Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Think I'm Going Back

Its been a very interesting year for me concert-wise, kind of a turn back the clock type of thing as I celebrate my fiftieth year. Most of the artists I've seen this year I saw perform in the mid seventies. Dylan, Springsteen, McCartney, Brian Wilson, Stevie Windwood and Cream - well, I had never seen Cream. All great shows with some degree of a nostalgic vibe, some more than others.

Springsteen is on an solo tour and I caught one of his rehearsal performances. While I did get swept back when he pulled out some of the early ones, Bruce is a man in the moment. Dylan, even more so. There is absolutely nothing nostalgic about a Bob Dylan show except the audience, most of whom seem to look like Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. But seeing Dylan brings me back to 1972 and The Concert For Bangladesh. Iain Morrison and I went to the afternoon show. It was a big deal, seeing all those guys on stage but the big buzz was about Dylan in a much talked about secret appearance. (Side note: Recently Tom Ryan played a side of one of Leon Russell's 70's releases after one of our band rehearals. It was killer from every angle.)

I am way to biased to talk about Brian Wilson - but Smile at Jones Beach was sublime - and although the other part of his show does run a bit like an oldies act - what oldies act do you know that can pull "God Only Knows" or "Warmth Of The Sun" out of their pocket? Seeing Smile after having to give up my Carnegie Hall tickets was the first musical gift I received this year. I hope Brian Wilson lives to be one hundred years old. Brian brings me back into the sixties, especially 1968, the year my Aunt Millie gave me a repackaged 3-LP set that Capitol put out. The set included "Pet Sounds" which sounded like the best thing in the world to me then - and as it does now.

I don't think Paul McCartney will ever be labeled an oldies act. Especially if he continues to perform the way he has on these past two tours. Incredible band who almost fade into the background as your mind just fills out the picture with John, George and Ringo. There's always the few new tunes to deal with - but "Fine Line" from the latest record is actually pretty good. With the mortality rate in the Beatles and the fact that Paul can still bring it, I always consider the chance to catch one of his shows a gift.

Seeing Cream was - I thought - the icing on the cake. Loved this band. Still listen to them - although sometimes I do shout "ENOUGH ALREADY" and lunge for the next track button. The show was great and I thought it was an awesome way to cap off my musical journey into my past.

But waiting in the wings, coming to bat and hitting it out of the park is my main guy - Bruce. The 30th Anniversary release of
"Born To Run" came out today. The re-mastered album sounds terrific and the "making of" documentary is pretty informative and funny. But the main attraction is the concert disc from his performance at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1975.

I can't go into my Bruce Springsteen experience during the 70's in too much detail as it pretty much touches on almost my entire life during those years. In the documentary Springsteen says that it was easy to spend months working on the record since he was "25 years old and had nothing to do and nowhere to go" - an almost spot-on description of me as well, but I think he worked a bit harder at changing things then I did. What I can say about seeing Bruce Springsteen in the 1970s is "I hope you saw Bruce Springsteen in the 1970s."

Seeing this concert was like teleporting back in time. Its not be the greatest Springsteen show ever filmed and you will find yourself hoping to hear a certain version or a changed lyric that stuck in your head for years. But this is the band, this is their time and yes, they have gotten better over the years, but they were never more exciting then they were then. Even with the funny hats and shiny suits.

Getting the re-mastered "Born To Run" would have been great all by itself. This concert disc - along with three incredible performances from 1973 on the documentary disc - are yet another gift. I don't think anything can top this unless its revealed that Moon and Entwistle aren't really dead, just getting out of a very long rehab.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Look! Up In The Sky!

Recently I have been spending my nights watching episodes of "The Adventures Of Superman" on the newly released first season DVD set. This has always been one of my all-time favorite shows and although it still probably being broadcast on one of the zillion cable channels, I haven't seen it in years. Its a treat to watch them in order, starting with the rarely seen origin episode which although dated still keeps the story true to its comic book beginnings. While the effects are pretty much laughable in this CGI world, there is still an undeniable sense of quality to these shows in the writing and acting, especially on the part of George Reeves. Lizz, who basically hates science fiction, has been watching and enjoying these, probably because of their retro charm. She can almost recite the opening monologue!

I can remember coming home from school and waiting to hear that exciting opening ... "Faster than a speeding bullet!" I hope that somehow Liam can watch and enjoy these before he would see them as hopelessly out-of-date.

A whole bunch of fun and a deal at under $30 for 26 episodes!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Seeing God From 20th Row, Center

Sometimes things just make sense. Believe it or not, Cream playing Madison Square Garden 37 years or so after calling it quits makes sense. Forget about any reviews you may have read stating that they have mellowed or other nonsense like that. This was - and is - the premier rock trio. Bass, drums, guitar. Bingo. And it most definitely is the best showcase for the man that I truly feel is rock's best guitarist ever.

The drummer in my band, Tom Ryan, hates Cream. He argues that the "blues rock" genre that they created spawned some incredibly lame bands and by doing so tainted the sanctuary of the blues. Well the truth of the matter is that almost all modern blues bands suck. It is incredibly difficult to play the blues, not in the fact that the form is difficult to play but rather that to actually "play" the blues requires something that goes beyond the ability to play an instrument. It requires a complete understanding of the human condition required to actually have the blues. Don't confuse this with "having the right to sing the blues" as the song goes. We all experience tragedy in our lifetimes, some much more than others. While this may give you the right to "sing the blues" (ie, whine), it doesn't give you the ability to play the blues. That ability only belongs to the rare individual who can translate the feeling of that pain - whether it be drowning in it, rejoicing in it or rejecting it - into his playing. It doesn't matter if the pain is even his. The blues is story telling on a grand scale.

Some people can do a great job of faking this, and sometimes with the best intentions. They study the masters and play authentically on their prized vintage instruments. They dress the part and even try to live the way they think a bluesman should live. They talk blues talk. They are the musical equivalent to reduced fat foods. It just ain't the real thing, no matter how much you convince yourself that you can't taste the difference.

Eric Clapton is the real thing. He may not bring it every night, but when he does there is just nobody better.

A few songs into the show on Tuesday the band seemed to be sputtering a bit through "Spoonful." Then Eric's solo came around and as he dug into it, you could feel the audience being carried along. At the end of that solo, I felt that I had just seen perhaps the most incredible thing I have ever witnessed in over 35 years of attending concerts.

Then they played "Stormy Monday."

Now, I don't remember "Stormy Monday" being a Cream song. Perhaps they played somewhere back when. But it certainly is a blues song and I know that I have never heard Clapton sing or play anything as good as the version they played that night.

There were plenty of other highlights and not all belonged to EC. Jack Bruce sounded amazing. His playing is still fluid and lyrical and his voice was strong. I have always felt that the Bruce and Clapton made one of the great harmony duos. I wish they had played "Dance The Night Away" which showcases this, but it didn't make the cut.

Somehow "Pressed Rat And Warthog" did.

Ginger Baker sounded great. His solo in "Toad" was a blast! I can't remember the last time I sat through a drum solo - and I don't really look forward to the next one - but he certainly can play, mostly working the toms on the kit, always swinging, and bringing on occasional blasts of fury to much huzzah from the crowd.

Ahh, the crowd. Let me tell you, it was three nights of serious regression therapy at MSG! The mostly male, mostly 50ish audience treated the band with well deserved respect. Most of the guys in attendance had that "I can't believe I'm out on a Tuesday night and drinking a beer!" look in their eyes. There was much marijuana in the air, as decade-old joints that were being saved for special reasons were broken out in record numbers. Then there were the many old guys sporting long gray pony tails. Who are these guys? Where do they go during the day? They can't all be working in record stores or comic book shops.

I have heard that Jack Bruce is in failing health and this all may have come about because of his troubles. Then again, there were all those "Ginger Baker is dead" rumors. Whatever the reason, I'm glad it happened, I'm glad I spent a stupid amount of money on the seat - and yes it was worth it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Yet Another Thing I Never Thought I'd See

When I heard that Cream was reforming to play a few dates at the RAH back in May, I crossed my fingers and hoped that they would bring the tour stateside. My wife encouraged me to fly to London to see the show as a special 50th birthday present (sweet gal, eh?) but by the time I started to make arrangements tickets were sold out and going for stupid amounts of money on eBay.

But as luck has it, I won't have to fly anywhere to see them as they announced that they will be playing three nights at MSG in October. Hopefully I will get tickets and it will certainly round out my year, concert-wise. Although the baby has limited our nights out, I still managed to see almost all of my big faves this year - Springsteen, Dylan and Brian Wilson with cheap seats to the McCartney show in hand.

How cool will it be to see Cream? I know that the reviews from London were just alright - but like the critics say "add a star if you're a fan." This is music that certainly took me places - and never getting a chance to see them "back in the day" it will be like plugging in a missing piece of my teenage years. I remember watching Cream's farewell concert at my friend Iain's house - oddly enough it was broadcast on local TV - and thinking "why are they ending this?" I didn't realize at the time that these bands didn't exist sole for my existence and as years went by and I gained more knowledge of their situation its a wonder they lasted as long as they did. All good things must come to and end - and if Cream didn't break up we would have never had such wonders as Ginger Baker's Airforce!

I did get to see Eric Clapton many times over the years. Sometimes he was amazing, sometimes not. A few years back I saw Jack Bruce as a member of Ringo's All Starr Band and he was the highlight of the show. He performed "Sunshine Of Your Love" and "White Room" (with Todd Rundgren having a blast on guitar) and I remember thinking how great it was to hear these songs being played.

I wonder if I should get a pair of bell bottoms for the show?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Louisiana

I really, really love Louisiana. Maybe because every single moment I have ever spent there has been wonderful. I have visited many times, with many friends and lovers. I have never been to Mardi Gras and only went to Jazzfest once. I prefer to visit when the city is not so crowded and it's easier to get a table at my favorite restaurants - a list that keeps growing and growing.

I do admit that a great deal of my time there is spent under various influences but New Orleans alters my state of mind way before that first bloody mary. Each state in this country may be different, but Lousiana is way different. If you've been there and you are a living, breathing, feeling person then you have felt the spirit that seems to rise from the ground in that place. I can only hope that all that spirit finds it's way back when the sun truly begins to rise again on the Gulf Coast.

My thoughts this week were about some of the people that made my time there memorable. There was the cab driver who picked us up from Frankie & Johnny's and on the way back gave us an improtu tour of the neighborhood, far more enjoyable than any of the official tours. Another bus driver - this time Lizz's cousin Christy flagged down one of those small luxury buses and asked the driver to take us from the Quarter to the JazzFest fairgrounds - and he did, singing for us all the way. I also thought about the gold toothed counter woman at Mother's who couldn't quite believe that I was going to eat a fried oyster po' boy AND a "Debris" po' boy (which is a po' boy made from the drippings off the roast beef cooked there at the restaurant - think of the most amazing pot roast and gravy hero in the universe and you might be doing this justice). Hey, it was my last day in town and they just don't play this kind of jazz back home.

If there ever was any doubt, Louisiana now owns the blues. Do what you can and learn what you can. The wake from the waves of this storm are going to be felt for a long time.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Mosquitos: Part 1: Leading Up To It

I met Iain Morrison when I was about 14 or 15, possibly even younger. He was friends with a guy who lived on my block and we hit it off big time becoming best friends for next 15 years or so. We shared a common love for music, especially all things coming out of England. Iain, who is from Scotland, had an incredible record collection with tons of imports that blew my mind. We would spend hours listening to records, going to concerts and talking about music. Thinking back on it now, its pretty wild that my parents would let me hop on a train to head into New York City to go to the Fillmore East where would catch a show and then head down to the village to go record shopping. Iain was a few years older than me, so maybe my folks felt good about that and it certainly was a different time. We were committed to live music and together we saw hundreds of shows in the 1970s.


Iain and I listened to a lot of different music back then. We were heavy into the British blues scene - Johh Mayall, The Groundhogs, Savoy Brown, Fleetwood Mac and the like. We listened to the source as well - getting into Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf and guitar heros like BB King and Freddie King. We also dug a lot of the early prog bands including Genesis, Jethro Tull and Yes, as well as lesser known bands like Man, Gentle Giant and Can. We listened to the British folk bands such as Fairport Convention and the Strawbs. We dug some of the American groups as well - Little Feat and the Allman Brothers. We also began a lifelong love affair with reggae, basically starting with the soundtrack to "The Harder They Come." So many different types of music landed on our turntables back then. It was a very exciting time.


But when you got to the core of it, the music closest to our hearts was that of the original big bang of pop music - the British invasion of the early 60s. The Who and The Kinks were our big two right through the seventies and into the eighties. We loved the Beatles and Stones, of course, but to us the Searchers, The Hollies and Gerry and The Pacemakers stood on equal ground. I know for me, and probably for Iain as well, this was the music that defined us - at least the music that was the soundtrack to the formative years of our lives.


I didn't come from a musical family, not in the sense that my parents or siblings played an instrument. My brothers were almost ten years older than me and since they grew up as teenagers in the late 1950s/early 1960s, music certainly played a part in their lives as well. They didn't have a huge record collection, but there were plenty of 45s in the house and a few LPs, mostly pre-invaision teen idol stuff - Frankie Avalon, Four Freshmen and, of course, Elvis. I took up trumpet as a kid in grade school and began to get an understanding of music, but it wasn't until that fateful Sunday evening - February 9th, 1964 - that everything became clear to me.


I was nine years old in 1964. I loved listening to the radio, everything about it seemed almost magical. This music that came out of the air, the DJs with their crazy names - Mad Daddy, Cousin Brucie - signature catch phrases, swamped in reverb and the constant changes brought along by the weekly top ten. I would lie in bed on Tuesday nights, under the covers with the radio and a flashlight, diligently copying down the weekly top ten in my black and white notebook. The music was exciting at times - story songs like "Running Bear" and "Big Bad John," a Jimmy Dean song about JFK PT boat experience, were among my favorites - but it was apparent that things were changing. The DJs were getting excited about something called "The Beatles." It was obvious that this was a big deal - but I was confused about exactly what the deal was all about. They talked about "Beatle Wigs" and shouted "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!" and my eight year old brain couldn't quite process all this information so I did what eight year olds do - I asked my mother what all this Beatle stuff was about.


She said, "You'll understand this Sunday. They are going to be on the Ed Sullivan Show."


I loved Ed Sullivan. Sunday nights were all about Walt Disney and Ed Sullivan. The whole family usually was in front of the TV set for the Sullivan show. You would see it all - music, theater, acrobats, puppets (I loved Topo Gigio!), comics, impressionists - it all came together on that show. But outside of Elvis - we had never seen anything like what we were about to see.


My story is one that you have probably heard many, many times before. All I can tell you is that is 100 percent true.


I remember sitting on the floor in front of the television when they came on, opening the show. By the time they took their first bow at the end of "All My Loving" my life had changed forever. I knew what I was going to do, amazing, since I didn't even know you could do something like this. I wanted - no, I needed a guitar. Right now. And I needed more Beatles - and thanks to the radio and good old fashioned supply and demand - I got it. The radio began pumping out a seemingly non-stop parade of British pop, all of which I absorbed like a sponge and retain a loving respect for to this very day.


I didn't get that guitar right away, but that didn't stop me from assembling a "group" that would mime to Beatle songs in the playground during recess at school. Eventually my folks gave in and bought me my first guitar, which was actually a pretty decent acoustic guitar made in Italy. We were inseparable. I didn't want to do anything except play that guitar. I was about 14 now and it was 1969 so the music scene had changed quite a bit. In retrospect the trip from "Meet The Beatles" to "Let It Be" happened in the blink of eye. I had many other influences now, including the new crop of guitar heros like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Soon I began to make noise about getting an ELECTRIC guitar and as soon as I had my hands on that, there was only one thing to do - start a band.


I had met Iain by now, and became the lead singer in our first group. We played some of the blues stuff that we listening to like Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman" and lots of riff-based songs like the Kink's "You're Looking Fine." We played at a few "battle of the bands" type of events and at the local teen center. We had a few different names - Halfnelson and Gun Hill Road - which were both used later on by recording groups. It was great fun.


Years later, during the punk explosion of the seventies, a group of friends decided that we would form a punk band. Since I played guitar, I would be the guitar player. Jon Arm, who had some marching band experience, would play drums. A college friend of Jon's, Eammon Bowles, was going to be the lead singer so Iain decided to pick up the bass, completing band and thus the Fabians were born. Iain became quite a capable bassist in almost no time and Eammon turned out to be a good songwriter. We played CBGBs and Max's and became a tight little outfit, especially after Jon left and was replaced on drums by Roger Murdock. Eammon and Roger are still playing together in the critically acclaimed NYC band The Martinets, which also includes Dave Rick (ex-Bongwater) and Daniel Rey (who produced the Ramones and Joey Ramone's solo effort).


The Fabians carried on for a while and we had an early recording session which was never released. One of our show's at Max's was recorded, with Roger on drums, and it's quite a spunky performance. I can't remember what exactly brought the Fabians to an end, but this is where the Mosquito story begins.


Next: The Buzz Begins!

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Mosquitos

In the past week, a part of my past came up randomly a couple of times. My uncle Francis is in the hospital and I stopped by for a visit. Francis - we call him Chechi - is a very social guy and had not only made friends with the fellow in the next bed, but seemed to know his entire family on a first-name basis. Apparently one of his room mate's sons was a musician and Uncle Chechi took it upon himself to mention that I was a ex-member of The Mosquitos. Turns out this guy was a fan from way back and told me how he used to sneak into Sparks to watch us play. He told his dad that, "The Mosquitos were one of the biggest bands from Long Island" and that "back in the 80's it was all about The Mosquitos and Zebra." Well, I don't know about that, but it certainly impressed my wife.



Then a few days later I get an email from Bill Jones asking about including The Mosquitos on a video compilation. Bill and I exchange emails now and then, and he inspired me to put together a CD of some Mosquito material which was to be part of a "retrospective" - a project that seems always to be on my to-do list.



It is pretty nice to know that people actually cared - and still care - about this little part of my life. It was obvious back then, but I never really fully understood how much that band meant to some people until I had conversations with them years later. Sometimes it wasn't so much about the music but rather a special time in their lives and in other cases it is all about the music. Either way it makes me feel good to be a part of it. Blair Buscareno, who wrote some especially touching articles on the band and is now playing in bands of his own - The Miscreants and The Coal Gems, actually claims that The Mosquitos "changed his life." I believe it's said that if you can make a positive difference in one child's life then you have accomplished a miracle, making me one step closer to sainthood. Thanks, Blair!



I'm sure you have heard the phrase "there are three sides to every story - his, hers and the truth." When you are in a band, you are in a relationship with multiple partners, so you can expand that out to as many stories as there are band members, ex-band members, wives, ex-wifes, friends and lovers. it gets a bit cloudy at times to be sure. But since there seem to be a few people who might be interested in reading one of those stories, I thought that I would dedicate some blog time to The Mosquitos, starting at the beginning. Tell your friends and keep those cards and letters coming.

Monday, August 15, 2005

God Only Knows

Saturday's show at Jones Beach was fantastic - I have been lucky to catch almost all of Brian's NY area shows since he began touring again and this might have been the best one yet. I had tickets for SMiLE at Carnegie Hall, but unfortunately a death in the family changed my plans. So I was pretty happy when I found out that he would be bringing the tour back this summer and what better place than Jones Beach to see it. It was by no means a sold-out show, but there were a lot of fans there and it shoudn't reflect badly on Brian. It is a great place to see a show and I would rather sit in a half-full Jones Beach Theater than many other places. I was towards the back of the orchestra and was surrounded by what seemed to be some true fans. The sound was great considering how strong the breeze was.

The band seemed really pumped up - I don't know if it is just the joy that this music brings or if they were experiencing some sort of special night, but there was a lot of energy on stage. It almost had an end-of-the-tour vibe. Anyway - it was a great, great night. The opening set included some of my absolute favorite songs - When I Grow Up To Be A Man, Breakaway, Marcella, Add Some Music - and maybe the best ever version of God Only Knows. How great was it to hear Little St. Nick! I can't wait for the Christmas record Of course SMiLE is incredible. It has taken life as a performance piece that could be the centerpiece of Brian's show for years. Wonderful really stood out for me. For most of the performance, I just sat back with my eyes closed and let that incredible wave of sound wash over me, mixed with the ocean breezes. I can only hope that someday my son - who just turned one - will experience something like this.

The band - that incredible, amazing, powerful group of musicians who back him everynight with an endless supply of talent, respect and love - they are so very special and I am always blown away. These are some confusing times, to be sure. But on Saturday night the message was clear and simple ... love and mercy is what we need - and what was delivered. Thanks Brian.

Friday, August 12, 2005

My Turn To SMiLE!

Tomorrow night, Jones Beach I finally get to see Brian Wilson perform SMilE! I had tickets for the Carnegie Hall show, but sadly my wife Lizz's uncle passed away just days before and I was unable to go. So I was pretty happy when it was announced that Brian would be bringing the show to the beach this summer.

I don't need to go into the whole SMilE thing here. I am a true believer, always was and always will be. In my ears, it was the record of the year and it will probably be a really long time before I hear anything else that tops it. And that band! If you are in anyway a Beach Boys fan, you have to see Brian in concert. He keeps getting better and better - in many ways - and the band is just incredible. Much better than that sad show that Mike Love is dragging around these days.

Anyway, more to come after the show.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Steve Winwood

Earlier this week I caught Steve Winwood in concert at the Westbury Music Fair, now corporately re-named the North Fork Theater at Westbury. I hadn't planned on attending the show, but a friend offered up a ticket and away I went.

Winwood is one of rock's true journey men, from his breakout single "Gimme Some Lovin'" with the Spencer Davis Group recorded at the age of 16, through the seminal rock band Traffic and what was arguably the first "super group" Blind Faith. Then he experienced a successful solo career with the landmark album "Arc Of A Diver" and later with such radio friendly hits as "Higher Love" and "Back In The Highlife." Known mainly as keyboardist and a great one at that, Winwood is a flat out kick-ass guitarist as well as a fine vocalist. All three aspects of his talent were on display the other night.

He touched on all aspects of his long career with a set that included I'm A Man, Freedom Rider, Glad, Can't Find My Way Back Home, The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys, and Dear Mr. Fantasy as well as the aforementioned Gimme Some Lovin, Higher Love and Back In The Highlife.

Looking spry and loose behind the Hammond B3, Winwood led a band that consisted of a guitarist, sax/flutist (who also played the Hammond) a drummer and a percussionist. With no bass player on stage, Winwood handled that himself via the organ bass pedals. While very capable at this, the addition of a bassist on stage would have added to the sound.

The band itself was certainly talented. The guitarist, who played a weird headless guitar through a Fender Cybertwin sounded very processed and left me cold. Nothing he played really stood out and when Winwood picked up his strat for Dear Mr. Fantasy - the highpoint of the show for me - it was a relief to hear some "regular" sounding guitar. The two percussionists, one behind a kit and the other behind a set of congas, were very good - but I could only think of how much better the rhythm section would have been with an actual bass player. The sax player mimiced the late Chris Wood's honking sax and breathy flute sounds and even played through a wah-wah pedal.

The main problem with the band - and with Winwood himself - is that as talented as they may be, it was inherently boring. I like Traffic alot, but you have to admit that even their most classic tunes can be called exciting. Not that this is a bad thing, but after a couple of hours it tends to wear a bit thin.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Maybe 2 Clowns and the Flying Elvi?

With Liam's first birthday soon approaching, Lizz and I have been knocking ideas about his party back and forth. I questioned the whole idea of making such a big deal about his first birthday. Don't get me wrong, it's an amazing milestone and the first of many in his life. But as far as celebrating I really don't think that he is going to get much out of any extra bells and whistles that we can throw up on that day. An extra bottle might make him happy, but that's about it. My thinking was to wait until he can absorb more of the situation, but I can see that my thinking is a bit off. The first birthday is to be celebrated and so we shall celebrate.

This weekend we attended a first birthday party for little Annalise, Lizz's cousin Lisa's third child. Lisa and Eugene are great people, loving parents and generous hosts and their affairs, while they seem to be a bit over the top, are always centered around their family and friends. I was surprised to see that they were hosting this one at home and calling it a "pizza party." Actually it was held in the street in front of their house. And while there was pizza there was also one of those giant bouncy castles. And a tent. And a popcorn machine. And a cotton candy machine. And a face painter. And sand art. And Barney. And goats and ducks. And ponies.

Liam, always interested in new surroundings, was most happy with his bottle.

Now we are not ones to get involved with a "can you top this" sort of thing. We had decided on holding the party at this room for rent at the Northport marina. Nice little room, hopefully some good food and a nice day by the water. Try as I may not to compare, all I can think of is jeez - what are we going to do? Lizz talked about having a face painter. What? No goats? No Ponies? No giant bouncy castle? Granted we won't have as many kids in attendance - and after all, it is all about the kids. Will Liam be upset because there won't be some guy in a smelly, bad fitting suit? Highly doubtful.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A Few Words About The Yankees - Update

Ok, so I was wrong. The Sox won the whole thing. As the t-shirts around the Stadium point out "even Idiots get lucky every once and while."

And now the new season is underway and the boys seem to be getting on track - finally. I don't know what's up with Randy Johnson - and don't get me started about Kevin Brown. Still the last few games feel good, the staff is settling down and the bats are getting lively.

Across town the Mets are having fun. Which wouldn't be a bad thing except for all the Met fans.

It's a long season, kids.

Bruce Springsteen - Solo In Asbury Park

Last night I saw the first of two rehearsal shows that Bruce Springsteen is performing at Convention Hall in aspire Park. My sister Luann scored these tickets on-line after being shut out of the tour's closest stop in New Jersey at the Meadowlands Theater. She is going to see him in Virginia being the non-stop mega-fan that she is.

I had my concerns about seeing Bruce solo. I have seen him perform hundreds of times over the past few decades and every show has been a memorable experience with two exceptions - his stop at the Nassau Coliseum with the "traitor" band during the E-Streeter's hiatus and the solo set at the Beacon during the "Ghost of Tom Joad" tour.

For that solo tour, there seemed to be this self-imposed seriousness throughout the entire evening. Bruce was heavy into that open-tuning twelve-string sound and stuck to guitar all night. He also seemed to be put off by the idiots in the crowd that evening who insisted on clapping along and shouting out songs during the performances, despite repeated requests by Springsteen to give it a rest. He also stuck to guitar that evening even though his solo piano performances had been highlights at E-Street shows throughout the years. He featured the Joad album but even the other material he played was re-arranged to match the somber mood of that record, making some of his darker songs down right depressing.

Last night was a whole different affair.

First of all, Bruce has come a long way as an acoustic player. He played the twelve-string on a few songs last night, but there wasn't a slide in sight. His finger picking is great and his sense of dynamics - always a strong point - was used to great success. He also played piano on a number of tunes, bringing in a different dynamic to break up the night.

The new songs also show growth - from an already excellent songwriter. Like Dylan, his ultra-wordy lyric days may be behind him, but there is a new strength in his simplicity that instantly takes hold of the listener and strokes gives you a true sense of place and character. He took the time to discuss most of the new songs, which was a great insight into the lyrics. A lot of the songs on the "Devils and Dust" album are based around the relationship between mother and son, including "Jesus Was An Only Son" and "Black Cowboys." There was a very moving tune called "Matamoras Banks" which details the story of a border crossing gone bad. The song actually unfolds backwards with the first verse finding the singer drowned at the bottom of a river he attempted to cross, the second verse making the decision to jump in and the first detailing the trek across the desert towards a hopefully better life.

He played plenty of songs from throughout his career. A couple of tunes from "The Rising" where given slightly different arrangements for the solo performance - the title track and "Lonesome Day." While it was good to hear them, I missed the emotional impact of the full band versions mostly on these two songs. However, an energetic version of "Further On Down The Road" rocked as hard as the full band's recording. Solo versions of "For You," "Highway Patrolman," and "My Home Town" were spot on. The highlights for me were a totally reworked version of "The Promised Land" on which he played flamenco-style percussion on his trademark black Takamine and a straight ahead "Lost In The Flood" on the piano. "This Hard Land" and a great version of "Tougher Than The Rest" also stood out.

The crowd was great. I don't know if it had to do with the nature of tickets - you were only able to purchase a pair for each show - but they were respectful all night long. Maybe it had to do with Bruce's introduction where he emphatically stated "Turn your cell phones off" and told audience members to "feel free and beat the crap out of anyone making too much noise." Fortunately for all involved, I don't believe that anyone in the audience came to blows.

All in all a great night. Next week - the man himself, Bob Dylan.