Wednesday, April 27, 2016

rejoice to the skies

Spring is here, and with it comes an uptick in touring. Personally, I'm not taking full advantage of the concert schedule, but the Big Star's Third reprise was notable enough to warrant a night out.

Big Star's Third, the Fillmore, April 24, 2016Big Star's Third, the Fillmore, April 24, 2016: Fun fact: After you hear "Thirteen," it's impossible to not sing it to yourself for the next few days. It's science!

Truth be told, I might not have ventured out if Paul hadn't come to town for the show, but it doesn't take a lot to convince me to hear pretty voices and awesome musicians play songs by Big Star. The early question was why the band had come back together. They had put together a couple of shows last fall, and it's not like the setlist was going to change much, nor had many new faces joined the roster. The answer became clearer when the L.A. date was announced. This would be the dress rehearsal, albeit without a couple of big names.

About those names: Many of the usual suspects returned, including Chris Stamey and Jody Stephens (of course). Much of the same crew returned from last fall's appearance, Mike Mills, Pat Sansone, Chuck Prophet, and the Kronos Quartet among them. A new face (or at least one I don't remember) was Mitch Easter. REM fans can probably wax much poetic about him than I can, but it's no exaggeration to say his hair alone enjoyed '80s indie rock icon status. Though he looks nothing like that these days, he can still play the guitar -- and he was the only person onstage to sport anything close to formal wear.

I caught only the set at Hardly Strictly last year, so I don't know what the normal show is like, but more experienced ears tell me the ensemble reversed the usual order of events. Instead of going into the advertised record, they began with the one-off tunes -- not that I can tell you the setlist for either night. But let's say Pat Sansone helped kick off the proceedings, and what do you know? He made his way to a solo song for the encore too.

In between, we got all the expected tracks and some new tunes sung by new voices. Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo was one of the new additions, and they eventually convinced Georgia Hubley to join them. I don't even remember what they sang, except Ira picked up the hair dryer for one song. Speaking of sound effects, Mike Mills took care of the basketball again.

Big Star's Third, the Fillmore, April 24, 2016

Now that we weren't in the middle of a field, the finer details came through. Jody, a true gentleman, exuded Southern charm, and Mitch Easter was second only to Chris Stamey as an all-purpose player. Th Kronos Quartet might've benefited the most from this proper setting -- that is, their contributions rung out, which I kind of missed at the Arrow Stage. Strangely, Chuck Prophet wasn't much of a presence until the very end, when he finally stepped up the main mic. Oh, and we did quite well on not biting on the fake ending of "Holocaust." (Full disclosure: We were warned.)

But the constants stayed strong, notably "Thirteen" and "Thank You Friends," but it would take a ton of questionable decisions and a deficit of talent to detract from those songs. The encores felt somewhat ramshackle, and in fact, the whole show was endearingly ragged. We imagine they'll edit out the pauses for the final release. Maybe someday they'll realize they already have the perfect closer in "Thank You Friends" and mix up the rest of the song order to lead down that path. Regardless of the final setlist, the songs remain among the all-time classics, and that alone is good reason to listen to these players. I wanna thank you again!

See also:
» i'm so grateful

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