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Blue Coupe, R Bar, NYC: On flame with rock & roll March 17, 2011

Posted by Anton A in American music, Blue Coupe.
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On Thursday I had the chance to see three original founding members of Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper rock the back room of a small bar on the Bowery for $10. How could anyone pass that up? What an outrageously wonderful St. Patrick’s Day treat!

Albert Bouchard, Joe Bouchard and Dennis Dunaway have been playing music together in various permutations for a couple of decades now. (Albert and Joe go back much further, of course, and all three have been friends since the 1972 Alice Cooper/Blue Oyster Cult tour that put both bands on the national map.) Joe performed with the Dennis Dunaway Project, was part of BDS (Joe,& Dennis plus original AC drummer Neal Smith}; Albert and Dennis sat in at various times with Joe’s first post-BOC band, the X Brothers.

For three years in the last decade this loose collective of musicians played a free springtime show in Union Square as part of the annual New York ASPCA Benefit. Last spring the Benefit went in another direction. This year, as Blue Coupe, Joe, Albert and Dennis het up the R Bar something fierce. I hope this marks a new spring tradition. Is it any coincidence that the next day was the warmest day of the year so far?

I arrived at the R Bar just before 9:00, which enabled me to catch the Blue Coupe sound check. The small crowd was treated to truncated versions of BOC classics I Ain’t Got You and Hot Rails To Hell, while the sound guy struggled with repeated power failures to half of the stage. Eventually he got everything working.

Low Society, a Texas blues-rooted outfit fronted by the strong, gritty voice of Mandy Lemons (close your eyes and you may be reminded of Big Mama Thornton or Koko Taylor), steamed up the room with a half-hour opening set.

A fairly efficient equipment change followed; Blue Coupe came on just after 10:00 and launched with the Alice Cooper hit Be My Lover. They played for nearly two hours, mixing up five songs from their excellent new album, Tornado On The Tracks, four classic BOC tunes and six AC songs. It was a blissful ride back and forth through four decades of music. Some of BOC’s best material was written by Joe and Albert; Dennis is a great songwriter as well. It’s no surprise that their new songs mesh seamlessly with the familiar AC and BOC tunes.

I’ve been a BOC fan since August 1972, when I went to an outdoor show in the Bronx on a whim, knowing nothing about them, and came away hugely impressed with how well they played their instruments. Joe and Albert have only gotten better over the years, with Joe returning to his original guitar playing after leaving BOC. From the years they’ve spent playing with Dennis, they’re all on a wavelength where they can take songs in unexpected directions, shifting gears and running off into bridges that come out of nowhere and always lead to interesting places. Imaginative chord progessions and striking tempo changes are their forte; it’s a thrill to see them bring their craft alive.

Lisa Winn, from Bouchard’s Outrageous Canadians (another of Albert’s projects), did a lovely job with her haunting vocals on Waiting For My Ship and rocking choruses on School’s Out.

 

 

There was also a pole dancer who enhanced a few select songs. I had the sense that she came with the venue rather than the band but I’m not entirely sure.

 

 

On Monday, Dennis Dunaway was playing to a glittering crowd at the Waldorf to celebrate the Alice Cooper band’s induction into the R&R Hall Of Fame. Three nights later he’s in a tny bar on the Lower East Side and I have the privilege of standing right by the stage, not six feet away, watching him play with two other master musicians.

These guys have still got the passion for what they’re doing. It shows in the devilishly catchy chords and melody in the Grammy-nominated You (Like Vampires), the intelligent arrangements of the new songs, and the fire they put into every performance. This is the kind of night that leaves me grinning and wanting to run through the streets shouting “I love New York!”

The main set list: Be My Lover, Burnin’ For You, Cities On Flame, Is It My Body?, Angel’s Well, Fallen Angel, Black Juju, Tornado Warning, You (Like Vampires), I’m 18, Waiting For My Ship, School’s Out, Don’t Fear The Reaper, Godzilla

Encore: Under My Wheels.

More photos are available here on my photobucket page.

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Joe Hurley’s 12th Annual Irish Rock Revue, Highline Ballroom, NYC: Stoned me to my soul March 12, 2011

Posted by Anton A in Irish music, Joe Hurley.
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Joe Hurley, a London-born Irish fellow, has become fixture of New York’s East Village rock community over the last two decades. For the past dozen years, he’s organized and staged an annual Irish Rock Revue where a cavalcade of musicians, writers, poets and artists spend four hours or so performing a wide variety of Irish (loosely defined at times) songs, with maybe a couple of non-Irish tunes thrown in for good measure. I became aware of this event only two years ago; this was the first year I managed to attend. I regret that it took me so long; the night left me with a huge grin on my face. There’s no better way to celebrate the imminent arrival of springtime.

The show was anchored by the rock-solid Revue band. From Joe’s comments during the evening, I gather that guitarist / keyboardist Jon Spurney serves as the show’s musical director, as well as delivering some fine onstage chops. Mark Bosch, the lead guitarist in Ian Hunter’s Rant Band and a musician I’ve long admired, held up his end with his usual combination of style, aplomb and taste. Sal Maida was superb on bass, as was Steve Goulding on drums. Kenny Margolis had a deft touch on keys and accordion. Megan Weeder wove the lovely lilting sound of her fiddle through the night’s performances, adding that essential texture that let you know you were at an IRISH rock show.

A long parade of stars delivered splendid individual performances. My three sentimental favorites:

1) Dennis Dunaway (original Alice Cooper bassist) and Albert Bouchard (former Blue Oyster Cult drummer), who now form 2/3 of the fine hard rock band Blue Coupe (with Albert’s brother Joe, also a BOC alum, on guitar) took over the rhythm section for two songs with the Revue Band. The fabulous Tish & Snooky, who delivered backup vocals & dance moves from the front of the stage all night, made sure to give Blue Coupe a shoutout.  The ensemble  performed a stirring rendition of U2’s Hands That Built America, with Marni Rice & Charlene McPherson sharing the vocals, and then went into a ripping School’s Out, with Joe Hurley taking over the lead vocal. (Joe didn’t forget to remind us, twice, that Dennis D. was born in Arizona, but of Irish parentage.)

2) Jeff Kazee, keyboardist and vocalist in Southside Johnny’s Asbury Jukes, played keys on a couple of tunes, and worked the stage as front man on an extended Van Morrison’s Domino, energizing the night with his fiery tenor voice and lithe soul-man moves.

3) Gene Cornish, from the Rascals, gave the room a lesson in how to play rock & roll Strat; his performance of Good Lovin’, sharing vocals with the energetic Victoria Levy, stripped away the decades and got everyone shaking & moving. When Gene announced that The Rascals are back together for the first time in 40 years, I felt excited. Yes, there’s some nostalgia there; they headlined my first rock & roll show, back when they were known as The Young Rascals; but based on this performance, I bet that they will still deliver the goods.

There were so many other fine moments. Tami Lynn gave a soulful peformance of another Van Morrison tune. Someone, somehow, had got their hands on the recently passed Gary Moore’s turquoise-colored Les Paul; Ricky Byrd, from Joan Jett’s band, played it, starting out with a series of solo blues lines which segued into Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song. The classic The Boys Are Back In Town followed, with Mark Bosch & Jon Spurney evoking Lizzy’s signature harmonized lead guitar sound in splendid fashion.

Niamh Hyland sang a haunting solo a capella version of the folk song, Greenfields, which almost completely hushed the room. Michael Fornatale gave an energetic rendition of Come On Eileen that had the whole room dancing.

At break time for the Revue Band, we were treated to a fine set of Joe singing several of his own songs with his band, The Gents, who have the estimable Tony Garnier on bass when he’s not on the road with Bob Dylan; we were lucky that Tony had this month off.

There were 46 songs in all; I’m obviously glossing over a lot of songs and artists. There’s more detail on Joe’s website and the Revue’s Facebook page. The grand finale had virtually everyone on stage for the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen – as Joe pointed out, John Lydon’s parents were born in the same village in Ireland that his own family came from. That’s what Joe said, anyway. There’s always that Irish connection if you look hard enough.