Archive for the ‘Elton John’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 28, 2022] “Weird Al” Yankovic

This was my ninth time seeing Weird Al.  I’m shooting for ten.  We’ll see if he can muster up one more tour (why did I skip the Strings Attached tour)?

I was pretty thrilled by the first Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.  It was great seeing so many songs that rarely got played (amusingly, I had seen some of those songs on their original tours back in the early 2000s, which is pretty crazy.

I was hoping that this tour would be a whole new set of obscure old songs.  I thought he might pull out “Buckingham Blues” for the Queen’s death or something really odd like “Slime Creatures from Outer Space” or holy cow, “Genius in France” would have blown my mind.

I see that he actually played a largely different set in NYC (which I considered going to, but decided against).   Including “I’ll Sue Ya” (not a favorite, but I haven’t heard it before) and “Velvet Elvis (talk about an obscurity!).  But he also did the two songs that I would LOVE to hear live….and it might have been worth the hassle of Carnegie Hall just to hear “Nature Trail to Hell” and “Albuquerque.”

Having laid out that complaint, we did get four songs I hadn’t heard live before including a wonderful “Don’t Download This Song” and the sheer surprise of “Buy Me a Condo.”  And this new, improved, extended version of “Craigslist” was outstanding.

I will never complain about hearing “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota”–and the crowd was really into it.

Of course, any “Weird Al” show is a good time.  Al gave amusing introductions to all of the songs and even did an amusing “encore” bt where he stood at the side of the stage checking his phone and then arguing with the band about whether they were going to do an encore or not.

The encore was worth the price of admission.  He did a (straight and fantastic) cover of Elton John’s “Saturday’s Alright for Fighting.”  And the closing medley of songs in very different styles was outstanding.  I especially enjoyed that someone in the audience was able to do the Yoda chant dance. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 10, 2017] Marco Benevento

Almost exactly five years ago to the day I saw Marco Benevento headline a show at the Ardmore Music Hall.  That show blew me away, it was so much fun.  The whole band: Marco on keyboards, Karina Rykman on bass and Andy Borger on drums were terrific.  And the three of them laid down a fantastic groove all night.

The trio was almost the same tonight. This time Dave Butler was on drums, but it was still Marco and Karina.  I looked up Karina and found that she is 23, which means she was 18 last time!  She was fantastic then and even better tonight.

There was supposed to be an opening act: Deer Scout.  But for whatever reason, they didn’t come and it was announced a few days ago that Marco would play two sets.

I arrived a little later than I wanted to, but he didn’t go on exactly at 8, so that was fine.  I was also amused because for the first time in a while, I was one of the youngest people there.

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead had played three nights in Philly a few weeks ago and it was clear that people who were at that show were here as well (Marco plays with JRAD, although his music is not similar at all).  There was a lot of tie-dye and a lot of long gray beards.  I decided not to get mixed up with that crowd so I hung back a bit. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: see below.

[READ: August 2021] Rock Stars On The Record

I saw this book at work and rolled my eyes.  I thought well, here’s another book about musicians talking about music.

Really, most musicians aren’t very interesting and it was probably just the same old same olds talking about albums that have been praised to high heaven already.

But then I saw a few names that intrigued me.  So I read it.  And it was fantastic because Eric Spitznagel did a magnificent job with this task.

Not only because he chose diverse people (some hardly even rock stars, really) who had interesting things to say, but because of the way he followed up his questions with better questions–questions that the musicians seemed excited to answer.

And also because the list of people turned out to be really interesting.  I didn’t recognize a number of names, but that’s because they might have been the guitarist for a famous lead singer).  And this made it really interesting.

I don’t know if it’s worth stating the why’s of each person here (each interview is basically four pages) but I will state each person’s favorite record (with a few extra comments here and there). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STUMPTOWN: Dex’s Mixtape (2020)

One of the fun things about Stumptown is Dex’s car–an old beat up Ford that she loves.

It has a cassette stuck in the player and the player goes on and off seemingly at will.  I don’t think the show has explored all of the music on the tape yet, but it keep the soundtrack squarely in the 1980s.

This Spotify playlist has 90 minutes worth of music that could easily fit on the cassette in the car.

The only discrepancy I have it is that “Yellow Ledbetter” from Pearl Jam didn’t come out until 1992.  We haven’t heard it in the car yet, although we have heard it in her house, so we’ll just consider that song a bonus cut.

Here’s the track list

  • SIMPLISTICS-Heat of the Night
  • BLONDIE-Heart of Glass
  • ELTON JOHN, KIKI DEE-Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
  • TIFFANY-I Think We’re Alone Now
  • NEIL DIAMOND-Sweet Caroline
  • THE O’JAYS-Love Train
  • ASIA-Heat of the Moment
  • CAPTAIN & TENNILLE-Love Will Keep Up Together
  • PRETENDERS-Brass In Pocket
  • HALL & OATES-Private Eyes
  • CHAKA KHAN-I’m Every Woman
  • KISS-I Was Made for Lovin’ You
  • SNAP-Power
  • AIR SUPPLY-All Out of Love
  • PAT BENATAR-We Belong
  • PLAYER-Baby Come Back
  • EURHYTHMICS-Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves
  • CYNDI LAUPER-Girls Just Want to Have Fun
  • XTC-Dear God
  • PEARL JAM-Yellow Ledbetter (1992)

What’s great about the soundtrack is that the rest of the show is contemporary and very cool, with some really good song choices.  But I love that they can have this unexpected throwback musical story running through as a commentary.

[READ: March 20, 2020] Stumptown Volume 1

I had heard promising reviews of a new show called Stumptown.  It is based on this graphic novel series from Greg Rucka (who has written some amazing books over the years).  When I saw that the graphic novels were still available (possibly with new covers–the publishing history is a little confusing), I knew I had to check it out.

I have since watched most of the episodes (I’m a little behind) and I am hooked.

This book is more or less the start of the first episode of the show, but the show has changed things (and basically made the ending very different).

But before I get to the story I want to comment on Matthew Southworth’s drawings which are really terrific.  His style is realistic but rough around the edges which works perfectly for this storyline.  There’s a lot of impressionistic moments where you can feel the person moving (or being moved) without the need for action lines.  Also, the casting of the show was really perfect.  Cobie Smulders is a dead ringer for Dex Parios in the book and Cole Sibus is amazingly cast as Ansel (Southworth does a great job showing Ansel’s Down Syndrome).  Cole Sibus is really outstanding in the role–his comic timing is excellent.  The only character who looks nothing like the book is Jake Johnson as Grey.  However, Jake Johnson is awesome and he is absolutely perfect for the role–I feel like he’s far more interesting than the comic book character (although in fairness, Grey doesn’t have that much to do in the book). (more…)

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harpers-magazine-march-2017-4SOUNDTRACK: GALLANT-Tiny Desk Concert #595 (January 30, 2017).

Despite the impressive cred, I had never heard of Gallant.  I mean, check out these bona-fides:

When Christopher Gallant was featured in Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 list, the testimonial came from none other than Elton John, who said, “When I hear his voice, I just lose it.” The two even performed Gallant’s song “Weight In Gold” together back in September.

Gallant performed a stripped-down version of that hit when he came to the Tiny Desk earlier this month, and preceded it with another of his best-known songs, “Skipping Stones.” Written with Jhené Aiko, that tune radiates sultry intensity and passion; here, the talented Dani Ivory (who’s performed as a touring member of Imagine Dragons) sits in for Aiko.

Ology, Gallant’s 2016 debut, is up for a Grammy — for Best Urban Contemporary Album [it lost to Lemonade] — and another of its falsetto-driven highlights opens this three-song set. On the record, “Bourbon” is produced with a funky, old-school, Prince-like drum track, but here, a steady drum beat grounds the hypnotic song just as well, if not better. Best of all, “Bourbon” gets a welcome bonus at the Tiny Desk: a guest rap by Saba, a charismatic rising star and frequent Chance The Rapper collaborator.

The musicians for this set are: Gallant (vocals); Wes Switzer (bass); Dani Ivory (keys, vocals); Dylan Jones (guitar); A.J. Novak (percussion); featuring guest rapper Saba in “Bourbon.

I don’t really like R&B all that much, but I can certainly appreciate a great voice and man does Gallant have one.  On “Bourbon”his falsetto is really really impressive.  And Saba has an incredibly fast flow.  And on “Skipping Stones,” again, he has such an amazing falsetto.  I don’t know what the recorded version’s female singer sounds like, but while Dani Ivory does a fine job, she really can’t compete with him.  And on “Weight In Gold” he hits some amazing high notes with ease.

[READ: February 21, 2017] “Dona Nobis Pacem”    (means grant us peace)

This story has an epigram from Plato’s Republic in which someone asks Sophocles about his love life, if he can still make love to a woman.  Sophocles replies: “Shush man, I am very happy to have escaped from that–as happy as a slave who has escaped from an insane and heartless master.”

The title of the story “Dona Nobis Pacem” means “grant us peace.”

This story is written as an address from a sixty-two year old divorced professor of philosophy to a 58-year-old widowed member of the faculty.  They have known each other for many  years.  Her husband died two years ago and since then the two of them have holidayed togetehr a few times.  Their vacations have been primarily to Italy or the Alps or, as in the current vacation, to the Aegean shore of Turkey and the Greek Islands.

They often shared a room–their vacations were amicable and pleasant.

And then in Bergama, their hotel had but one bed. They reluctantly agreed to share the bed.  And that’s when things changed. (more…)

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1975SOUNDTRACK: ESKIMEAUX-Tiny Desk Concert #466 (August 28, 2015).

esquimeauxEskimeaux is Gabrielle Smith, who is the keyboardist in Bellows, a band that played a Tiny Desk Concert just a few months before this one.  As far as her stage name,

as an adopted child, Smith discovered that her biological father is Tlingit Eskimo; she describes the -eaux suffix as “just a playful jumble of letters that represents the way I record — a confusing layering of sounds that somehow coalesce into something simple.”.

Smith sings three songs in less than ten minutes.  She has a pretty, unaffected voice–just clean and clear vocals.  For the first two songs it’s just her and her guitar

“Folly” is a simple song as you might expect from just a strummed electric guitar.  But there’s something about the way she sings her lines in a series of rising notes that is really inviting.  She also has a nice way with words.  Like:

In my dreams you’re a bathtub running / You are warm and tender / And bubbling

“A Hug Too Long” is a faster song with a simple but interesting guitar riff that’s followed by a simple but interesting vocal melody.  Again, her clear voice fits perfectly with the music.  It features the intriguing chorus: “You went to work, I went to New Brunswick.”

Her final song is “I Admit I’m Scared.”  She has her bandmates from Bellows come out to sing with her.   There’s no extra instrumentation, but Smith sings in a slightly deeper register and Bellows fleshes out sections of the song (they even do a kind of deadpan synchronized move after each chorus).   Another great line of hers is: “And everything I said spewed like sparklers from my mouth.  They looked pretty as they flew but now they’re useless and burnt out.”  As the song ends, everyone sings louder “If I had a dime for every time I’m freaking out” which leads to a  dramatic climax before the final resolution: “We could fly around the world / Or just get out of your parents’ house.”

Bob jokes at the end that they can come back any time with a new band.  She says they have five other bands (including Told Slant and Small Wonder).  He says “you could come in every Tuesday.”

Bellows isn’t that different from Eskimeaux in style–pretty, quiet songs that are articulate and almost deadpan.  But having Smith sing (and presumably write) changes the way the style is created.  Which is pretty cool.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976

I really enjoyed this book a lot.  In the introduction, Robert Smigel talks about how it seems like in this era, Schulz turned a corner a bit to become more absurd.  The jokes are sillier, with new characters and some crazy ideas–like talking buildings, pitching mounds and body parts.  He wonders if it was Schulz’ happy marriage or just a desire to take some chances rather than repeating himself.  But whatever the case, the book is really fun.  I especially love the Peppermint Patty/Marcie strips in which Schulz just seems to be having a great time.  I also love all of the jokes with Sally in which she makes herself laugh with some awful puns–I just imagine Schulz cracking himself up and not being able to wait to draw the strips.

But for all of the newness of the strips, Peanuts is always seasonal.  So 1975 beings with ice skating and snowmen.  Linus has made a snowman reclining and reading a book. Charlie asks if it’s Robert Frost and Linus snarks “You said it, I didn’t.”

Patty has been falling asleep a lot in school–her dad is away–and Snoopy makes as terrible watchdog for her.  More funny Patty moments are when she is being so decisive about true false questions.  “Irrefutably true, understandably false, intrinsically false, inherently false, charmingly true.”  To which Franklin asks “Charmingly?”  Patty also becomes the first disciple of the Great Pumpkin–but she blows it by asking for a gift, as if the Great Pumpkin is some kind of Santa Claus. (more…)

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popjlu SOUNDTRACK: BENNY SINGS-Tiny Desk Concert #501 (January 15, 2016).

bennyBenny Sings is a Dutch singer songwriter.  I had never heard of him, and no wonder, this was apparently his first performance in the United States.  And “this is also where he performed with background vocalist Jennah Bell for the first time.”

The blurb says that he layers R&B, jazz and pop over hip-hop foundations.  Although the first of two songs, “Love” is just him on the piano.  For the second song “Beach House,” he busts out the drum machine.  But it still comes across as an orchestra pop song (maybe like slower Elton John).

It’s all fine, but nothing special.

According to my records, this was the 500th Tiny Desk Concert.  And if you count all of the concerts on their Tiny Desk Page, it tallies up to 500 today.  But I know that they are planning something big for #500.  So I don’t quite know what to think.

[READ: January 14, 2016] “Learning to Fly Part 3”

Part three of this story (see, I said it wouldn’t be too long before I continued with it) is all about the landing.  Ferris explains that the landing has always been the hardest part for him.  He managed turns and banks and rises and everything else, but frankly, had his teacher not been there he would have died dozens of times with bad landings.

He says that as you slowly (or quickly) sink towards the ground, your instinct is to pull up away from it, which is exactly what you shouldn’t do.

This particular part of the essay doesn’t have a lot of flying details in it, because most of it is taken up with his fears about his poor landings.  Although the way Ferris tells of the time he easily should have died from not slowing down is pretty harrowing and exciting–how is his instructor so calm?

He sums up landing though you need patience when things are most hurried, composure when things are most fraught.  You need focus when your attention is most scattered.  You need a light touch on the controls when the urge to yank hard and pull them off the panel is at it strongest.

Then he describes all of the things that his instructor appears to be doing at once to land the plane:

He was descending, turning the yoke, applying back pressures, lowering the flaps, adjusting the trim, peddling the rudder, adding power, nosing down–all more or less simultaneously.

Ferris swears that he will quit.  He cannot land the damned plane.  His wife will be pleased that he has quit ans she is terrified of him crashing.  But he knows that he will likely not quit–because it’s a challenge and any tough challenge is one you want to quit hundreds of times but which you never do,

But for his final lesson, he was going to go up once more and then quit.  “And that was the day I had my first perfect landing.”

Great cliffhanger

The final part comes next.

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internetSOUNDTRACK王蓉Rollin-小雞小雞(Chick Chick) [RONG “ROLLIN” WANG-“Chick Chick”]. (2014)

chickchickDon’t call it a novelty! You must watch it.

Is it a kid’s song?  I have no idea.  But it is mesmerizing.  I have now watched it about a half a dozen times and somehow it gets better each time.  Not as awesome as Babymetal (who are Japanese), but awesome in a wholly different (Chinese) way.

So far it only has 8 million views, the number must be increased!

[READ: November 15, 2014] The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Although I have been a fan of McSweeney’s from the very beginning, I have never faithfully read their online Internet Tendency.  Of course I have read the often circulated ones, and a few years ago I said I would read the old posts from the beginning (I didn’t).  Now I discover that in the years since I said that, the Internet Tendency has 283 pages of archives (with something like 30 entries per page).  Get moving on that.

Having these best pieces in a book form is nice, as is anything with “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers” printed on the cover.  Since I haven’t read all 8,000 entries, I can’t say what qualifies as the best.  Although I have to wonder if some of these were picked more for their contributors than their actually bestness.  (Take a look at some of the heavy hitters represented below).  Regardless of how these were chosen, it is an excellent collection of funny stuff.

When I finish reading all of the online pieces (in about two years), I will have more authority to say if these 50 are the best, but in the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy this very funny selection. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JUDAS PRIEST-Sad Wings of Destiny (1976).

Before Judas Priest were the force behind “Breaking the Law,” they were still pioneers of heavy metal.  Except that their metal was tinged with all manner of odd progressive embellishments.  Like “Victim of Changes,” an 8 minute (!) multi-sectioned (!) epic. It’s got a great heavy riff and, damn, if Rob Halford’s vocals aren’t the highest-piched in music (I mean, we know he has a powerful voice, but the notes he hits–good grief man!).  The middle section is a delicate ballad that mellows out with breathy sighing and with very sixties-era backing vocals until Halford bursts out of that with his piercing wail.

It’s followed by “The Ripper” a classic metal song.  The best known version comes from Unleashed in the East, so it’s interesting to hear this earlier version where, for instance, “You’re in for a shock,” is followed by a different person’s scream, not Halford’s wail of the word “shock.”  It sounds a little slower but somehow a little more creepy (especially the quiet middle section).

“Dreamer Deceiver” is a creepy quiet song which seems to herald the vocal acrobatics of King Diamond, but this song has a lot more emotion to it, even if it is pretty trippy (like a cooler version of Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan,” perhaps).  The piano at the end is a really nice touch and leads into the confusingly named “Deceiver,” a very chugga chugga metal song with more great high notes. 

“Prelude” opens with more piano (technically this song opened the album when it was on vinyl…the cds all seem to have sides A nd B reversed so now this prelude is in the middle. It’s a dramatic near-orchestral opening (that many bands would imitate much later) to the killer track “Tyrant.”  “Tyrant” sounds just as menacing here as it does on the live album except for the backing vocals that sort of slouch through the word “tyyyyyrant”–in the live version Halford crams it all into one breath.   It’s followed by “Genocide” a brutal song that has withstood all of these years as an awesome metal track.

Unlike “Epitaph,” which is a completely strange ballad about a dying man.  It is all piano, it is quite poetic and is indeed quite sad (especially the final line reveal).  But the middle ‘upbeat” section sounds not unlike an Elton John track.  It’s quite peculiar, especially when it ends and the chugging riff slowly builds out of the ashes that turns into the stunning “Island of Domination.”  This is a disturbing track with really creepy lyrics but with awesome music.  The middle section (again with the middle section–did bands just forget about doing cool middle sections in the 80s?) slows the track down with all kinds of echoed vocals.

Although it sounds dated, it still holds up remarkably well as a precursor to later metal albums.  It’s one of my favorite Priest releases and one that I come back to time and time again.

[READ: September 8, 2011] The Black Circle

I haven’t read a 39 Clues book in a couple of months.  It’s not that I was losing interest, I just had other things that I wanted to read more.  But I will admit that a ten-book series (and now a second series) can be a bit daunting.  I’d also never read anything by Patrick Carman before, so I wasn’t chomping at the bit to get into the story again.  Well, Patrick Carman has completely revived my interest in the series.  The first nice thing was that the book is only 168 pages (sometimes a short book can really pick you up).  But aside from that, Carman brings all kinds of cool elements into the story and has more than enough intrigue to keep you guessing and turning pages.

But I was initially concerned about reading this book because Carman reintroduces my least favorite nemeses in the book: the boring and doltish Holt family.  They are big, tough, meat- heads with ridiculous political first names like Eisenhower, Hamilton and Reagan.  And every time we’ve seen them, they’ve been brutish and mean and not terribly clever (and this series is chock full of cleverness, so these guys really stand out like a sore thumb).  But Carman does a wonderful thing with the Holts: he forms a (temporary) alliance between Dan and Amy and the Holt family.  And although it is an uneasy alliance, about midway through the book, we see Dan and Hamilton (the Holt’s son) bonding over driving big powerful trucks and flying helicopters.  It’s nice to see Dan have a “friend,” however tenuous. (more…)

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