Great News: After being shuttered since 2019 — initially to undergo major renovations, with the closure extended by the Covid pandemic — legendary concert venue Irving Plaza is reopening later this summer, with its first concert of this decade scheduled for on August 17th. You can read more about the history of the club, and what to expect inside post-renovation, as well as see a line-up schedule, at This Link!
Armed with only his acoustic guitar and a soaring vocal range, singer/songwriter Blake Morgan celebrated the July 30th release of his latest CD, Diamonds in the Dark, with an engaging set played to a packed house at Manhattan’s Cutting Room.
While the unplugged set was missing the lusher aspects of Diamonds in the Dark’s expanded instrumentation, Morgan’s delivery and on stage charisma did each song full justice. This CD is really fantastic! Morgan’s adept guitar playing fondly recalls that of the late great George Harrison, while his voice varies between comparison to the adult contemporary mellowness of hit-maker Duncan Sheik and top-shelf Seventies pop greats such as Andrew Gold. And what’s not to like about that?
Morgan draws his subject matter from his past romantic relationships, and while the songs are obviously deeply personal, he keeps the message universal and accessible. Tuesday’s set featured nine cuts from the just-released Diamonds, including a few of my favorites like the opening number, “Haunt Me,”“Best Bad Idea” and “I Can Hear You Say.” I enjoyed Blake’s humorous between-song banter (where he revealed many of the details behind each song) and it was a fun evening for all! Diamonds in the Dark is available now wherever fine music is procured, and you can find out more about Blake by visiting This Link. See the set list below!
Cutting Room Set List
Black Into Blue
Water Water Everywhere
Best Bad Idea
Don’t Want To Let You Go
I Can Hear You Say
We Left Off
So Scared And Happy
A publicist recently asked me what bands I’m currently listening to – and I know she expected me to name some “new” bands, but I had to confess that the bulk of music I’ve been loading on my iPod or adding to my collection in recent months is music from the 1970s. Because, from The Beatles through Glam, Prog Rock, Classic Rock, Hard Rock, the onset of Electronica, Punk Rock and New Wave, the Seventies really had it all. This realization actually brought back an awkward memory of the time an editor (whom I still affectionately refer to as Iron Nuts) accused me of being “desperate to like a modern band.” Okay, guilty as charged. Still, I’m not going to apologize for it.
One modern band that I do like a lot is Black Stone Cherry. I’d own all of their records even if I didn’t get them for free from their label, and I try to see the band play live when they come to New York City. So, I felt very fortunate to get on the guest list to see these remorselessly southern rockers from Kentucky kick out a super tight but exhilarating 45 minute set last week, in support of the Sammy Hagar-fronted all star contingent Chickenfoot. Making sure to please both faithful and new fans, Black Stone Cherry’s three albums (2006’s eponymous debut, 2008’s Folklore and Superstition and 2011’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea) were equally represented within an eclectic 10-song set list.
Black Stone Cherry maintain a gritty enough modern edge to do battle with the fiercest head bangers, but what they remind me of at their creative core is The Allman Brothers with a touch of Hendrix. Surely no one could find fault with that. And any doubt of the veracity of this groups’ southern rock roots is laid to waste with Deep Blue Sea’s exceptional cover of The Marshall Tucker Band’s“Can’t You See,” on which Black Stone Cherry pay deep homage to the original tune while completely making it their own. It’s easy enough to casually toss out a phrase like “The Real Deal” when describing a blues-based rock band, but I’m not fronting when I say that Black Stone Cherry does their old school mentors proud in their ability to rock out and entertain without the need for any added bells and whistles. These guys just love music; and it shows.
Front man Chris Robertson, who effortlessly tackles lead vocals and lead guitar owns a seasoned but fluid voice that delivers both rockers and ballads with equal power and finesse. As a front man, he’s cute but also burly and masculine. I dig his vibe. While bassist Jon Lawhon stays mostly anchored to the stage, his fretwork is top shelf, and it’s a lot of fun to watch rhythm guitarist Ben Wells work the stage, tirelessly leaping atop monitors, engaging the audience and heightening the energy of the room. But for me, the superstar of the band is drummer John Fred Young, who channels the thunder power of John Bonham in his attack on the kit while fully capturing the showmanship of a crowd-pleasing player like Tommy Lee. Young’s arms never stop moving. I could watch him play drums all day. Plus: Hot.
Black Stone Cherry had me and the rest of the crowd on our feet for most of their set (impressive for an opening act), and I love all of their songs, but the most memorable tune of the evening, I think, was “Blame It On The Boom Boom,” which, despite being somewhat dorky, keeps the decadence of the Rock Star Lifestyle alive with its message about the joys of bonking and getting wasted, or something like that. I doubt that any of these guys are Motley Crue-level partiers, but it certainly wasn’t lost on me that they chased “Boom Boom” with few bars of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” – a song I would love to see them cover on a future album.
This past Thursday I was super fortunate to have been able to see Roxy Music front man Bryan Ferry perform at the Beacon Theater here in NYC. He looked great and sounded amazing! He also did a fun and varied set of songs that ranged from both early and later period Roxy Music, his own solo stuff and covers of Bob Dylan and Neil Young tunes. Ferry is changing up the song list on this tour, so every show is a little bit different, but if you weren’t at the Beacon on October 6, 2011, this is what you missed.
The Main Thing (Roxy Music)
Slave to Love
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Bob Dylan cover)
Casanova (Roxy Music)
If There is Something (Roxy Music song)
Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan cover)
Boys and Girls
Kiss and Tell
To Turn You On
Like a Hurricane (Neil Young cover)
Tara (Roxy Music)
Bitter Sweet (Roxy Music)
You Can Dance
Reason and Rhyme
Avalon (Roxy Music)
My Only Love (Roxy Music)
Love Is The Drug (Roxy Music)
All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover)
Let’s Stick Together (Wilbert Harrison cover)
Jealous Guy (John Lennon cover)
Hold On (I’m Coming)
A perfect – wait, make that ideal – live music experience, for me, includes a few personal preferences such as a venue close to my home that offers seating, reasonably priced drinks and maybe a menu of snacks that won’t break the bank when added to the price of the ticket. It’s a lot to ask, I know, but that is how I roll. Of course, it’s a given that the band on the bill has great songs and is able to reasonably replicate its recorded sound in a live forum while also improvising and “riffing” freely enough to add a personal vibe to the performance. On a recent Saturday night in the East Village, that perfect storm of a concert experience happened at Drom Lounge on Avenue A when psychedelic folk rock band, The Wyld Olde Souls, celebrated the release of its new CD, Ensoulment. It was an evening I won’t soon forget.
Ten years in the making, Ensoulment includes fourteen songs (13 originals and one cover) that prove the long wait for this album was well worth it. Often compared to acts like Fairport Convention, Joan Baez and Donovan, The Wyld Olde Souls are perhaps NYC’s best-kept secret. Fronted by lead vocalist/songwriter and guitarist Ivy Vale, The Wyld Olde Souls includes Vale’s husband Rick Reil (vocals/guitar/sitar), Kristin Pinell Reil (vocals/guitar/flute) – the former both members of the legendary Grip Weeds — vocalist Melissa Davis and tabla player Naren Budhakar, who is such a perfect addition to the band for his ability to really capture the middle eastern spirituality inherent in its music. The band’s lyrics are often romantic and whimsical, offering a welcome respite from the angst and anger in much of today’s pop music, while the lush, layered instrumentation on the album – which includes flute, orchestral strings and mellotron – solidifies The Wyld Olde Souls as a band that expertly takes the act of homage into the realm of a truly unique, original sound.
A one-night-only performance by former Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant and his new group, The Band of Joy (which sold out NYC’s Bowery Ballroom through Ticketmaster in, literally, fewer than 60 seconds) was indeed a joyous performance: one that, for me, ranks among the most vibrant and emotionally satisfying live shows I’ve seen, ever. While Plant and his band proved beyond doubt that they can rock out, this wasn’t what you’d call a “Rock Show,” nor was it the kind of music I’d assume your average Led Zeppelin fan would find easily accessible. Still, Plant’s latest gig fits him like a second skin and the 500 or so people lucky enough to cram themselves inside the very packed venue were clearly enthralled.
Robert Plant and the Band of Joy performed a smooth mix of impeccably written standards and select favorites from Plant’s catalog, dipping into compatible genres from Americana to Country, Blues to Roots and even a little Gospel. Opening with a cover of Low’s “Monkey,” Plant found his groove and never let it go. Through a set that included cuts from the Band of Joy CD, several re-worked Led Zeppelin classics and songs from Plant’s recordings with The Honey Drippers and his recent Grammy winning disc with Alison Krauss, it was mesmerizing to watch this legendary vocalist take things down to a solo vocal only to have the band explode around him a split second later. Unbelievable.
At age 62, Plant’s voice remains untouchable and the band is truly phenomenal – each a gifted and well known musician individually, together they create a new and beautiful sound. Whether it was Buddy Miller’s outstanding work on both the six and twelve string guitar’s, Darrell Scott’s ringing mandolin, banjo, steel guitar or six-string, Patty Griffin’s larger than life vocals, Byron House’s versatile bass rhythms and Marco Giovoni’s perfectly nuanced drums, there was something to be amazed at continuously. It was also great to see Plant retreat to the rear of the stage and provide background vocals while Darrell Scott, who has an amazing voice, sang lead front and center, or wailing on the harmonica as Buddy Miller took the lead. You really got the feeling you were witnessing very special musical relationships evolving. This is a tour not to be missed.
Sunday night’s one hour and forty-five minute set was comprised of the following songs:
Monkey / House of Cards / Please Read the Letter / Misty Mountain Hop / Rich Woman / Trouble / 12 Gates to the City / Kings Horses / Satisfied Mind / Move Up / Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down / Central Two O Nine / Angel Dance / Houses of the Holy / Down to the Sea / Tall Cool One / Gallows Pole
Harms Swift Way / Rock and Roll / Goodnight
Thanks again to Rounder Records and Ken Weinstein of Big Hassle for the hot guest list action! You can buy or download the Band of Joy album now, as it was just released today!
I have said it many times before – and I am saying it again right now – that I would rather listen to Motley Crue songs like “Dr. Feelgood” or “Shout at the Devil” one hundred million billion times than be forced to listen to the majority of today’s shitty, modern alternative trash rock for fifteen seconds. Because, here’s the thing, Motley Crue – undeniable walking punch lines that they are – are nevertheless a bonafide gang of dangerous, ex-drug addict rock stars from an old school of Rock with a Capital R that, really, does not exist anymore. And for this, I worship them openly.
Watching Motley Crue play live is like driving a Ferrari at 100 miles an hour or having endlessly orgasmic sex with the hottest partner imaginable (me: Gael Garcia Bernal). NONE of these emo/screamo “Mommy didn’t love me” bullshit bands get me off at all. None of them have the balls of a Rock God like Nikki Sixx, who is one of the most original, charismatic figures in rock music since John Lennon. None of these new “excuses for musicians” have any rock star cache. And man, I miss that more than you could even imagine.
Today’s pop music sounds like it came from a can, and 90% of these young bands are just a bunch of whiney brats with guitars who aspire to sound like The All American Rejects (worst band ever) because that’s what the little emo kids are downloading from iTunes. Geesus god, when did rock music get so fucking lame? You can keep Panic at the Disco and The Academy Is and I’ll just curl up with Girls Girls Girls and my copy of The Dirt and be just fine, thank you.
I had a fucking blast last night and so did my plus one, Geoffrey, who I brought along with me since he had never seen The Crue before. I figured he’d appreciate their deal, as he is the only gay guy I have ever met whose favorite band is The Doors. Geoffrey knows his shit when it comes to what rocks and what does not rock. I have very few issues with Motley Crue as people, their showmanship or their set list. They played all the hits you could want to hear as a 20-year fan and very few songs from their new CD, which I do not know. Their stage set was awesome. They had so many explosions and bright lights and shiny visual distractions that I’m still deaf and seeing trails. Mick Mars can play his ass off despite being practically turned into a living statue from ankylosing spondylitis (look it up) and both Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee have life-long “Get Out of Jail Free” cards as far as I’m concerned. But…I have an issue with Vince Neil. Please allow me to share.
Vince, Nikki & Mick
Before their set even started (and remember that we had to sit through three opening acts, all of which – thank Christ – were at least pretty decent in the “ability to rock” department), Geoffrey and I were taking bets about whether or not Vince Neil would be fat. “I bet he’s fat,” said Geoffrey. “I bet he’s fat, too,” I admitted. So you can see there was no real betting going on there, since neither one of us had any faith in Neil’s ability to stay away from the pork rinds. But – surprise – Vince is not only slender-ish, but looking quite fit these days. He was full of energy as he danced and pranced about the stage in a manner that immediately brought to mind Billy Squire’s performance in the video for “Rock Me Tonight.”
But the gigantic bone I have to pick with Vince concerns his unwillingness/inability to sing any Motley Crue song all the way through from beginning to end without taking a hundred breaks in between. Basically, he sings about every third or forth word and leaves it up to the audience to fill in the gaps. WTF? He has been doing this for about ten years and it makes me want to smash him in the face. Vince, dude, get a little bit friendly with reality here: nobody in Madison Square Garden last night paid $90 for their ticket so they could hear the drunk guy next to them sing the chorus to “Kick start my heart.” I mean, that’s the pay off! If you just sing every other word to the verses and then hand off the mike to the audience to sing the chorus – like a lame, douche bag jagoff – that’s completely unacceptable! I refuse to pretend that we should not call shenanigans on you for this heinous, repeated transgression! I would rather have Vince LIP SYNC the fucking songs then just not sing. Nikki Sixx must agonize over a desire to kick your not-that-fat ass out of the band for how you butcher his music. Fuck you, Vince Neil for not singing the songs!
Thank you for reading, and please continue to rock.