current set.  Normally I wouldn’t go against that wish.  However, in the middle of this show, Ian announced, “This is the last time we’re going to do some of these songs.  We’re going to wash them out.”  Presumably the set list will be shaken up and have songs from the new album the next time Ian goes on the road.  That being the case, I believe that the current set list should be preserved for the splendid construct it is, and I’m taking the liberty of setting it down in print.  I hope that he won’t mind.

All American Alien Boy, American Music, Just Another Night, Cleveland Rocks, Isolation, The Moon Upstairs, Once Bitten Twice Shy, Arms & Legs, Flowers, Alice, I Wish I Was Your Mother, Wash Us Away, When the Daylight Comes, Sweet Jane.

Encore: It Ain’t Easy When You Fall.

Second encore: Roll Away The Stone, All The Way From Memphis, Saturday Gigs, All The Young Dudes.

More photos can be found here.

The Pines, City Winery, NYC: Into the sky where falling stars disappear March 29, 2012

Posted by Anton A in American music, Pines.
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The Pines are, at the core, the duo of Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt. (For those who follow pedigrees, Benson is the son of Bo Ramsey, who produces recordings and plays guitar for folk legend Greg Brown.) The two hail from Iowa and are currently based in Minneapolis. A rotating cast fills out the band; five musicians enhanced their latest album, Dark So Gold. For this tour, the duo played acoustic guitars and were accompanied by Benson’s brother Alex Ramsey on keyboards.

The Pines’ music is haunting and hypnotic. They sing of fading Midwestern landscapes, darkling skies over endless farms in the spaces that their characters inhabit. Their voices and guitars harmonize brilliantly, as if to emphasize that something always shines, however fleetingly, in the night. Their lyrics evoke a world of constant change where relationships that may or may not last are the only saving grace.

This is not a band that will leave you stomping and grinning; they’re nonetheless compelling. They touch something real in every song with the textures that they build from such sparse elements. They’re creating the most interesting folk-based music that I’ve heard in a long time. I won’t hesitate to see them again.

Southside Johnny & The Poor Fools, Mexicali Live, Teaneck, NJ: When the night has come March 17, 2012

Posted by Anton A in American music, Southside Johnny.
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Southside Johnny brought his Poor Fools to Mexicali on Saturday night. What a joy for us fans, to be able to see musicians of this caliber in such an intimate setting.




From the first notes of an imaginatively bluesy version of Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, we were led on a journey through songs familiar and unknown, versions old and new.



Who would expect a hard rocking version of I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight? Johnny and the Fools have an uncanny knack for twisting a song around and making it their own.



As usual, the Fools were all over their various instruments.




It’s a treat to see Johnny playing guitar, expanding on his lead singer role with the Jukes.




I love the way they each take turns on the drums, bringing their own styles to the beat of each song.



This marked the first night that I’ve seen John Conte pick up a banjo.




Johnny and the Fools gave us another rousing evening. There are more in my future, and to my mind that’s a good thing.





The set list:

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Love On The Wrong Side Of Town, Lead Me On, Postcards From Hell, Let’s Have A Party, Strange Strange Feeling, Down Home Girl, Can’t Let Go, Beneath Still Waters, All The Way Home, Ophelia, My Old Kentucky Home, Rosa, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Parchman Farm, Johnny Too Bad, Princess of Little Italy, Stand By Me, I Don’t Want To Go Home, Ain’t No Free, Promised Land, The Fever, Walk Away Renee, Mind Your Own Business

Encore: Trapped Again

More photos can be found here.

Soulfarm, Highline Ballroom, NYC: Shine a light March 7, 2012

Posted by Anton A in American music, Soulfarm.
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Soulfarm played the Highline Ballroom to mark the beginning of the Purim holiday. What a celebration it was! Well over half the audience was in costume; everyone had a splendid time.



The band is one of the most eclectic I’ve ever seen, drawing from traditional Hebrew music, rock, folk, blues and the occasional Rolling Stones cover, with a heavy overlay of jam-band ethos. The resulting blend is something I can only describe as gypsy psychedelia. They left my head spinning.

Noah Solomon Chase leads the band on guitar, mandolin and vocals. Mitch Friedman plays bass.




C. Lanzbom, on various guitars, is Noah’s musical partner; they’ve recorded several albums together apart from Soulfarm. Ben Antelis keeps the beat on drums and percussion.



Dave Eggar brings a unique instrumental voice to the band, playing some of the most blistering rock & roll cello you’ll ever hear.



This is a band with a truly distinctive sound and heaps of energy. Like any good young jam band, they’ll play all night if you give them the chance. They wore me out; after nearly three hours, they were still going strong as I staggered out of the club to catch a post-midnight train back to Jersey.

More photos are available here.

Early Elton Trio, Rockwood Music Hall, NYC: Seeds shall be sown in New York City February 25, 2012

Posted by Anton A in American music, Early Elton Trio.
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Folks who’ve been following along here have already met John Conte and Jeff Kazee, of Southside Johnny’s Asbury Jukes and Poor Fools, and Rich Pagano, singer and drummer in Prisoners Of Second Avenue.  Not content with juggling so many projects, these three talents periodically team up as the Early Elton Trio.  Their name is pretty much self-explanatory; they re-create the earliest Elton John tours, when Elton first went globe-hopping as the head of a power piano trio along with bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson.


Jeff, of course, pounds the ivories.




John holds down the bass end




while Rich fires every song with his adroit drumming.




John displayed heretofore unknown skills on the mandolin for a heartfelt rendition of Country Comfort.



It was a night for reviving old memories, singing along and dancing to a host of fine old songs in a small, convivial room.  The Early Elton Trio attracts a friendly, enthusiastic crowd.  I look forward to their next gig.



The setlist: Ballad Of A Well Known Gun, Burn Down The Mission, Levon, Border Song, No Shoe Strings On Louise, Tiny Dancer, Son Of Your Father, My Father’s Gun, Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters, Country Comfort, Dirty Little Girl, Madman Across The Water, Friends, Bad Side, Take Me To The Pilot.


More pictures can be found by clicking this link.

Ashley Davis, Joe’s Pub, NYC: It’s beautiful, let’s go roaming the wild mountainside February 23, 2012

Posted by Anton A in Ashley Davis, Irish music.
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Celtic singer Ashley Davis gave a delightful, captivating performance at Joe’s Pub. It was an intimate show in a small, comfortable room with excellent sight lines and great sound.

Ashley is a lass from Kansas who early in life became fascinated with the music of her ancestors, went to Ireland to study it, and has since become one of its foremost practitioners as a living art. She hops back and forth between traditional folk songs, old poems that she’s set to music, and songs that she’s written by herself and in collaboration. In concert, the songs seem to form part of one stream that’s been flowing on for centuries and remains present for anyone with a mind to dip in for refreshment and renewal.

The title of her latest recording, Songs Of The Celtic Winter, hints at the fact that Ashley has conceived a four-album cycle of songs inspired by each season of the year. This one is the first; we were treated to almost every song on the album. She transported us variously from moonlit skies to festive banquet halls and back to quiet wintry scenes.

Her voice rings pure and clear. She was accompanied beautifully by her band.




Cormac De Barra played the Celtic harp wonderfully.




Megan Hurt’s violin added haunting textures.




Two fellows on traditional stringed instruments and Irish percussion added to the mix. Gawain Mathews literally backed the ensemble on piano.



Together, the group wove one sonic tapestry after another that seemed to glimmer and linger in the room. There’s always been something in Celtic music beyond words that calls to my mongrel Scottish soul. Ashley and her band awakened that feeling in me once again, and for that I thank them sincerely.

More photos can be found here.

Southside Johnny & the Poor Fools, Sharp Theater, Ramapo College, Mahwah, NJ: I got a soul that I won’t sell January 27, 2012

Posted by Anton A in American music, Southside Johnny.
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Southside Johnny began a new performance project late last year, dubbed Southside Johnny and The Poor Fools. They’ve played ten shows now; more are scheduled in between Jukes gigs. The new venture delves into the sort of acoustic-electric roots rock / Americana that one might associate with The Band, Bob Dylan, latter-day Hot Tuna, and various Brothers acts (Wood Brothers, Felice Brothers). It’s both a departure from Jukes music and a natural extension of Johnny’s catalog.


With the Poor Fools, Johnny performs more songs by other artists than with the Jukes, as well as imaginative reworkings of his own material. The endeavor sheds new light on Johnny’s roots and adds perspective to the familiar tunes; the segue from Spanish Harlem into I Don’t Want To Go Home, for instance, lets you hear directly the relationship between the two songs, in particular the bass line.



The Poor Fools started out last year with current Jukes Jeff Kazee on keys




and John Conte on bass,





plus guitarist Tommy Byrnes (music director and guitarist with Billy Joel) and violinist Soozie Tyrell.

With Soozie off preparing for the upcoming Springsteen tour, Neal Pawley has stepped in from the Jukes to play guitar, mandolin, banjo, drums and occasional trombone.



Everyone in the Fools plays pretty much everything at some point in the evening; as my friend Mike said, these guys are “scary talented.”






They all took turns on the drums except for Johnny (it’s rumored that he has some talent even there but we weren’t to have that treat).



Johnny played bass on one song,





Tommy Byrnes hit the keyboards on a couple of tunes,




Jeff Kazee stepped out on accordion a few times….




It’s an amazing display of musicianship.




The set list:

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Postcards from Hell, Cross That Line, All the Way Home, Little Calcutta, Love on the Wrong Side of Town, Down Home Girl/Something You Got, Can’t Let Go, Aint No Free, Beneath Still Waters, Bartender’s Blues, Ophelia, The Fever, Spanish Harlem/I Don’t Want to Go Home, Umbrella in My Drink, Rosa. Comes to Me Naturally, Strange Strange Feeling, Trapped Again


Walk away Renee, My Old Kentucky Home (Turpentine and Dandelion Wine).

The Poor Fools are a quieter, more laid back experience than a Jukes show, but no less engaging or soul-satisfying. I can tell that this outfit is going to be as essential to my psyche as the Jukes are these days. I look forward to many more shows.


More photos, 75 in all, can be found here.