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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.


Ian Hunter in New York and New Jersey: It’s a bloody long way November 13, 2010

Posted by Anton A in British music, Ian Hunter.
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Of all the songwriters I’ve grown to admire over the years who are still giving inspiring performances and writing stirring new songs, only Bob Dylan has been at it longer than Ian Hunter. I’ve always felt a very personal connection to Ian’s words and music. Nobody can write lyrics about family, friends and lovers and pull on your heartstrings like Ian. Add his sense of humor, feeling for rock & roll bombast and gift for melody, and you’ve got a combination that for me is irresistible.

I’ve been a fan for forty years. In concert or on record, Ian can still nail your heart to the wall with one quick phrase. Let me try to explain. Yes, we’re in for another long ramble.

I became aware of Ian’s band, the legendary Mott The Hoople, in 1969. (Technically it wasn’t Ian’s band then, but it’s not my intent to write a detailed history here.)  The M.C. Escher image on the cover of their eponymous first album was a stroke of marketing genius; as the psychedelic Sixties were winding down, a lot of kids on college campuses bought the record just to have that mind-warping picture around. We weren’t really prepared for the album itself. It opened with an instrumental cover of the Kinks’ You Really Got Me; driven by Mick Ralphs’ crunching guitar sound, the rendition was blazing but made no conceptual sense as the first song on a debut album. An odd mixture of other cover tunes and originals followed. The singer, distinctively unlike most of his UK contemporaries, didn’t adopt an American accent; his voice was unmistakeably English. The effect was intriguing. A epic eleven-minute ballad, Half Moon Bay, featured haunting organ work from Verden Allen; the song had early flashes of Ian’s lyrical genius that would blossom so brilliantly in the years ahead. The standout track was Rock & Roll Queen, a catchy, driving song that made you want to hear more from this band.

I had only intermittent contact with Mott’s next three albums due to my peripatetic life then. Mad Shadows had two irresistibly driving rock songs in Thunderbuck Ram and Walking With A Mountain, plus another ballad, No Wheels To Ride, and the raw stream-of-consciousness song, When My Mind’s Gone, that made you know Ian was a songwriting talent to watch. The Wlidlife album was an excursion into Dylanesque territory; Ian could make himself sound like a British Dylan when he wanted. I didn’t quite know what to make of it; apparently most of the band’s fans didn’t either. A ballad from that album, Waterlow, was particularly haunting; looking back, I think it marked the first full expression of Ian’s genius at combining lyrical flow and melody.

I completely missed Brain Capers and lost track of the band for a year or so. I found them again in the fall of 1972, when I took a little trip to England. Mott’s fifth album, All The Young Dudes, with the Bowie-penned title track a hit single, had catapulted the band to stardom. They were all over the British musical press. More significant to me, there were Mott tunes on the pub jukeboxes where I was becoming a frequent patron. Ian’s voice was penetrating as ever, and Mick Ralphs had found one of the sweetest guitar tones in the business. Their sound at that point drew me right in; I repeatedly plinked my pence and shillings into the machines and sipped the fine English beer that I’d loved at first taste.

Mott would form the core of the soundtrack to my travels in the UK during the 1970s. I made four trips around the Scepter’d Isle in that decade. It seemed that Mott songs, and then a track from Ian’s first solo album, were always on the pub jukeboxes wherever I went – London, Wiltshire, Wales, Cumbria, Inverness. I spent many pleasant nights quaffing pints of bitter and feeding the jukeboxes. Sometimes my musical choices would lead to chance encounters and chats with other Mott fans. I knew I’d never see them again in this life but it was nice to have those fleeting connections.

To this day, an old Mott track can conjure up images of autumn-colored hills, back roads, ridge walks on the Lake District fells, damp misty nights, cozy pubs, the tastes and scents of Real Ale, and the faces of people I met more than thirty years ago. There’s magic in that music for me; it still runs through all of the solo work that Ian would create in the years to come.

(Fell-walking interlude: there’s a Verden Allen tune on the Dudes album with the chorus, “Walking on soft ground.” I’d heard the phrase for years, of course, but had never really walked on soft ground till I got up top a certain fell above Ambleside. Many Mott fans consider the song to be a minor work; for me it always brings back a bright afternoon on a fell summit, walking, almost bouncing along over a grassy, spongy surface that made me feel lighter than air. It’s the opposite of what the lyrics mean but the association is fixed in my mind. I’ve never found another place like that.)

May 1974 saw the fabled Broadway shows, five nights at New York’s Uris theatre, the only time I saw the band perform. Verden Allen and Mick Ralphs had already left the band by then. You could sense things continuing to fragment; Ian would leave the group at the end of the year.

Ian began his solo career, collaborating with Mick Ronson, who’d briefly been Mott’s guitarist at the end. I still view Ian’s first solo album as a high water mark for an artist setting out on his own after the band falls apart. That first tour brought Ian and band, including Ronno, to the Felt Forum in New York on May Day of 1975. I wish someone had filmed that show; it was one for the ages. The late glam outfits and platform boots were a hoot, but they didn’t stop Ronno from wailing on The Truth, The Whole Truth, Nothing But The Truth. That was a rock & roll moment I’ve never forgotten.

Let’s fast-forward through the next twenty-odd years, Ian’s work with a slew of fine musicians on various solo recordings and tours, his move to the U.S., his lifelong friendship with Mick Ronson who would pass from this world too soon at age 46. Ian continued to write and record great songs after that, even though he was no longer as prominent in the public eye as before. It’s telling that the only record label he could find for perhaps his best album from the 1990s, Artful Dodger, was in Norway. Dodger contains Ian’s achingly painful tribute to Ronno, Michael Picasso, and a wry yet heartfelt song about his own youth, 23A Swanhill. Both songs have been staples in Ian’s concerts ever since.

We’ll hit “Play” at the next significant date in my life, September 11, 2001. I worked in downtown Manhattan then, commuted through the World Trade Center and was perilously close to the horrifying events of that dreadful day. I was shell-shocked for several months after. An Ian Hunter show in The Village at the end of November, with a particularly timely performance of Central Park ‘n’ West, snapped me out of it and set me back on the road to sanity. You can read the full story here in my blog archives. I’ll never forget that moment either.

I followed Ian’s work through the first decade of this new century. He began working with a new group of musicians that became The Rant Band; they recorded three more superb solo albums. I caught Ian’s shows whenever I could. I enjoyed the way he interacts with his fans in the Horse’s Mouth section of his website. I knew that I was in for a treat when three area shows were announced for the second week in November even though the second night, out in Pennsylvania, was beyond my reach.

Thursday’s show at the Highline Ballroom in NYC was full-tilt electric. Ian switched up the setlist to include such rarities as Life After Death and Shallow Crystals. He gave us a glimpse of Mott’s glory days when he brought out the fabled Maltese Cross guitar. It’s not my favorite club when it’s packed, since the stage is low and visibility isn’t great, but the sound was good and the band was tight; the night crackled with electricity.

Saturday night at The Tabernacle in Mt. Tabor, NJ was very different. (I’d first visited this unique structure for last year’s Hot Tuna show.)

David Johansen opened the show, accompanied on acoustic guitar and high-hat by Brian Koonin. He kept the crowd engaged with a mixture of songs from throughout his long career and an old blues tune or two. His distinctive voice resounded in that remarkable concert space.


Ian and company dialed back the volume for the venue, with more acoustic instrumentation and softer electric sounds than usual. Ian changed the setlist again for this particular night, replacing some of his standard rockers with a generous dose of back-catalog rarities. The result was pure magic. The band found new nuances and subtleties in the arrangements; Ships, Man Overboard, Angel of 8th Ave, Wash Us Away, Boy, 23A Swanhill and Michael Picasso were stunning.


Waterlow was a particular highlight of the night; Andy Burton found some gorgeous synth textures to accompany the song.  Every word seemed to float in the air after Ian sang it.



I hung around the little Victorian square in front of the Tabernacle after the show, waiting in the cold misty air with a few other diehard fans, hoping to say hello and thanks to Ian in person, but it wasn’t to happen.

On my way out, I walked through the merchandise tent and did a double-take; yes, that was Ian’s longtime sideman and bandleader James Mastro helping to break down the table, putting away CDs, counting T-shirts and stuffing them into sacks. I asked how he’d gotten roped into that; he grinned and said that one of the usual merchandise guys was MIA that night so he’d been pressed into service. The glamorous life of a rocker! We had a brief chat; James was very affable and gracious. Would Ian have any other sort in his band? It was the perfect note to end a rare evening.

Renaissance & Steve Hackett, Rockefeller Park, NYC: Music by the Hudson June 23, 2010

Posted by Anton A in British music.
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This one’s going to be more about the journey than the destination.

One reason I enjoy living in our town, 8 miles west of Manhattan, is that we’re on a New Jersey Transit railway line. In fact that’s how I found this town 20 years ago, when we were living in the West Village and toying with the idea of moving a bit further west, right across the Hudson to Jersey. I got a highway map, one of the folding paper kind that you used to get for free at gas stations, hopped in my clunky VW Rabbit and drove through the Holland Tunnel. I found the NJT train station in Hoboken and literally followed the tracks west. Our town is an early stop on one line that runs out from Hoboken; I got off the busy highway, hung a right at the top of the ramp, and presto! I’d been transported to another place and time. Up there on the first ridge beyond the Jersey Meadowlands, I was suddenly driving past a long row of turn-of-the-century houses (and at that point that meant the 19th century), shadowed by ancient trees arching over the roadway. I knew instantly that this was where I wanted to live.

We looked at other towns, and a lot of houses, over the next year. To me, for its location and atmostphere, nothing beat the place I’d found. We eventually found something approximating the right house and here we are, two decades on.

When we first moved out to Jersey, the train would take you only to Hoboken; from there, you coud take the PATH subway line to lower Manhattan or through the Village and into Midtown. After a few years, New York Waterways sprang up and resurrected ferriy service across the Hudson. This was revolutionary to me, being able to hop on a train and then ride a boat across the water.

I’ve always been fascinated by trains; maybe it’s one of the positive things that I inherited from my dad. As a kid growing up in St. Louis, I marveled at the fact that we could drive into University City, just a few miles in from our little subrban town, and find the small Delmar Station where you could walk down the stairs to a pair of tracks that ran, unbroken, all the way to California. We actually made that trip several times. I recall sitting in the dome car that each train had back then, stunned by the forests and cliffs as the train wound through the Royal Gorge; then, later, gazing across the western deserts while we clacked ever closer to the far edge of the continent. Trains opened up the country for me like nothing else.

While we’ve been in Jersey, the trains have also opened up this region. In 2003, NJ Transit opened the magnificent Secaucus Junction, which linked, for the first time, all of their lines that run from northern & northwestern Jersey with the separate network running from central & southern areas of the state into NYC’s Penn Station at the one spot where the tracks cross. Now, I look at the tracks at the station in my town and see a network of rails that will take me anywhere in the country. I can step onto a train there and, taking a total of three trains, be in Philadelphia in a couple of hours. I can ride four trains and be back in St. Louis the next day, if I want. It’s still a marvel to me.

This is a long preamble to explain how I came to be on the deck of a ferryboat, chugging across the Hudson on a beautiful June afternoon…

…to see Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett’s band and 1970s art-folk rockers Renaissance play a free concert in a lower Manhattan park at the river’s edge.

Hackett’s set was good but seemed a bit unfocused. There’s no question that he’s playing with a group of skilled musicians; they delivered some intricate, quirky and well crafted prog rock. There was also a long slow blues number, where Hackett got to show off his blues chops; placed between the more upbeat prog numbers, the song seemed to pull the set down. For their encore, they played a nice prog tune that featured an extended drum solo in the middle; it was an odd way to end the show. I was left with the feeling that I’d seen an ensemble of great talents who didn’t quite know how to construct a set that would really keep the audience engaged.


Between sets, anyone who turned their eyes to the west was treated to a lovely evening sky over the Hudson and the Jersey City skyline.

Renaissance were terrific on every level. When I’d first read about the show, it wasn’t clear who was headlining. I’d assumed it would be Hackett, since not much seems to have been heaard from Renaissance lately. Apart from their biggest hit, Mother Russia, I remembered them vaguely as a band that I’d liked and respected back in the 1970s. I didn’t know what they’d been up to since then; a free show in such a fabulous setting seemed the perfect way to find out.

It didn’t take long for me to see why they had the headline slot. They were tight and well focused; they quickly established their distinctive folk-tinged sound with a driving beat and marvelous textures. Annie Haslam’s voice, always the centerpiece of the various editions of the group, soared and rang out to the waters; she can still send one chiill after another right down your spine.

They played an excellent set that included two fine new songs from their recent LP, The Mystic and The Muse, which I bought after the show and have been enjoying since. I won’t hesitate to see Renaissance again when I have the chance. Count me as a born-again fan.

(NOTE TO MY READERS: This post has been severely delayed by many things, not the least of which was learning to cope with the maddening software for inserting and aligning photos.  This is as good as it’s going to get, I think.

You can enlarge the images by clicking on them if you wish.)

Ronnie James Dio: RIP May 17, 2010

Posted by Anton A in American music, British music.
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Ronnie’s passing hits close to the bone. Tomorrow, as fate would have it, we’re setting off to Ronnie’s home turf up in Ithaca NY to attend someone else’s funeral.
Ronnie hailed from Cortland, 20 miles up the road. The Cornell – Ithaca College area was a nexus for bands that wanted to work, and Ronnie honed his chops there as the 1960s were revving up. I first saw him as leader of Ronnie Dio & The Prophets, sometime around 1967, a hot covers band that was always playing bars and frat parties. A year later they’d turned on, tuned in and transformed themselves into The Electric Elves. Actually, Ronnie may have kept both bands going at the same time: Dio & The Prophets for gigs that needed pop & soul songs, and the Elves for affairs more in tune with the growing spirit of the times, Maybe it was all the same band with different names and clothes. It was the Sixties, who can be sure of anything 42 years later? In any event, at any event, you could always count on Ronnie & company to generate a good time.
After I left Ithaca, I didn’t hear of Ronnie again for 5 years.  Then I bought the Rainbow album, because one had to see what Ritchie Blackmore was up to, after all. There was Ronnie’s name on the album cover. I couldn’t believe it.

I went to that first Rainbow tour when it hit NYC. I had never seen a band with the vocalist cranked so loud: never, and I’d already seen The Who around 10 times by then.

I remember an interview that Ronnie did around the time of that tour, where he said that he’d migrated to England because so many English bands had this over-the-top attitude that he liked; they’d look at their live act & say “Yeah, there’s got to be a way that we can do that just a little bit louder.” I always wondered if that interview was the genesis of the “Turn it up to 11” bit from Spinal Tap.

So long, Ronnie. You were a force. 

Ray Davies, Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC: I’m a cut price person in a low budget land December 12, 2008

Posted by Anton A in British music, Ray Davies.
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The only problem with a Ray Davies show these days is the exit music. Instead of humming one of Ray’s most excellent tunes, I always find myself singing “I’m walkin’ to New Orleans” on my way home. Maybe that’s the point.

There’s little I can say about Ray that I haven’t said already; I simply love this man and all the great music that he and The Kinks have given us.

Friday’s show at the Hammerstein was three songs shorter than the April extravaganza up at the Beacon, but it was also more intense, with the addition of guitarist Bill Shanley ramping the performance up to another level. It was just Ray & Bill sitting on stools with acoustic guitars for the first nine songs. Bill then picked up his electric for Sunny Afternoon. The bassist, other guitarist & lovely but inaudible backup singer joined in for the next two before the full band hit the stage.

It was lovely to hear Starstruck, a rarity from the Village Green Preservation Society album, and See My Friends, a haunting raga-tinged tune from 1965. Ray told a poignant little story of how he wrote the song, about the death of his sister, after watching fishermen casting their nets out on a river in India.

It was another special thrill to get a full electric version of Johnny Thunder, which segued right into Village Green Preservation Society. The band really rocked Low Budget – that song’s time has come round again after all these years. The two songs from the Arthur album, particularly the rarely played Shangri-La, took the encore set out on a high note.

Here’s the full set of 24 memorable songs:

acoustic duo:

I Need You, Where Have All The Good Times Gone?, Father Christmas, Apeman, Starstruck, I’m Not Like Everybody Else, See My Friends, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, Morphine Song

acoustic/electric duo/quartet + backing vocalist:

Sunny Afternoon, The Getaway, Dead End Street

full band:

Vietnam Cowboys, Celluloid Heroes, Workingman’s Cafe, Come Dancing, The Tourist, Johnny Thunder / Village Green Preservation Society, All Day And All Of The Night, Low Budget


Shangri-La, Victoria, You Really Got Me

Ray Davies, Beacon Theatre, NYC: I’m not like everybody else April 8, 2008

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Ray Davies really brought it all for the New York crowd at the Beacon last Tuesday night. Still looking lean, lithe and limber, he shimmied, pranced and writhed his way through a spectacular 27-song romp that lasted for a magical 2 & 1/2 hours. He took great delight in working the crowd up to his standards for the sing-along tunes. With a new well-focused band behind him, he delivered his old and new songs with humor and passion.

The opening chords of a fierce I’m Not Like Everybody Else set the stage; a couple of Kinks classics triggered some thrills, and then the glorious riff and melody of After The Fall from the Other People’s Lives album took us a little higher. For The Tourist, Ray sported a Union Jack-patterned blazer; after the song he pulled it off and flipped it around to show us that it was a reversible with the Stars & Stripes on the other side. Ever the vaudevillian is Ray.

It was a real kick to hear 20th Century Man before the intermission. We briefly discussed the show’s only failing: much of Ray’s between-song patter was a mush of indiscernible words. Somebody needed to cut the reverb on his mike, I think. We missed a lot of stories and humor that Ray was putting out there for us.

But the songs, my gosh; I never dreamed that we’d hear a crescendo like we got in the second set. Ray opened with five songs from the newest album, just him on the acoustic and his guitarist for the first two, beautiful tunes both. The rest of the band came back for Vietnam Cowboys, which has a nifty beat; Ray explained how he wrote the song at his Jane Street Workshop shows in 1999 but felt it was the wrong time to record it.

Ray’s band features an excellent drummer, a talented bassist with a monster Ampeg cabinet, and a Swedish fellow playing a Nord synth who had a great touch with every song, delivering fills and washes in just the right places all night, making it seem like he’d been playing those songs for as long as they’ve existed.

A quick two verses of Fancy signaled the home stretch of Kinks material, six more classic songs in all. Sunny Afternoon was a delight and another huge sing-along; Ray introduced it with a story about how he didn’t think it was much of a song when he wrote it & vowed not to perform it unless it went to #1, which somehow it did. (The crew seemed finally to have cleaned up the between-song sound at that point.) The Swede switched to accordion for a rollicking rendition of Come Dancing. Tired Of Waitng, Set Me Free, All Day And All Of The Night were all delivered with authority and gusto.

Then came the incredible series encores. First they hammered us with a hard-rocking, stretched-out version of Low Budget, which turned into an insanely loud sing-along. What better song for these times?

They stomped off to thunderous applause and came back almost immediately. Ray strummed a few chords from Waterloo Sunset; the theatre erupted. He got us singing the “sha-la-la” parts over & over again till we were all hovering over the Thames at twilight & drifting away to paradise.

The obligatory Lola followed, delivered with more bite than I’d expected. We all sang that one too. Days was stunning; I loved the way Ray sang the first verse completely a capella, delivered the next as an acoustic version & brought in the full band to finish it off, a mini-crescendo that echoed the larger one building in the hall. Imaginary Man, my personal fave from the new album, was next; it’s a slow, contemplative, lilting tune with the “imaginary” backing vocal perfect for another crowd sing-along; beautifully placed and paced.

The band pummelled us once more with, what else, You Really Got Me. That seemed to be it for the night; Ray’s signature walkoff song, Fats Domino’s Walkin’ To New Orleans, came over the speakers as the band left the stage. But no: Ray ran back out to the front mike, yelled “Stop the music! Stop the song! We’ve got time for one more! What do you want to hear?” I suspect he knew exactly what we were going to hear but it was a nice touch. The band came back one last time and they tore into a rocking, thrilling Victoria. I checked my watch when the song ended; Ray had taken it right up to the Beacon’s 11:00 curfew.

This was simply one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, encompassing so many great songs that have punctuated memorable moments in my life for 44 years. I’ve always felt a particular affinity for Ray’s voice, words and melodies. I thank the gods that they are all still here with us.

The complete setlist:

I’m Not Like Everybody Else, Where Have All The Good Times Gone, Till The End of The Day, After The Fall, Well Respected Man, Dead End Street, The Tourist, Working Man’s Cafe, 20th Century Man


In A Moment, One More Time, Vietnam Cowboys, The Real World, No One Listen, Fancy (abridged), Sunny Afternoon, Come Dancing, Tired Of Waiting, Set Me Free, All Day And All Of The Night

First encore: Low Budget

Second encore: Waterloo Sunset, Days, Lola, Imaginary Man, You Really Got Me

Third encore: Victoria

Clapton / Winwood, Madison Square Garden, NYC: Blind Faith will be rewarded February 25, 2008

Posted by Anton A in American music, British music, Steve Winwood.
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Winwood and Clapton complement each other so well on so many levels – their similar but distinct voices, their more individual approaches to the guitar, Winwood’s mastery of both the Hammond & the piano against Clapton’s Strat tones – they gave us 2 & 1/2 hours of stunning textures and inspired performances. Hearing those Blind Faith songs performed again after all of these decades by the guys who wrote those singular melodies and chord changes, drifting away with the Traffic / Winwood nuggets, boogieing to Clapton’s bluesy tunes, with the ghosts of all the blues and rock musicians who created this particular river of music hovering over the arena – it was a night where many legacies were affirmed and renewed.

Few ghosts loomed larger than that of Jimi Hendrix, who got an early nod with the performance of Them Changes, then later a deep tribute with Little Wing and Voodoo Chile back-to-back. The slow propulsive jam in Voodoo Chile pushed Clapton to his absolute best; he delivered a long skittering wail of a solo that evoked Hendrix, Robert Johnson, Albert King, Stevie Ray, anyone you might think of; it was like he reached up into the astral plane and opened a door that let a thousand blues-drenched souls fly around the Garden for a couple of minutes. It was spellbinding.

Say what you will about some of Clapton’s musical choices and penchant for MOR stuff over the years (and I’ve said quite a few of those things myself), sustained moments like Voodoo Chile make you remember why those loopy children of The Sixties wrote “Clapton Is God” graffiti all over London. (I don’t think he’s God but I think he’s got a pretty good line to Up There.)

I’ve been a Traffic fan since 1967 and a Winwood fan straight on through those years when I’d lost interest in what Clapton was doing. I’ve seen several of his solo tours, and it’s always been a thrill to see him perform even when he was supporting a less than stellar album. While there weren’t any setlist surprises from the Traffic / solo side of things for me, the quality of his voice and those floating jazz-tinged melodies made every song sound new again.

Crossroads has been a staple in Winwood’s sets for 5 years or so, as I presume it has in Clapton’s for several decades. Seeing them play it together was the perfect ending for this show.

The rest of the band that supported these delirious flights deserves mention: Willie Weeks on bass, Ian Thomas on drums and Chris Stainton on keys. Check out Stainton’s resume on Wikipedia – his years with Joe Cocker, session work on two of The Who’s most important studio albums, more years with Clapton, the Concert For George – this guy has been around.

When Clapton sat down alone at the front of the stage with an acoustic guitar to perfrom Ramblin’ On My Mind, he said something on the order of, “This is the point where I’m supposed to speak and I’ve been wanting to say something all night. I’m not quite sure how to say it, but I’m having an absolutely great time tonight and I’m not sure, but I think that Steve is too and if he is, maybe we’ll do a little more of this.” Maybe they will. We can hope.


Set List:

Had To Cry Today
Low Down
Forever Man
Them Changes (the Buddy Miles song from Band of Gypsys)
Sleeping in the Ground
Presence of the Lord
Glad/Well All Right
Double Trouble
Pearly Queen
Tell the Truth
No Face, No Name, No Number
After Midnight
Split Decision (from Winwood’s Back In The High Life)
Ramblin’ On My Mind (Clapton solo acoustic)
Georgia On My Mind (Winwood solo at the Hammond)
Little Wing
Voodoo Chile
Can’t Find My Way Home
Dear Mr. Fantasy

Rolling Stones, Giants Stadium, NJ: It’s only rock & roll September 27, 2006

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Saw the Stones again at Giants Stadium on Wednesday.  It was like they sat down and said, OK, we’ve come here and done our greatest hits package and plugged the new album umpteen times, let’s dig down into the catalog and do a show for the hardcore fans.  And so they did:

It’s Only Rock & Roll, Live With Me, Monkey Man, Sway, Girl With The Faraway Eyes, Streets Of Love, Just My Imagination, Midnight Rambler, Tumbling Dice

band intros and Keith’s songs:

You’ve Got The Silver, Little T&A

small stage:

Under My Thumb, Rough Justice, Start Me Up, Honky Tonk Woman

main stage:

Sympathy For The Devil, Jumpin’ Jack Flash


Brown Sugar.

Now that’s a setlist IMHO.  One of the best in years.  Just so many moments to savor there.  I’m still singing “Just my imagination, runnin’ away with me, Runaway runaway runaway runaway run run run run run” in the shower every morning.

The energy on stage was unbelievable, as always.  Well, not always, there was the Eighties and early Nineties, but in recent years they have been playing every gig like it might be their last.  Which it might.  Jagger is still out there on a mission, selling every moment of every song and working the crowd like no one else.

Keith spent a lot of time playing on his knees or hunched over like that Notre Dame guy.  My wife figured that, after the palm tree incident, he’s just trying to stay as close to the ground as possible.

Ronnie is smoking again, though I only saw him do 2 cigarettes over the course of the 2-hour show, which is much better than he was doing.  And Charlie just has a blast all night.

Yeah yeah yeah whooooooo!