Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina Anniversary

Talk about a picture being worth a thousand words. Slate has a page which displays cartoons from various publications centered on a topical issue. This is best commentary I have seen on Hurricane Katrina all day.
Bob Dylan’s new gorgeous sounding album, "Modern Times" is out today. I like it on first listen, especially the production, which Dylan produced under his nom du guerre, Jack Frost. This is interesting given his comments on how bad the production is on modern albums. A few more spins are needed before final opinion is rendered. This is a good sign. If I love something immediately, I usually get sick of it before too long.
Speaking of topical: Broken levee's and the like are a common theme in American music. Bob has a few things to say on this subject on the tenth cut on the album. "The Levee's gonna break"

"If it keep on rainin' the levee gonna break
If it keep on rainin' the levee gonna break
everybody is saying this a day
only the Lord could make"

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

World Party

I am rarely totally disappointed by a live show by a well known band. On the other hand, I'm rarely truly blown away either. The best bands are often so choreographed that they repeat the same routine night after night. If you have ever seen Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd or U2, you know that this is great entertainment, and often heartfelt, but on big multi-million dollar tours, they can't afford to have things go wrong so there IS a lot of choreography, and, (gasp), some backing tracks. U2, in particular, seem to have gone down this road in an attempt to recreate the sound of their recent albums. I don’t disapprove - they were fantastic when I saw them in Portland, but backing tracks force the band to keep to a certain routine. On big stages, if a band isn't fully together, what would be endearing and human in a small venue, just seems messy. But, it can come off a little antiseptic at times. My favorite shows are in small and medium sized venues. Like I have written before, the Fillmore is my favorite place to see music. However, the cozy Great American Music Hall in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district is a very close second, and on a good night, provides the intimacy that you don't get in a bigger place. It's also the most gorgeous venue I have ever been in, a perfectly preserved Victorian music hall, catering to a few hundred people. Ten days ago I witnessed one of those rare shows when a band hits that all-too- seldom, joyous combination of well rehearsed but loose, soulful but serious, complete with a large dollop of humour.
Karl Wallinger of World Party, is one of rock music's greatest talents, and like many real talents, the music biz has never really known what to do with him. He had quite a bit of UK success back in the early 90's with the excellent "Goodbye Jumbo" and "Bang." Then Wallinger hit a streak of bad luck. The next (quite good), "Egyptology" stiffed, although the song "She’s The One" was a massive hit for Robbie Williams. It was produced by ex-members of Wallinger's band and is almost identical to Wallinger's original. He lost his record contract and then he suffered an aneurism. After a long rehab, he is back on the road, and man is he good. This is a guy given a second lease on life. I can count on one hand the number of times a gig has transported me to somewhere else, and this was one. If you get a chance check them out. I can't wait to hear what he does next.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My cousin, the runner

When I was a kid, my mother would periodically bemoan her offspring’s lack of serious sporting talent. We were all pretty sporty, but none of us had professional-level talent. This was usually preceded by her reading aloud from the newspaper about so and so sports person making X million quid for kicking a ball/whacking a golf ball/wielding a tennis racket, etc. What she didn't realise was that there was sporting talent in our genes. Or more specifically, her genes. My mother’s side of the family has produced two great sports men. My cousin, Damien Reale, plays hurling for Limerick, and another cousin, Liam Reale, is a professional runner. Yesterday, at the tender age of 22, he came 8th in the final of the 1,500 meters at the European Championships in Sweden. This was his first major championship race - and what a phenomenal achievement. Liam is 15 years younger than me so we don't really know each other. He was only eight when I moved to the U.S., and anyhow, I had left Limerick years before. We met at my sisters' wedding in 2003, and we talked about his future plans. He was just finishing up college and was debating if a full time athletic career was worth the dedication and effort. I haven't seen him since, but it looks like he made the right decision. Well done Liam!