Category Archives: reviews

Macca’s Magic: Paul McCartney in Indianapolis, parts 2 and 3

Paul McCartney and band onstage

[Read Part 1, in which I experience Concert Ticket Drama and Kerfuffle.]

Part 2: Rock Show

After racing around deciding what to wear (and being thankful that I’d done laundry the night before instead of saving it for Sunday evening as I usually do), printing out my ticket, feeding the cats, getting cash for parking, and gassing up the car, I plugged the Bankers Life Fieldhouse address into my GPS (yes, I’ve lived 50 miles from downtown Indianapolis for many years, but I often get lost enough to make the GPS worthwhile) and was on my way. To my delight, the Indianapolis radio station I listen to most often, WTTS, was playing an hour and a half of Beatles and McCartney music for those of us on our way to the show. I turned it way up. Few things put me in my happy place more than singing along at the top of my lungs while driving to a show, and I was definitely in my very happy place by now.

I arrived at the arena well ahead of showtime, took a few minutes to ogle the shiny shiny tour buses parked outside, went in and found my seat. To my delight, although I was pretty far towards the back of the arena floor, I was dead center and just three rows in front of the soundboard – which guaranteed that I would get the best sound in the place. Sweet! Based on the seating diagram I’d seen on Ticketmaster, the original plan was that Section F on the floor would be split into left and right halves on either side of the soundboard, so my guess is that the board ended up requiring a little less floor space than anticipated and they were able to open up five rows in front of it at the last minute.

I chatted with the folks around me a bit, all of whom had similar last-minute ticket-buying stories. We were all pretty grateful to be there, I think! Finally the lights dimmed, and for the next half-hour we watched a sort of scrolling photo/video collage on the big screens on either side of the stage – beginning with pictures of Paul as a small child and continuing on with photos from the Beatles and Wings days, augmented with painting (if I’m not mistaken, done by McCartney himself). It was really nice, although to be honest I could have lived without most of the DJ’d cover versions of McCartney’s songs that accompanied it…

McCartney and band took the stage about 8:30 to absolutely thunderous applause. Bankers Life (formerly Conseco) Fieldhouse was sold out from the floor all the way up to the rafters, and the audience was into it from the get-go. He opened with “Eight Days a Week” and it could have been the Beatles in Shea Stadium for all the screaming in there. Pure, pure joy.

Musical highlights included:

Paul McCartney playing guitar

“Paperback Writer”

• All of the early Beatles songs – “Eight Days a Week,” “All My Loving,” “Paperback Writer” (using the guitar that was used for the original recording!), “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “We Can Work It Out,” “And I Love Her,” and later on in the encores “Day Tripper,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and of course “Yesterday” (sigh…!). These songs never get old, do they? God, just so brilliant.
• “The Long and Winding Road,” followed by “Maybe I’m Amazed” – two of my favorite McCartney songs, and I will admit that the room got awfully dusty there for a few minutes (sniffle). “Maybe I’m Amazed” seemed a particularly heartfelt performance of the song Paul noted he’d written for Linda.
• “Blackbird.” McCartney introduced this one by saying he’d written it in England with the intention of writing a song for the American civil rights movement. Less than 24 hours after the Zimmerman verdict, still feeling wrenched and heartsick, the song felt especially poignant to me. He played it solo on acoustic guitar, standing on a small platform that rose up as he played until he was standing high above the stage – a neat effect. One of my very favorite Beatles songs, both utterly timely and utterly timeless. I think this was my favorite moment of the show – and one of my favorite concert moments ever.
• That was followed by “Here Today,” which Paul said he’d written in memory of his friend John. “If you need to tell somebody something, do it now, because you never know when it will be too late,” he told us. Such a simple human thing, the sadness of losing a friend before you can say what you need to say – of course when you remember that the friend was John Lennon, and the absolute wrenching heartbreak of his murder and what the world lost, the grief is both personal and public. A lovely tribute to what must have been a complicated friendship.
• After that it was the fun and games section of the set (it really was a very well-constructed setlist overall): “Your Mother Should Know,” “Lady Madonna,” “All Together Now,” and “Lovely Rita.” So lighthearted, so much singing along!
• Another tribute to a lost friend: Paul got out a ukulele, and told us about hanging out with George Harrison and figuring out how to play one of George’s songs on the ukulele. The one he was playing tonight, he told us, had been given him by George himself. He began “Something” solo on said ukulele as images of George played on the giant screen; eventually the band came in for a really, really lovely version of one of my favorite songs of all time. (Sniffle. Again.)
• And there was “Let Me Roll It”! And “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five”! And “Eleanor Rigby” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Band on the Run”! So many highlights. You start to realize after a while just how many incredible songs this guy has written and it blows your mind, it does.
• “Back in the U.S.S.R.” was an absolutely killer performance that had me dancing my butt off. I loved the “FREE PUSSY RIOT” graphic that flashed on the screen for a few moments among all the other Soviet-inspired imagery – and the loud roar of approval it elicited from the audience. Go Paul!
• “Let It Be” was – as always and ever – a religious experience. Something about that song is so completely comforting to me. I know he’s played it a thousand million times, but to hear Paul McCartney singing this song in person is just … it’s something that will stay with me for a long long time.
• And then “Live and Let Die,” a song I’ve always loved, came complete with GIANT JETS OF FIRE and actual FIREWORKS inside the arena! It was just spectacular. You know, I’ve always said that good musical performances don’t need laser shows and pyrotechnics and what-not… but this was SO MUCH FUN. Holy cats, it was fun. Following that up with “Hey Jude,” which gets its own brand of pyrotechnics from the utterly epic audience sing-along… nearly twenty thousand people, every single one of us at the top of our lungs… epic, epic, epic.
• And the encores! Two encores, three songs each – “I Saw Her Standing There” was loose and such a great damn song and SO much fun. The second encore opened with Paul standing alone in the spotlight with an acoustic guitar, singing “Yesterday” – followed by an insanely loud, psychedelic-light-show rendition of “Helter Skelter.” An awkward segue? Maybe, but also brilliant; you realize at that moment that this man has written, not just dozens of the best songs ever written, but both “Yesterday” which is the simplest, purest pop ballad in the world AND “Helter Skelter” which is one of the most furious, manic, heaviest rock songs ever. I loved the contrast.
• And of course, he has to end with “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.” It’s the perfect ending to the show, and as Paul and band leave the stage we are showered with giant cannons full of red, white, and blue confetti. It’s perfect.

Paul McCartney at piano

“Maybe I’m Amazed”

38 songs. Over two and a half hours of music, by my calculation. (Here’s the complete setlist.) Some of the greatest songs ever written, performed very, very, very well by the excellent band that’s been touring with McCartney for many years. Paul himself has lost very little with age; all evening he kept doing little dances in between songs, grinning and pointing at the audience, clearly enjoying himself immensely. His voice is perhaps not as strong as it once was; at times he faltered slightly and at times he seemed to be singing with a certain carefulness. But that didn’t detract from the performance at all and in fact it made the music seem more precious in a way, just enough of a crack in the perfection to remind us all to cherish this experience while we can. Time eventually takes a toll on everyone – but for now, Paul McCartney is definitely still charming (dare I say, even downright adorable), still jaunty, and above all still rocking as hard as anybody out there.

A couple of other notes. I have read some complaints about the sound in the venue, and I would not be surprised if indeed it was bad up in the rafters – it’s almost impossible to get great sound in every part of an arena that size. From where I was sitting, three rows in front of the soundboard and dead center on the floor, the sound was absolutely pristine – resonant, crisp, and clear. I could understand every word spoken and sung, all of the instruments sounded great, and the volume was perfect (LOUD but not distorted).

The lighting and stage design were a wonder to behold. Like I said, I’m normally not one for a big light show or elaborate staging at a concert – the music should hold its own. Obviously, McCartney’s music needs no augmentation. But the way the lighting and staging were done, it was like we got a completely different stage every so often – the big screen behind the band was used in some incredibly creative ways, and the lighting set so many different moods. I felt like I’d been taken on a journey through a bunch of different places and times, and the lighting made the experience utterly immersive. It was incredibly creative and beautifully accomplished. If anybody knows who’s responsible, please do leave that information in the comments!

Finally, McCartney’s longtime band deserves a mention: Abe Laboriel (drums, percussion, vocals), Paul “Wix” Wickens (vocals, keyboards, guitar, percussion), Brian Ray (guitar, bass, vocals), and Rusty Anderson (guitar, vocals). All four of these guys knocked my socks off with their musicianship and versatility.

Part 3: I Have Seen the Future of Rock & Roll…

Lastly, just a little bit about the crowd. Totally sold-out show, so there was a little of everyone there. Lots of people my age (mid-fifties) and up. Lots of Beatles t-shirts. But also… LOTS of young folks, many there with their parents. I love that! To say the audience was enthusiastic would be a pretty humongous understatement. Everyone was on their feet, all the way up into the rafters, for most of the show; during the encore breaks I took a moment to look around me and saw a gorgeous glittering sea of cellphones being waved. Before the show, such a huge sense of anticipation and excitement. After the show, some of the biggest smiles I’ve seen in a very long time. It was a beautiful thing.

Red, white, and blue confetti in the air.

confetti!

The show ended with a giant blast of red, white, and blue confetti into the audience. Some of us (okay, ME) immediately became little kids and started reaching up into the air to catch the stuff, scooping up handfuls of it to save. I realized as I danced around catching confetti that the young lady a few seats down from me was doing the same thing. I’d noticed her before the show – probably about 14 years old, wearing a McCartney t-shirt, shorts, and Beatle boots, carrying a super cool bag designed from an actual record album and painted with Paul’s face on it. We grinned at each other as we scooped up confetti, and started chatting. Her eyes were shining and then she melted into tears, utterly overwhelmed by how much she loved the show. “It’s life-changing,” she said.

And that, friends, THAT made my already full heart just about burst with happiness and joy. To witness somebody her age falling head over heels in love with rock & roll, with the exuberance and celebration of a show like that – it just gave me a pile of hope that I have been needing, you know? I told her “when I was about your age, maybe a little bit older, I went to my first Springsteen show and it changed my life too.” I know she probably feels like a lot of her peers, the ones who listen to Justin Bieber and One Direction and Taylor Swift, don’t understand the diehard Beatles fan in their midst. I know she probably feels like she’s not quite like the other kids, sometimes. I hope that by telling her that I’d had the same experience, she realizes that she’s on a wonderful journey that will carry her through the rest of her life.

Can music change the world? I don’t know (okay, I do know, and the answer is yes, but we’ll accept that there’s room for argument here) – but I do know for sure, for absolute sure, that it can change a person. And that person can then change the world. All you need is love, and all that. It’s hard to hold on to that level of optimism sometimes, in the face of the really hard things that happen. But then you go to a concert, and one guy stands there alone in the spotlight singing a song he wrote more than half a lifetime ago, and everything somehow makes sense – love, and hope, and belief. And you go home and you go back to your regular life but that song stays with you forever, cradled inside where you can reach in when you need it and hold on to it a bit.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night…

Was that concert ticket worth all the drama and the kerfuffle and the number of dollars that no sane person with my salary would think of spending on one rock show?

Yes. Yes, in fact, it was.

Thank you, Paul McCartney. Thank you, young woman in Section F Row 2, whose name I never got. Thank you, rock and roll. Thank you.

Paul McCartney alone in spotlight playing acoustic guitar

“Yesterday”

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Movie reviewish: “Not Fade Away”

Caveat lector: This isn’t really a proper movie review. I don’t know much about movies, and wouldn’t begin to try to critique a film from an artistic standpoint – I think you have to really understand a genre in order to do that. For a good example of a proper film review, I liked Leonard Maltin’s. This is pretty much just my own personal reaction to the movie; very personal, as you will see by the end.

"Not Fade Away" movie posterGiven that David Chase’s coming-of-age film  “Not Fade Away” is basically a love letter to rock & roll, it won’t surprise anyone that I liked it. Okay, I think it had some issues with pacing – there are times when scenes blow by quickly and I wasn’t really sure whether I had maybe missed something. There were some subplots that were interesting but never got fleshed out – the bit about Grace‘s hippie sister, for example. I was disappointed that the female characters were generally pretty two-dimensional, especially Grace herself; she’s just the pretty but slightly confused girlfriend, and though she’s on screen a lot, we never really get to know what makes her tick. And while I loved the last three minutes or so, the final arc towards the ending (the L.A. part) seemed a little muddled and out-of-place to me.

But you know what, I still loved this movie. I loved it a lot. The soundtrack, as one would expect given the involvement of Steven Van Zandt, is absolutely killer. The Van Zandt original featured in the film, “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” is catchy as hell and just a great song. (You can read my review of the soundtrack album over at Blogness.)  The scenes where the band is learning to play are beautiful; the one where they’re working out “Bo Diddley” in particular made me want to run out of the theater and go start a band. There’s a hilarious cameo by Jay Weinberg (son of E Street drummer Max Weinberg, and until recently the drummer for punk band Against Me) as a drummer entirely ill-suited for the band he’s playing with; for the benefit of those who get it I will mutter here “No junior Ginger Bakers.” The acting is generally very good, especially leading man John Magaro, of whom I bet we will be seeing a lot more, as well as Meg Guzulescu who plays his sister – a tiny role, but she really shines. Anyone who grew up in the sixties will appreciate the attention to authenticity and detail throughout the film; it felt absolutely real. And I dare you not to walk out of the theater humming and/or dancing.

But mostly, and this really isn’t that much of a spoiler, I love that “Not Fade Away” isn’t a success story. It would have been easy to make a movie about a band that makes it big, or for that matter about one that crashes & burns dramatically. But as the lead character’s younger sister says at the beginning of the movie, this band is like most bands – you never heard of them. Does this mean this is a film about failure? No. The message of the film, to me, is that following your dream and doing what you love is not wasted time, regardless of whether you find “success” or “failure” or something in between. More specifically, the movie posits rock & roll as something worth pursuing and holding on to and in fact as the greatest thing American culture has produced.*  You can argue about that latter point, but you can’t argue that the movie and its characters come most alive when they are playing or listening to the music they love. And that has nothing to do with recording contracts, commercial success, or anything else.

As the daughter of a musician who made a modest (very modest) living for a while playing in your basic hotel-lounge cover band, and as someone who took guitar lessons for a while and came close enough to not sucking at it to have some pretty daydreams, I have a complicated relationship with the idea of musical “success.” When you spend hours and hours practicing your craft and you never have the kind of success you daydream about, have you wasted all that time and effort?

I think about that a lot, actually. When my dad got a “real job” teaching psychology at a university and moved us to Indiana, he pretty much stopped playing music. He probably could have found some guys to play with on weekends for fun. But having been good enough to play professionally, I think he recognized that no longer practicing regularly meant that his chops deteriorated quickly, and I think it was hard for him to enjoy playing if he didn’t have the facility with it that he used to have. So he stopped. Like him, I have enough of an ear to hear that when I pick up the guitar to bash around on it now, I kind of suck. I was never a professional-level musician but I was coffeehouse-level good once, and now I can’t even play that well. It’s hard for me to do things just for kicks, without wanting to be good at them. And so, mostly, I don’t play.

And what “Not Fade Away” tells me is, fuck that shit, just play. If it makes you feel alive, it doesn’t much matter if you suck or if you’re good enough to get a record contract. Being good enough to get a contract doesn’t mean you’re going to end up famous anyway. Like all those other bands you’ve never heard of, you probably won’t. You may find yourself in a strange city living a life entirely different from the life you were dreaming of, but on some street corner you might hear music and remember what it feels like to be alive again. And that, this movie says, that is what matters.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have a guitar that needs my attention now. Rock on.

___________________

*At the very end of the movie Evelyn, younger sister of main character Douglas, turns to the camera and says “I had to write a term paper, and I wrote about how America has given the world two inventions of enormous power. One is nuclear weapons. The other is rock & roll. Which one is going to win out in the end?” The question is left verbally unanswered, but Evelyn begins dancing in the middle of the deserted street, a graceful little go-go sequence that celebrates youth, rock & roll, and life itself. I would argue that her dancing answers the question pretty definitively. Rock & roll wins out – if we let it.

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My Lotus Festival

Picture of tent venue at the Lotus Festival

Lotus Tent (exterior view)

I love Bloomington’s annual Lotus World Music & Arts Festival. More than just a music festival, it’s a celebration of the common ground to which music can bring us – across languages, cultures, all manner of divides both geographical and sociological. One of the things I love most about it is that you can have pretty much whatever sort of musical experience you want to have. If you feel like dancing your butt off in a tightly packed crowd (or to stand in back where there’s plenty of elbow room and enjoy watching said tightly packed crowd), you can usually find that in one of the outdoor tents. If you feel like sitting quietly and contemplating something softly acoustic, head for one of the churches. If you want a formal stage and a comfortable seat, go to the Buskirk-Chumley. If you’re in one venue and you find it’s not entirely your cup of tea, or if you’re enjoying it just fine but there’s also another performer you were curious about, it’s perfectly OK to duck out between songs and move from venue to venue. And on Saturday afternoon, you can spread out your blanket in the park and enjoy several different performers along with families, kids, dogs, picnics, and tents housing all kinds of fun crafts activities for the families and kids (not so much for the dogs).

So I don’t think it’s possible to “review the Lotus Festival” – everyone who attends has a slightly different experience with this kaleidoscope of music and culture. This year was apparently my year to enjoy the crowded tents and the loudly rocking music, as all of my highlights fall into that category. Here’s a bit about the performers I especially enjoyed – and I know I missed some other great ones (Fishtank Ensemble, Movits!, Fatoumata Diawara, and Vida are all performers I wanted to see but didn’t get to).

Taj Weekes & Adowa – Hailing from St. Lucia, Weekes brought the sound of the islands to a Lotus tent as Friday evening began. I sometimes forget how much I enjoy reggae, and really enjoyed the band’s mellow groove.

Hanggai performing at the Lotus Festival

Hanggai

Hanggai – I saw these guys the last time they played Lotus and enjoyed them, so made a point of catching their set on Friday night. This Beijing-based group combines Western rock instruments (guitar, bass, drums) and energy with traditional Mongolian instruments and throat-singing, sometimes using Mongolian folk songs. The lead singer definitely has a rock-singer attitude, and although I don’t understand a word of Mongolian, I can understand Hanggai’s music just fine. The music is multi-textured, with drums and electric guitars creating a base for the traditional Mongolian stringed instruments, and the use of throat-singing (you know, that guttural drone you associate with monks or something) adds a really cool dimension. The set picked up intensity as it went on, and when a storm started to roll in and lightning began to flash through the translucent roof panels of the tent, it was pretty much the most heavy-metal moment I’ve experienced at a show in recent years. Utterly exhilarating.

MC Rai – A native of Tunisia, this San Francisco resident blends Algerian Rai music with a Western hip-hop groove to create a blend that is upbeat, socially conscious, and very, very danceable. The foundation of his band rests on a drummer and bass player who both look like refugees from a Led Zeppelin tribute band but played with funk and verve, the bass player bouncing and pogoing with joyful abandon much of the time. MC Rai himself is a superb frontman, reaching out and making a strong connection with the audience. I saw everyone from teenage kids to middle-aged Hoosiers dancing, rocking out, and having a great time. I caught this charismatic performer when he was last at Lotus in 2007 and bought his CD “Raivolution” at that time – it’s pretty great.

Delhi 2 Dublin – This was a wild-card choice for me. I kind of wanted to see Movits!, but I saw them last year and while I knew they were a lot of fun, I was curious about the Indian-Irish mashup of this Vancouver-based band. Plus, they were performing in the tent nearest the parking garage where I’d left the car, and I was feeling a little tired and thought I might leave early and would appreciate the proximity. Well, no, I did not leave early, not at all. Delhi 2 Dublin knocked my socks off! Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve been rocked by a fiery duel between a kilt-wearing Korean dude playing the electric sitar and a phenomenally energetic blonde Irishwoman playing the fiddle, supported by Bhangra percussion and a dynamic lead vocalist named Sanjay. The Celtic-Indian mashup sounds like it would be awkward, but trust me, it’s fantastic – and just goes to show you that music really is a common language, wherever it originates. Plus, I’m partial to musicians who look like they’re having a great time, and these guys were absolutely radiant as they performed, like they almost couldn’t stand how much fun they were having. Maybe they were having as much fun as the audience was – I know we were having a blast and dancing our butts off! This band was definitely my “Lotus discovery” this year and I hope I get another chance to hear them sometime. Their performance was transcendent and honestly, there is no reason why they couldn’t make it as big as, say, Arcade Fire (whose energy they reminded me of, for no reason I can put my finger on) – their music and performance has a wide appeal and I can’t imagine going to one of their shows and not falling in love with them.

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Richard Thompson in Bloomington

photo of Richard Thompson

photo by Paul Sandy, from Richard Thompson – RT (Facebook)

Bloomington, Indiana isn’t a big city. It isn’t Chicago, or New York, or even St. Louis. So often, when a major musical act announces tourdates, I look at them and sigh because there isn’t even one within 200 miles of me. But … we do get some great stuff nonetheless. And in some ways, we’re even luckier than those big-city folks. Because we don’t have the huge variety to choose from, those of us who have broad taste in music often find ourselves going to concerts by people we might have passed up if we’d had other choices or if we’d been jaded about how many shows were available to us – and those shows are often phenomenally good. (I’m thinking of performers like Janelle Monae, whose show I bought a ticket for in an “aw what the heck why not” moment and who blew my socks off.) And there’s something – there’s a whole lot of something – to be said for seeing a world-class artist in a relatively intimate venue with great sound, with free parking within two blocks of the venue, and a ten-minute drive (if all the stoplights are red and you have to pull over for an ambulance along the way) from home. And that was the kind of show I had tonight.

Richard Thompson has performed in Bloomington many times, going back some thirty years when he played at Second Story (a great, though hardly luxurious, live music venue & bar so named because it was on the second floor of the old Moose Lodge; the first floor was taken up by Bullwinkle’s, a gay bar whose disco music would come thumping through the floor during set breaks and sometimes during quiet songs) very early in his first American tour. I didn’t go to that now-legendary show – in fact I don’t think I was twenty-one yet, so I wouldn’t have been able to get in (you will say that shouldn’t have stopped me, and I will point out that I have always been perhaps too much of a law-abiding citizen for my own good)  – and for whatever reason, though I’ve long been aware of Richard Thompson as one of the great guitarists & songwriters of our time, I’ve just never made it to any of his Bloomington shows.

One thing about having incredibly broad taste in music is that there are a lot – a LOT – of artists I’m somewhat familiar with, and appreciate, but have never taken the time to dive in and become a serious fan of. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that there is so freaking much great music out there that it is just impossible to listen to it all. (Well, not and keep my day job.) Sometimes I get the opportunity to catch one of these folks when they come through town, and I actually kind of enjoy being the casual (but appreciative!) fan in the midst of the serious followers, especially since I know what it’s like to be one of the serious followers. I had that experience at a John Prine show a couple of years ago – I had a really good seat and think most of the people around me had travelled to see the show – and that was the case again tonight when I saw Richard Thompson at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in Bloomington.

I know a few of Thompson’s songs, and I knew to expect some crazy amazing guitar virtuosity. It was billed as a solo acoustic show, which indeed it was – in fact, he didn’t even swap out guitars, just tuned and retuned the same one for every song. (He did have a few effects boxes though he didn’t seem to fiddle with them much.) One guy and one guitar, creating a wall of sound to rival most bands.

Guitar virtuosity, oh yeah, the guy has got it. But for the most part he doesn’t play just to show off. Like all the greatest musicians (and Jimi Hendrix comes to mind here, since we’re talking guitarists), he gives each song what it needs, whether that means laying back and allowing silence to surround each note, or just playing simple chords while letting the lyrics do the heavy lifting, or playing something so complex, so blindingly fast, and so utterly clean that I can’t quite figure out what hit me.

He’s also funny (early in the show he said something like “This song is from my next album, and so were the first two that I played. The rest of the album is crap.”) and did I mention the brilliant songwriting? What struck me, even though I’m a word person (and his lyrics are great), was the musical brilliance – really cool chords and complex musical structures that went to unexpected places, didn’t always resolve in predictable ways, but were so evocative and fresh. (I have friends – hi, Dave – that are musically far geekier than I and could explain what that’s all about in very technical terms. But this is my review, so you’re stuck with things like “cool chords.” Deal with it.)

I think “Valerie” was the first song that made me feel like I might get blisters on my fingers just from watching him play. “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” was also a real showcase for him and perhaps the biggest crowd-pleaser. “Wall of Death” might have been my favorite; I’ve always loved that song and recall hearing Shawn Colvin do a very good cover of it way back when. But in some ways the emotional heart of the show rested in a lovely and loving rendition of the Fairport Convention classic (named by the BBC as the best folk song ever) “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.” It’s one of those songs that, after so many years, has gathered layers of memory and meaning around it – and yet it still sounds fresh. Really a beautiful moment in the concert. And it reminded me that, like Springsteen, Thompson is one of those rare artists who can put together a setlist drawn from three or four decades of music – all of it very much alive and relevant, including the very old and the very new.

Thompson took two encores, buoyed by a very enthusiastic audience (Bloomington has a lot of RT fans!) – and closed the show by playing “The Weight” as a celebratory singalong, dedicating it afterwards to Levon. I was reminded that about a year ago, in the same theater, I heard Mavis Staples and her band performing the heck out of that same song – an equally great, though very different, performance. I walked out of the theater feeling lucky, lucky, lucky to live in a town where we get enough great musical performances to keep us happy, but not so many that we forget to appreciate the magic when it happens.

And now I clearly have got to listen to some more Richard Thompson. So I will happily accept album recommendations in the comments – his catalog is a little overwhelming, to say the least!

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Quick link

The iconic Wrigley Field sign with Springsteen show announcement on it

Yeah, so things got hectic all of a sudden… I swear I’m going to keep this blog up better than I did the old one.

I’m out of town for a bit, so will probably have a longer post in the next few days. Meanwhile, I wanted to share a link. I went to two Springsteen shows at Wrigley Field over the weekend, and had the BEST time – and wrote a post for Blogness on the Edge of Town about my experience. It goes way beyond just a concert, way beyond entertainment. I think I have even more to say about it, actually – Springsteen shows apparently make me HAVE ALL THE FEELINGS and want to WRITE ALL THE WORDS – but since it’s late and I have to get up in the morning, you can go read my review on Blogness. (Feel free to comment there, or here.)

I guess it’s not even so much a review as an appreciation. Which is good, because Tom Morello himself tweeted a link to it and called it “lovely” – serious critics shouldn’t care what the subject of their review might think, and I have to say it completely, totally made my day to get a compliment from Tom Morello. (He was one of the guest performers at the Springsteen shows, Eddie Vedder being the other. Read the review, appreciation, thinger, whatever if you want the details.) And to anyone who wonders why I love Twitter, that right there would be one of the reasons – something like that would NEVER have happened without that particular tool.

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