Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 Concerts Year-In-Review

OK, so it's down to the heart of the holidays. You've seen the family, opened the presents, eaten the meal, drunk the wine and taken a nap. At this point, you may start getting a bit bored or looking for an excuse not to have to spend even five more minutes with those "special" relatives. 

For a few moments respite to fill in the dull moments or to offer a handy excuse for a quick break from family time, below is a little slice of action from 2008 to keep you entertained...my year-in-concerts reviews. Happy holidays and enjoy!

Marc's 2008 Year-In-Concerts Holiday Review Special
2008 was not a banner year for concerts for the simple reason that I didn't go to very many. By my count, I went to only five. I like live music more than that, so I'll be shooting for more shows in 2009. Meanwhile, my wife Diane hit a few that she really wanted to go to as well.

With that said, here are show reviews for 2008:

A new group started by Mick Jones - the guitarist in The Clash who wrote and sang some of their great songs such as Train In Vain and Should I Stay or Should I Go. He also was the main force behind 80s and 90s dance/rock band Big Audio Dynamite. Anyway, starting a year or two ago, he and old buddy
Tony James (founding member of punk band Generation X and also Sique, Sique Sputnik) got together and started Carbon/Silicon to record and tour. The band is basically a straight ahead rock band, but one with Mick-freaking-Jones as the guitarist and singer. This ensures intelligent lyrics, great guitar and a quality band. (Photo below from the Virgin Music Web site.)

And so it was when my friend Sean and I saw them at the very small Seattle venue of Chop Suey as the band toured to support its album, The Last Post. In my opinion, this is the best way to see a show - a major talent in a very small venue for cheap ($20/ticket). Not only was it exciting for me to see one of my rock heroes up close and personal in a crowded little club, but the show was really a blast with the band clearly enjoying themselves while delivering a healthy dose of rock and roll.

As an added bonus, the opening act was Matt Pond PA. I'd heard of this band before, but never actually heard them. None the less, I was really impressed with their set - so much so that I promptly went out and bought their two most recent releases. I'd recommend you do too.

Finally, this show ranks up there for me all time because afterwards I actually met Mick Jones, shook his hand, chatted quickly and thanked him for the show.

RECOMMENDATION: Buy The Last Post CD and see this band if they come to your city. Also, buy the Several Arrows Later CD by Matt Pond.

Every summer, the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo holds a series of outdoor concerts featuring family-friendly artists. Since we live in walking distance to the zoo, we made plans with friends to see one of the shows. (Photo below from post by Kirstie Shanley on the blog Radio Free Chicago.)

As hundreds of sensible upper middle class white people settled in on the lawn and as their throng of rambunctious children ran around freaking out, Andrew Bird and his band diverted my attention away from the weirdness of this crowd to focus on his unique blend of folk, rock, country and - even - whistling. This guy is good, unique and passionate.

For these reasons, I give his part of the show a big thumbs up.

I don't remember who else played that evening. Guess that tells you something about the rest of the program.

RECOMMENDATION: Check out Bird on iTunes and find some of his tunes you like. See him in concert if he comes to your city.

I've been a 'Chain fan for a long time, but never seen the brothers Reid in concert. To put it bluntly, my friend Paul and I were really disappointed in this show. (Photo below taken by Chris at MusicSnobbery.)

The band underwhelmed with a "phone it in" performance at the warehouse-like venue of the Showbox SoDo.

No energy, no between song banter, no improvisation, no nothing. It was just the destinct sound of guys who - despite knowing that all they can do in this world to make any kind of money is tour their now old band- still couldn't be bothered.

What a waste.

It was such a bad show that I haven't listened to them on my iPod in the more than five months since the show.

RECOMMENDATION: Do not bother seeing this band live. Not worth it. However, do buy their Darklands CD. Very worth it.

Less than a week after the crappy Jesus & Mary Chain show, Paul and I returned to the Showbox SoDo to hear Kinks-man Ray Davies in his mostly acoustic, some electric performance.

Wow! What a difference a few days makes. As Paul says, "this man is a rock star" and he delivered the goods with a mix of his classic Kinks-era tunes with his recent songs to a capacity crowd. He engaged with the adoring audience, telling stories and setting up songs. (Photo at left from Galstonbury Festival blog.)

The topper was near the end when he walked off stage and then sauntered back on with a full "electric" band and proceeded to just RIP into a blistering version of All of the Day and All of the Night...quickly followed by an equally incendiary You Really Got Me.

To say the least, this was a great show. Not only because of its inherent quality, but because it greatly exceeded my expectations.

It also helped put the poor Jesus & Mary Chain to rest.

Visit Ray's site here to get a taste.

RECOMMENDATION: See Ray in concert! Meanwhile, his output over the years is huge, so you'll have to do some homework. I'd suggest a best of the Kinks type collection to get started. 

We had not planned on attending this show, but we're mighty glad we did. The English Beat (known simply as The Beat in the UK) are a band that you may not recognize in name, but you know their songs if you had any musical awareness in the 1980s. A combination of rock, reggae and soul, the band's sound is typically referred to as "ska" and they were among the original wave of "two tone" ska bands to come out of England in the early 80s. (Note: two tone refers to the fact that these bands had black and white members.) Upon their breakup, some members formed the group General Public and others Fine Young Cannibals.

Some of The English Beat's hits included Mirror In the Bathroom, Save It For Later, Can't Get Used to Losing You, Too Nice to Talk To and others.

(Photo from Belly Up.)

Anyway, after a great meal at the bar of Matt's on the Market, Diane, Sean and I jammed ourselves into the packed-to-the-rafters Showbox At the Market and proceeded to revel in the Caribbean by way of London beats on a Thursday night with what appeared to be every white person between the age of 35-45 in Seattle. All the hits were played and a lot of dancing ensued. All-in-all it was perhaps the most joyous show of the year. 

Oh, did I mention it was a Thursday night? Right. Well, Thursday night turned into Friday morning before we were home, and for a guy who had to lead a meeting at 7 a.m. that very same morning. This proved to be...how shall I say...a challenge. I ain't 25 any more you know. But, sometimes you just have to throw down and deal with the concequences later. Which is exactly what I did.  All went well Friday, but it was an early evening that night.

RECOMMENDATION: See this band live if they come to your city - even if it's a weeknight. Check out their "best of" on iTunes...maybe start with the songs Mirror In the Bathroom and Save It For Later and go from there.

Diane on her own didn't do too poorly for herself on the concert front either in 2008. No recommendations from me (I wasn't at these), but just the report that she saw:

Fulfilling a longstanding desire to see "Madge" in concert, Diane and a friend drove up to Vancouver, BC in Canada to see the show there.

Apparently, "M" has something against Seattle and no longer plays here.

Despite some hi-jinks with the tickets she bought via E-Bay (a warning to you all), Diane reports that it was a fantastic concert.

A full review of the show from the Vancouver Sun newspaper is here.

(Picture at left from a post by Shewritesrock at the She Writes Rock blog.)

Diane and a gaggle of her friends went to see "Gorgeous George" as he played the Key Arena in downtown Seattle. (Photo below by: Evert Elzinga/AFP/Getty Images)

By all accounts, this was a good show for those attending with a mix of old Wham! and solo hits, mixed in with some new stuff.

One drawback Diane reported was, "I could have done with fewer ballads and more dancey numbers."

So there you have it.

In 2009, I intend to review shows as they happen on this blog and then aggregate them at the end of next year. So, stay tuned. The first expected review of 2009 will be from the Glasvegas show I'm going to in early January.

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