Jun
2009

REVIEW: Amanda Palmer debuts new song at mystery show, The Bridge, Cambridge, MA (6/14/09)

If you’re following boxofboom on Twitter, you might have read that I did end up winning tickets for Amanda Palmer’s mystery show last night in Cambridge, MA, which was actually held in a performance space in a recording studio called The Bridge in Davis Square.  The space itself was very small (and subsequently stifingly hot) with just a tiny stage and not much else in the room. Amanda ended up inviting people to just come sit around her on stage during her set which helped create some extra space in the room, and made an already intimate gig that much more personal. It’s that feeling of camaraderie and spontaneity that makes Amanda Palmer’s performances so extraordinary.

The email sent out to ticket winners about the show said still photography would be OK but “please no video because Amanda will be playing very rough/unfinished new stuff and we’d prefer it not hit YouTube and what-have-you just yet.” Amanda reiterated that request before playing a new track, “The Bed Song,” which was truly gorgeous and seriously might end up being one of my favorite songs by her. It’s a real heartbreaker of a breakup ballad with a beautiful, fluttering piano riff in the chorus. Amanda said it’s not totally finished until she ”figures out how to play it,” and though she did need to stop during the first verse to remind herself how it went,  it definitely sounds complete. The full setlist was:

Lua (Bright Eyes cover)

Dear Old House That I Grew Up In

Ampersand

Oasis

Trout Heart Replica

Australia

Guitar Hero

Strength Through Music

I Google You

The Bed Song

Girl Anachronism

Though “Australia,” ”Dear Old House,” and “Trout Heart Replica” have all been performed (and uploaded to YouTube from various shows) this was my first time ever hearing any of them and a perfect introduction. “Guitar Hero” in particular was really intense with Amanda pounding out the guitar parts on her keyboard.

During a few points throughout the show, she took “Ask Amanda” questions submitted before the show, including one about whether she thinks being so happy/in love with author Neil Gaiman will change either of their writing styles. She answered that she doubts it for her writing since even some of her darkest material was written during times when she was really happy, but said that she thinks Neil’s might since a lot of his writing is about “escaping” to some fantasy and joked that now she is that fantasy. Local band Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys opened for Amanda,  the band and a small circus troupe of performers crowded on to the small stage. The band’s goth-influenced folk songs were intriguing, though lead singer Walter Sickert seemed obscured by the useless clutter of circus performers on stage when he should have been the focus.  A hackneyed interpretive dancer dominated the front of the stage with her kicks and spins, while a woman in a bunny mask plucking petals from a bouquet of flowers sat on the side of the stage throughout the entire set. It was completely trite, and I’m sure that was at least partially the point, but ultimately distracting and so unnecessary for a band with a foundation of solidly performed music that could clearly speak for itself.

Jun
2009

REVIEW: PJ Harvey & John Parish @ House of Blues, Boston, MA (6/6/09)

It’s about time I post my review of the completely stellar PJ Harvey & John Parish show at House of Blues on Saturday night. I was blown away by how good they sounded, this being my first time ever seeing PJ Harvey live in over a decade of being a fan. It was likely one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen (and I don’t say that lightly, especially considering the number of shows I’ve seen in my day). PJ made a point of noting that she and John Parish would be playing material exclusively from their two albums together (A Woman A Man Walked By and Dance Hall at Louse Point) but I still heard a few “play the old stuff!” comments from a few obnoxious drunk women standing nearby (one of which was kicked out of the show altogether for stumbling around, much to the delight of the people trying to enjoy the show around her). Enough of the bitching though because the majority of the crowd by far was really into it and respectful and definitely seemed familiar with the material. Though my tickets were marked second balcony, the floor was open to all tickets so I ended up about 5 people back from the stage.

The set itself highlighted the stylistic range of material on their two joint albums,  including the thunderous , grizzly rock of “Pig Will Not” (which featured PJ literally barking “I will not!”)  and the mournful, spoken-word ballad “Cracks in the Canvas.” A Woman A Man Walked By’s “16, 15, 14,” (the second song after an assured performance of  their recent single “Black Hearted Love”) worked itself up into a frenzy, as PJ furiously chanted “there is no laughter in the garden” sounding like a child or a maniac or perhaps both.  She seemed to revel in the opportunity to focus solely on singing, as she does not play guitar or piano on any songs on this tour, (Parish and their backing band are stunningly tight). The fact is PJ’s voice is an instrument in itself, with the power and restraint to channel a cast of characters, both child-like and ancient, wistful and deranged, joyous and enraged.

The full setlist was as follows: Black Hearted Love/16, 15, 14/Rope Bridge Crossing /Urn with Dead Flowers in a Drained Pool/Civil War Correspondent/Soldier/Taut/ The Chair/Leaving California/Un Cercle Autour du Soleil/A Woman A Man Walked By Passionless, Pointless/Cracks in the Canvas/Pig Will Not/False Fire/April

Jun
2009

Lost Ones

This comes as no big surprise, but still disappointing – Rolling Stone reports:

Reclusive R&B-hip-hop star Lauryn Hill has put a halt to her planned comeback tour, canceling her entire European lineup of dates, the AP reports. Hill was scheduled to headline this year’s Stockholm Jazz Festival on July 15th, but her agent informed festival organizers yesterday that the show was off due to unspecified “health reasons.” Hill’s performance at Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival was also called off, as were scheduled concerts in Sweden, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Italy, France and Austria. The canceled European tour is just the latest in a long string of mysterious events surrounding Hill in the decade since she released her 1998 Grammy-winning masterpiece The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Back in 2003, Rolling Stone released a feature article, “The Mystery of Lauryn Hill” which tried to piece together what’s happened since the release of that album. More recently, the magazine also did a great article last year titled “Inside “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” which featured interviews with many of the people involved in its recording. Oddly enough, the most recent official release from Lauryn Hill was a song included on the soundtrack from Surf’s Up, the animated movie about surfing penguins. I’ve always wondered about the origins of this track (it almost sounds like the surf-rock beat was added after the fact) and how it ended up on this release, but it’s a good track so I’m happy we got to hear it regardless:

Lauryn Hill – “Lose Myself” (mp3)

One of my favorite performances by Fiona and definitely my favorite cover she’s ever done (and she’s got some great ones to choose from, particularly the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” and Bill Withers’ “Use Me”) was her version of “I Want You,” part of a VH1 Classic tribute to Elvis Costello which featured Fiona, Death Cab for Cutie and Green Day performing his songs and Elvis taking a stab at a few from their catalogs as well.

Fiona Apple – “I Want You” [Elvis Costello cover] (mp3)

Elvis singled out this performance of “I Want You” as his favorite of the night saying:

Fiona is light years ahead of everyone else. She sang ‘I Want You’ with the Imposters and I on a television show last year. It was like a very intense performance of Lady MacBeth… of Mtensk.

Jun
2009

REVIEW: White Rabbits @ Middle East, Cambridge, MA – 6/4/09

Somehow the weekend got away from me (partially due to the stellar PJ Harvey & John Parish show – review coming soon), so better late than never, my review of the White Rabbits show at Middle East last Thursday: the band took the stage downstairs shortly after 11:30, launching into “Rudie Fails.” For those not familiar with the band, White Rabbits are armed with a small artillery of instrumentation, heavy on the percussion: 2 drummers, 3 guitarists and 2 keyboards.

The band ripped through most of It’s Frightening in less than an hour with tight execution. Lead singer Stephen Patterson seated at the piano for the entire main set, except for “Company I Keep,” another highlight from the album.  The clamoring rhythm and pounding piano at the forefront of many songs definitely brought to mind Radiohead at many times throughout the set, most apparent on perhaps the best performance of the night, “Lionesse.” The band closed the main set with an explosive performance of “Percussion Gun,” on par with their recent Letterman appearance. For those of you not in Boston, head over to http://www.itsfrightening.com to find tour dates in your area.

Jun
2009

Again and Again

I’ve been listening to Colonia from A Camp (featuring Nina Persson of the Cardigans) a lot this week, so I was excited to read they have a new EP of covers coming out next week. The EP will be available on iTunes on June 9th and includes the following covers: “Us and Them” by Pink Floyd, “Boys Keep Swinging” by David Bowie and “I’ve Done it Again” by Grace Jones (available below):

A Camp – “I’ve Done It Again” [Grace Jones cover] (mp3)

A Camp posted the following about covering the song on their official website:

Grace Jones did this originally on her Nightclubbing album (pull up to my bumper baby!), and it’s a hot track. We were drawn initially to the bizarre very smart lyrics and also that the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind is name-checked, that HAS to be the only instance of that in pop music. The time-travel/”ZELIG” tone to the words made a lot of sense as well as that’s kind of our vibe with Colonia. And we dug the sweet cocaine, studio-in-Barbados groove. The song manages to simultaneously seem nearly asleep and yet totally insane (in the best way), full of this world-weary sadness, plus a rage deep in there somewhere…not unlike Grace herself! As it happens we were on tour recently in Europe about a day behind her, so would see fresh traces of her along our journey, it was spooky and fun. We don’t believe she really exists. This track has become a fan fave in our live show. It’s got that Bosso flav; and Nina gets to bust out her magic claves!

The original was featured on Grace Jones’ 1981 album Nightclubbing (a little trivia: the title track is also a cover of a David Bowie song, as performed by Iggy Pop, making that two Bowie covers in one post). Listen to Grace’s version below:

Grace Jones – “I’ve Done It Again” (mp3)

Jun
2009

Beck – “Missing” [Remix by Hugo Nicolson] (mp3)

With the rare sunny weather we’ve been enjoying in Boston, I find myself turning to some of my standby summer albums when I’m out strolling around. Beck’s Guero is one of my all-time favorites, especially this remix of “Missing” by Hugo Nicolson (featured on the companion remix album Guerolito). I believe this track was only available on the digital version of the album and not included on any of the physical copies (bumped off the list in favor of Air’s (in my opinion) lesser remix of “Missing”) which is sad since it’s easily the best thing on the whole album. I love the way the simple, quirky backing beat showcases Beck’s often underappreciated crooning skills and reveals the sense of longing at the soul of the song.

Beck – “Missing” [Remix by Hugo Nicolson] (mp3)

Jun
2009

Don’t Deconstruct

I can totally understand that when some artists break away from the bands that made them famous to record solo projects, they prefer to focus on their solo material when it comes time to tour. Still, I’m happy to hear that Jenny Lewis has been performing some Rilo Kiley songs in her set on her current tour for her most recent solo record, Acid Tongue. It makes sense considering Jenny has written so many songs in Rilo Kiley’s catalog, including solo songwriting credit on the majority of the songs on Rilo Kiley’s last album, Under the Blacklight. Jenny dipped back to that album for both of the tracks below, which she performed solo at a recent show in Pomona, California in April.

Though Under the Blacklight is known for its decadently slick production and unabashed pop hooks, Jenny strips both songs down to only acoustic guitar, making them sound right at home amongst the lo-fi, folk-influenced songs of her solo records.

Jenny Lewis – “Silver Lining” [solo, live 4.13.09] (mp3)

Jenny Lewis – “Under the Blacklight” [solo, live 4.13.09] (mp3)

I admittedly wasn’t as big a fan of Acid Tongue as I am of most of Rilo Kiley’s stuff, but the song “Jack Killed Mom” was a standout track to say the least, probably one of my favorite things Jenny’s ever released. Here’s a live version of it from the same show as above:

Jenny Lewis – “Jack Killed Mom” [live 4.13.09] (mp3)