Thursday, November 24, 2011

don't look back

Here's to childhood friends, especially those who remain dear and beloved, such as my oldest pal, who extended the invite (and late birthday present) to Noel Gallagher's show at the Orpheum Theatre. I'd been dragging my feet on this gig, due to my venue snobbery, but in actuality, I'd been scoping out available seats just the week before. I had no problem deciding when the offer came through.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, the Orpheum, November 19, 2011: For the last seven years, I've attempted to document all the gigs I've attended, but alas, 20-ish years of concerts will never be covered, at least in this form, and huge tracts of my music collection remain unremarked. In most cases, this is for the better, but as a fangirl, I wish I could crow about some of these past obsessions. Finally, I get to gush over Oasis or, more specifically, Noel Gallagher.

Noel Gallagher, the Orpheum, 11-19-11

Long story short: I loved Oasis, though on paper, they're nothing like the artists I typically follow. But dammit, they turned my world upside down for several years. I was swept up, I was obsessed, and my reaction was entirely visceral. Lyrics? Who cares! Plagiarism? Shrug. I don't really like rock music, but Oasis unapologetically rocked. And because they were conventionally popular, you could hear them randomly on the radio, see them on MTV, and most important, join in thunderous, all-encompassing sing-alongs, sometimes with people you knew.

Of course, Oasis has since broken up, supposedly for real. I'm not interested in declaring one half better than the other, and I couldn't isolate one element of the band as the standout. However, I always have a soft spot for whoever writes the words, which brings us to Noel Gallagher. He's hilarious, he's underrated as a singer -- and I empathize with him as the oldest sibling.

Like many U.K. acts, Noel brought an oversized set Stateside, with a huge lighted backdrop displaying images and the band name. They also brought a light show more suited for Wembley than for a more modest theater setting, but I welcomed the effort. As a further departure from the Oasis shows I saw many years ago, Noel actually talked, cracking jokes with specific audience members, as well as the crowd in general. The audience responded with football (not the U.S. kind) chants, impossible requests, and of course, declarations of love, mostly from dudes.

Unsurprisingly, Noel and the band hit most of the new record, including the epic "If I Had a Gun" and the surprisingly compelling "What a Life," even if I flashed back to 1996 for a few seconds. Noel also threw in an unreleased song from an album he said would be out in 18 months -- or maybe next year? Stay tuned.

Look, I admit it: I wanted to know which Oasis songs he'd pull out, and he didn't disappoint in the least. In fact, he paid back every committed fan's devotion, with a healthy sampling of album cuts, B-sides, and even a hit or two. It quickly became clear that Noel favored the tunes on which he did the vocals -- thus, no "Live Forever," for example. But if anyone has the right to sing "Wonderwall," he certainly does, and I'd have to dig deep into the archives to confirm whether I've heard Noel take on the acoustic "Supersonic" before. As a dorky fan, I also noticed that Noel dialed it down for the two aforementioned songs, while the typically acoustic "Talk Tonight" -- a treat under any circumstances! -- got the full electric band accompaniment. (I said I loved them!)

I could go on for a while with requests I don't expect Noel to ever perform ("Sunday Morning Call," pretty please?). Also, why no Be Here Now? I don't care what anyone says -- there are some great tunes on that record. Anyway, I'll also extend kudos for the inclusion of both "Whatever" B-sides, as well as tracks from the often ignored later-era Oasis.

If you've paid any attention to Oasis over the years, you can guess how they closed the show. "Don't Look Back in Anger" rang out across the aisles, accompanied by a room full of voices -- the way it should be heard.

Noel Gallagher, the Orpheum, 11-19-11

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

throwing sparks into a starless sky

The least interesting thing you can ask me is how many times I've seen a band or a musician. I stopped counting a long time ago, but I also know numbers don't tell the whole story. Though this blog makes my obsessions abundantly clear, there are certain bands I love that will never show up in these posts, while others are woefully underrepresented. It's always a kind of a homecoming to write about the latter group, even if it means I've been an idiot to ignore them for as long I have. Crooked Fingers' show at the Mercury Lounge once more proved me a fool, a lesson for which I'm grateful.

Crooked Fingers, Mercury Lounge, November 4, 2011: Good lord, has it been six years since I last saw Crooked Fingers? I've liked the band ever since I first saw them (actually, Eric Bachmann solo) opening for Wilco in 2002, and I've attended a decent number of their shows since then. Of course, the Archers of Loaf reunion took some time, but I have to admit I've fallen behind on the band's recent work. Thus, I'm far from the best authority to report on this show -- but I'm going to do it anyway.

Crooked Fingers, Mercury Lounge, 11-04-11

As a wayward fan, I appreciated the old stuff more and was happy to hear the inclusion of such songs as "Crowned in Chrome" and "New Drink for the Old Drunk." Eric shot down a request for "Sweet Maria" on account of all the cussing, but "Angelina" was a worthy substitution. An oldie furnished one of the loveliest moments of the night: a duet between Eric and singer/multi-instrumentalist Liz Durrett on "Sleep All Summer." She stepped up to the mic several other times during the show, lending her Beth Orton-like vocals to fresh and classic tracks, even if it led Eric to comment that they shouldn't let him sing while Liz is around.

Since I can't tell you which new titles they played, I'll instead comment on more obvious elements, such as the fact that this four-piece formation was, in a word, rocking. As soon as the bass kicked in, I immediately thought this may have been the fullest sound I've heard from the band, though I reserve the right to change my mind upon the event of my next Crooked Fingers gig. Right or wrong, I think of Crooked Fingers as a folk/songwriter outfit, but with the addition of two keyboards, they pulled off at least a couple of big, pop-sounding songs.

I'm absolutely positive I'll see Crooked Fingers again soon enough -- at least, before another six years have passed. But if this turns out to be their last concert appearance I catch, I won't be disappointed. For one thing, this intimate venue, a devoted crowd, and an amenable band made for a perfect combination. My favorite exchange of banter for the night started when a guy in the crowd yelled out that he loved the old stuff. A woman, apparently on her own accord, shot back that the new stuff is good too. Eric, meanwhile, heard it as something else altogether, jokingly taking the artist's view that none of it was good enough.

Crooked Fingers, Mercury Lounge, 11-04-11

Chatter aside, it came back to the tunes, which is my preference anyway. For the encore, Eric and Liz returned to the stage for "Your Control" unplugged, a musician trick I eat up every time. The full band then closed out with "Typhoon," a song as epic as its title suggests. Liz even broke a string while playing, if that gives you an idea of its intensity.

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» you may be sweet talking, daddy