Monday, May 28, 2012


photo credit: Maria Ives 

It’s no secret to No Expiration readers that I’m a huge Jack White fan:  a couple of years ago, I named him No Expiration’s Best Artist Of The 00’s. I’m a fan of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, I dug last year’s Rome project, and I enjoy a lot of the 45s he puts out on Third Man Records

So this week’s show at Roseland was pretty cool: for the first time, he performed songs spanning all three of his bands.  It’s a solo tour, but on this tour, he has two bands: an all-guy group called Los Buzzardos, and an all-female group called The Peacocks.  Each day, he uses one band.  Our night was Los Buzzardos. 

A colleague who was also at the show said that Jack White is becoming the kind of artist who makes his fans “work for it.” And my friend and radio host Larry Flick says that Jack is probably surrounded by people who are probably afraid to tell the guy “no.” Both of them are probably right.  He’s very self-indulgent and also very ambitious.

And when an artist is ambitious, you can either go with him (or her) for the ride or not.  I’m all aboard.  I dug Monday night’s concert at Roseland.  He opened with one of his best songs, The White Stripes’ “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground.”  It turns out that it takes like five guys to replace the power of Meg White, but I felt that the song (and all of the renditions of White Stripes songs) really worked.  Later in the show they played “Ball & Biscuit” and I dug that also.

A lot of the show centered around Jack’s great solo debut, Blunderbuss. “Missing Pieces,” the opening track on the album followed “Dead Leaves.”  I think it’s one of the best songs on the album, and it was definitely rockin’ live.  “Sixteen Saltines,” “Hypocritical Kiss,” “Blunderbuss” and especially “Dead At 21” really worked for me as well. 

I loved that he played some of his one-offs, like Rome’s “Two Against One.” Also the song he did from last year’s The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams collection, “You Know That I Know.”

The songs by The Raconteurs and Dead Weather didn’t work as much for me, and I love both bands.  On “Steady As She Goes” I missed Brendan Benson’s vocals countering Jack’s (that said, I loved “Top Yourself”).  Ditto for “I Cut Like A Buffalo,” because as much as I like Jack, it’s hard not to miss Allison Mosshart’s vocals on that one.  So, even though The White Stripes are history, I hope Jack continues to work with his other bands. I think that they both have real chemistry and and identities.

The opening group was one of the most buzzed about – if not the most buzzed about  -- new band of the year, Alabama Shakes.  I’ve known about them for a while:  Pattersoon Hood name dropped them a lot last year, since they opened for The Drive-By Truckers.  They seem so far from what a “buzz band” usually is, they are very soulful and southern rock, and not very twee or fey or indie. Their singer, Brittany Howard has an incredible voice, and the group really rocks.  I don’t think they have the most distinct songs – but then again, maybe I just need to spend  more time with their album.  I think they have potential to be great, and I’m glad they’re getting the attention that they’re getting.


photo credit: Maria Ives 

You can’t call Brad a “side-project” anymore, they’ve been around for almost 20 years.  They’re a band… a funky band and a great one. Singer/multi-instrumentalist Shawn Smith, drummer Regan Hagar and guitarist Stone Gossard have been together for a long time, and they play like it (even though there are sometimes long breaks between albums).  They now feature bassist Keith Lowe and are often accompanied by multi-instrumentalist/singer Happy Chichester

When Brad first came out, Pearl Jam were the biggest, hottest band in the world, and I guess it was annoying to Stone and the other guys that people were showing up to their gigs hoping to hear Pearl Jam. That has, thankfully, faded.  And maintaining that they are their own thing has definitely paid off.  While Shawn Smith is the focal point of the group (he’s one of the greatest singers around), people go to see the band.  Everyone has their favorite songs, and favorite periods. I know: they skipped some of my favorite tunes! 

They opened with “Waters Deep,” a song that they gave away for free on their website, and went into a set that drew from their five album catalog.  For me, the highlight was “Every Whisper,” from their last album, Best Friends? (I wish they’d played “Bless Me Father” from that album as well, but I was lucky enough to film them performing it a few years ago). Two other highlights were their most rocking songs from their second album, Interiors, “Secret Girl” and “Sweet Al George.”

Photo Credit: Maria Ives 
But their most popular album is still their debut, Shame (indeed, when I posted to my Facebook page that I was at a Brad show, a friend immediately commented that Shame is one of her favorite albums ever).  I was totally stoked that they drew heavily from it towards the end of the show, playing “20th Century,” “Buttercup” and “Screen.”

There were some great covers also: Shawn sat at the keyboard by himself for a solo segment, where he played Mother Love Bone’s “Crown Of Thorns,” and Prince’s “Purple Rain.”*  That was incredible, and a good reminder that Shawn has his own solo career, which is worth following as well.   As a band, they performed Neil Young’s amazing “Don’t Cry” (from his Freedom album).

photo credit: Maria Ives 
I don’t know what it takes to keep Brad on the road. I'm sure there's lots of scheduling issues involved, and I know it's not cheap to get them out there.  I know last time they toured they got a break when Band Of Horses offered them an opening spot (I’d have to think that they’d blow them away nightly). So, here’s hoping they get the break they need, because twenty years in, more people need to see this incredible band. I know they're reissuing their catalog this year, so it's the perfect time for people who have been missing out to get into this band.  Trust me, you'll dig it! 

*In a funny sidenote, I once filmed an interview with champion surfer Kelly Slater guest DJ-ing on Pearl Jam Radio, where he described going to see Brad and Shawn performing “ a couple of Prince songs.”   I tweeted the video once, and Shawn tweeted back at me that he only played one – “Purple Rain” – but he was flattered that Slater thought the rest of the songs were by Prince.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012


photo credit: Maria Ives 
I reviewed this show already for my day job at CBS Local, but I wanted to share a more personal version here.

Willie Nelson is timeless.  I rated him as one of the best artists of the '00s a few years ago. That's actually one of my only issues with seeing Willie live:  he mostly ignores his recent material.  I guess that some of his albums are so stylized it would be tough to reproduce, like 2009's collaboration with Asleep At The Wheel, Willie & The Wheel. But last year's Country Music was one of my favorites of the year, and I think he could have definitely played some of those songs. He did play two songs from the past few years, both songs I really like: "Superman" and "Beer For My Horses" (the latter written by Toby Keith).  I was glad that he played some stuff from his new album Heroes (I'll review that soon as well, hopefully). "Roll Me Up" was a lot of fun: the studio version features Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson, but it was just as much fun solo. He also played his version of "A Horse Called Music" from the new album (a song he's recorded before). The version on the new album features the great Merle Haggard, but it was fine without him.

I did wish that Willie's son, Lukas Nelson, was there though:  he's such an important part of the new album, I figured they might have done more new songs if was there. I would have loved to hear their cover of Pearl Jam's "Just Breathe" (my former colleagues at SiriusXM shot a cool video of Willie and Lukas performing the song).

Of course, none of this is to say that the old songs weren't amazing.  Willie tends to barrel through his old songs in concert, and I kind of wish he'd slow down a bit.  But still, he has a lot of songs to play.  I'll never get tired of seeing Willie perform "Still Is Still Moving To Me," "Me and Paul," "On The Road Again," Crazy," "Funny How Time Slips Away" and "Always On My Mind." I wonder if *he* gets tired of them. He sure didn't look tired of them at this show.  And his guitar playing is awesome.  He is such a unique guitarist, I love listening to him play. His band, of course, was incredible: sister Bobbie Nelson plays piano, Mickey Raphael plays harmonica, and there's a bass player and a drummer  who plays a single snare.

I'm so glad that Willie is still touring, and if you have the chance, do yourself a favor and catch him in concert.  He's not just an American treasure, he's also gives everyone a damn good time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Photo Credit: Brian Ives (really!)
Well, its hard for me to be objective about Les Claypool and Primus.  He's one of my favorite musicians, and I named him one of the best artists of the '00s. I saw them for the first time in nearly two years Saturday night at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, New York (great venue by the way) and they were awesome.

I've seen Primus a number of times, and they've had their ups and downs.  I honestly think the current lineup - with Les, perennial guitarist Larry "Ler" LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane - is their best one yet. Jay was an early member of the band, but left the band before they really recorded anything.  For years, he played with Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead in Ratdog... and later in Further, which features Weir and Phil Lesh.

I saw Primus with Jay for the first time in the summer of 2010, a few months after he replaced Tim "Herb" Alexander. I thought they were great, and I love their latest album, the first with the current lineup, Green Naugahyde.

For years, Primus have been moving towards the jam band world and they are pretty much a part of it.  The musicians in Primus (all of them who have cycled through the trio over the years) are incredible musicians and fully able of improvisation.  But the years Lane spent with Bob Weir made him a sort of black belt in improvising, and it's made Primus a stronger band.  Not that they meander like (I feel) many jam bands do.  But they are better than ever at stretching their songs in different directions live.  I think that's crucial for them.  Les isn't the kind of artist to play the same songs the same way every night. And the ability to jam hasn't come at the cost of any of their power: they could tour with Rage or Sabbath or Soundgarden or Rush tomorrow, they haven't become a hacky-sack group.

As I mentioned, I really dig their latest album Green Naugahyde, and I was glad to hear a lot of songs from it live. "Last Salmon Man" was powerful, so was "Jilly's On Smack" and "Eternal Consumption Engine." "Eyes Of The Squirrel" was like a Floydian jam, and "Moron TV" was powerful also.  They also played lesser known songs like "Over The Falls" and "Southbound Pachyderm."

I think the fact that they play so much new material, and lesser known stuff - and by the way, the audience is 100% with them - that allows them to play their "hits" "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver," "My Name Is Mud" and even "Wynonna's Big Brown Beaver" with enthusiasm.

One great thing about the Lollapalooza era is that, for a time, it allowed some pretty uncommercial bands to break through.  None were more left-field than Primus.  Yes, they had some of the punk rock influences that everyone else did, but put that together with their love of King Crimson, The Residents and Frank Zappa... they are a totally unique band. It's so great to see that their fan base is as strong as ever. It's like a verification that they made all the right choices back in the day.

I'm a big fan of Les' solo projects, and it's always interesting to see what he'll do next.  But for now, I think Primus are on such a roll, that I hope they do another album really soon.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I started writing a post "reviewing" The Beastie Boys' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last week, and planned to finish it either Friday or Saturday.  Obviously, it's a much different post now.

I've heard that Adam Yauch was admitted into the hospital on the same day that the induction took place.  I can only imagine the bittersweet feelings Adam Horovitz and Mike Diamond, and Yauch's parents, must have had, being at the ceremony that night.

I remember predicting that Chuck D would be the guy they'd call to induct The B-Boys and I'm glad I was right. Public Enemy had a long history with the Beasties, and he was so passionate about their importance.  I was glad that LL Cool J was also part of the induction. Chuck and LL deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame themselves, hopefully sooner rather than later.  (Rick Rubin was in the audience as a guest of The Red Hot Chili Peppers: it's interesting that he'd produced the Chilis, the Beasties and Donovan, as well as presenters Chuck, LL, and also Kid Rock who performed.  He should also be in the Hall of Fame soon!)

Chuck's speech was predictably longer.  But he made great points about how they always stuck together as a team, they were a TEAM of MCs, how they defied expectations and carved their own path. LL's speech was good too: besides pointing out that it was the Beasties who played his demo for Rick Rubin, he also noted that they really brought hip-hop to the suburbs.

Mike and Adam kept it pretty short.  I don't know how Adam H. kept it together while reading Yauch's speech for him.

Watching the performance a second time on TV, I liked it a bit better.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wisely asked The Roots to perform at that segment (instead of Paul Shaffer's group, the house band for the rest of the night, and for nearly every ceremony). They were joined by the Beasties' longtime DJ Mixmaster Mike.  Black Thought was on the mic, along with Kid Rock and Travie McCoy from the band Gym Class Heroes.  Black Thought was a given, he's one of the best MCs in the game and has been since he started. Kid Rock is obviously influenced by the group.  I would have gone with someone like Q-Tip, Nas or Mos Def for the third spot though. They pretty much stuck to the hip-hop and rock/rap hybrids.  I guess they had limited time, but I thought they should have addressed their instrumental funk prowess (which would be easy for The Roots) and their hardcore punk background (which Mos Def or someone like Henry Rollins could have done). Still, they put together a cool performance and they probably didn't have a lot of time to rehearse it.

If you have a chance to check out this year's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, you should do so, especially if you are a Beastie Boys fan.


Like everyone else, I was so sad to hear about the passing of Adam Yauch, aka MCA of The Beastie Boys. I wrote an obit on the man for work, but it didn't cover the way I felt at all, it was a professional duty. Let me share my history of The Beasties through my eyes, and tell you the effect Adam had on me.

When I first heard The Beastie Boys in 1986 or 1987, Licensed To Ill was hitting, I was in high school.  The song, of course, was "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)."  I got the Ill album (on cassette). I liked it.  I didn't love it, and I wasn't sure this band would be around for long. I thought they were kind of a novelty.

By 1989, I was in college. When they released Paul's Boutique, I was surprised they were still around. I remember thinking it was a lot funkier than the Ill stuff. I picked up the album (on CD!), it kind of blew my mind.  I hadn't heard anything like it before.  It was so dense and thick, but fun, and funny, and clever. Songs like "Johnny Ryall" and even "Egg Man" had maturity, depth and empathy. I listened to the CD over and over and eventually had to replace it, more than once. I wasn't around when Dylan went electric, but this felt like almost as drastic of a progression. The album tanked (at the time), they didn't tour, and again, I kind of thought that this time, the band really was over. Still, it was the first time in my experience that a band I really liked made such a dramatic change.

1992's Check Your Head came out just as I was finishing college.  I saw the video for "Gratitude," and was kind of shocked.  Wow! It was like "Fight For Your Right" or "Brooklyn," except they were playing their own instruments, and it was a lot cooler. Check Your Head really captured the time: punk-influenced alternative rock and hip-hop were moving ever closer, but The Beastie Boys seemed like the only group who could actually play both sides of the line. They added in hardcore punk on "Time For Livin'" (although the lyrics were taken from a Sly & The Family Stone song), and the funky instrumental jam "Pow." And it ends with "Namaste," the first time I'd ever seen or heard that word. The lyrics were a bit deeper than what you'd expect. It's Adam Yauch doing a kind of spoken word thing over a mellow, funky groove.  "A voice spoke in my head, and she said, 'Dark is not the opposite of light, it's the absence of light.'" I didn't know if Yauch was just smoking too much pot or getting into a more spiritual area. Looking back, probably both.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


photo credit: Maria Ives 

There was nowhere I’d rather have been Friday night. It’s no exaggeration that Adam Yauch had a big impact on my life, and going to a Red Hot Chili Peppers show at the Prudential Center in Newark was just what I needed, after having written an obit for the man at my day job. I wrote about the show for work, but here's my more personal take. 

They were unbelievable.  Three weeks ago at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Flea mentioned that he gets on his knees and prays before every show and is thankful that he gets to do it.  Cynics may not believe that… but I’m not a cynic.  And if you see him perform, you know that playing means everything to him.  It was 110% evident at the show. Most of the set was songs that he’s played hundreds of times, and yet he plays all of them as if the world depends on it. He's grateful for the opportunity to do what he does, and that point was most likely hammered home for him Friday following Yauch's passing. The man was everyone's mind, there was no way of getting around it. They were playing  Beastie Boys records over the P.A. during the night, and just one song into the set (they opened with the best song from I'm With You, "Monarchy of Roses"), Flea busted out Yauch's bassline for "Gratitude" (appropriately enough).  

After two more amazing songs ("Around The World" and "Otherside") Anthony Kiedis mentioned Yauch ("We lost a good man today, the world lost a lot of beauty!"). 
After a few more songs ("Charlie" and "Dani California") Flea asked Anthony, "What does it say on your shirt?" to which Anthony replied "'MCA!'" Later in the show, the band did an instrumental jam on the B-Boys' "So Whatcha Want"(you can see a bootleggy version of it on YouTube here - but by the way, you can buy legal downloads of every show on the Chili Peppers tour on their website and I will surely download this one, it's a show I'll never forget).

photo credit: Maria Ives 
The show would have been great no matter what was going on in the world.  So many songs shook the room, even some of the mellow ones, like "Dani California," "The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie," "Californication," and "Under The Bridge."

I think it might have been the first time I've seen them play "Sir Psycho Sexy," which I thought was awesome.  It's like if Billy Preston joined The Beatles and they lasted a little longer, they might have done a song like that. It was so great live. The thing is, not many frontmen could deliver those lyrics way Kiedis does.  Is he the best singer in the world?  I don't know, but he is surely one of the best frontmen I've ever seen.  I'm pretty sure this show was also the first time I saw them do their jumpy cover of Robert Johnson's "They're Red Hot."  Even though it clocks in at under two minutes, I love it. It's a good reminder that you can be respectful of the blues without being too reverent, and that the blues was dance music at one point.

Of course, the building damn near exploded with energy when they did their cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" and of course "Give It Away." During the latter, I tweeted that I felt that that song is so funky, it's on the level of George Clinton, Sly & The Family Stone and James Brown. I realize that kind of talk could get me killed in some places, but I really believe it.  I have lots of records by all three of those guys.  Flea is one of the funkiest bassists ever, but Chad Smith is the secret sauce that makes their songs arena anthems.  I think he's kind of underrated.

I was wondering how good they'd be live, post-John Frusciante. Although John wasn't a founding member, when he joined, he really brought the band to a new level (Flea mentioned at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that "our musical bond changed my life forever").  How do you follow that up?  How do you replace someone like that? The first time John left, they ultimately filled the guitar spot with Dave Navarro - a great guitarist, but it didn't really work. The first few times I saw the Chili Peppers was with Dave: great shows, but when John returned, it was a totally different thing.  It wasn't a supergroup, it was a band.

So, I wondered, when John quit again, would it be time for the band to hang it up?  I'm glad to report the answer is a big HELL NO. I guess it helps that new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer was brought into the fold by John in the first place.  They met when Josh's group, Bicycle Thief, opened on the Californication tour. Josh played on lots of John's solo albums, they had a band together called Ataxia, and then John brought Josh on as an extra guitarist/keyboardist on the Stadium Arcadium tour.
photo credit: Maria Ives 

So, anyway, he was incredible. I was bummed that John left the band, but that's not criticism of Josh at all, and they are as legit as ever with him onboard.  He's proud to be there, proud to play those songs.  Some people may question the fact that he's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - at the age of 33 he's the youngest inductee ever, and he's only played on one album.  And yeah, he was probably included because of pressure from the band's very powerful management. But as I said, I'm not a cynic. Having seen this concert, I'll take it as a vote of confidence in the future of this band, which I think will last for years to come.  If I'm With You was their Mother's Milk (i.e. their first album with a new guitarist), then maybe the next one can be their Bloodsugarsexmagik (i.e. their second with that guitarist... and Bloodsugarsexmagik is, in my mind, their greatest work).

I do have one issue with the band's live performance.  Why no songs from the Hillel Slovak era?  It's the only thing I take issue with.  But that said, there's always next tour.  And as long as this band is touring, I'll be showing up and rocking out.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


The current lineup w/ ex-drummers Jack Irons & Cliff Martinez
photo courtesy of WNCX in Cleveland 
I was fortunate enough to have attended this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  See my full report for CBS Local Digital here.

One of the highlights for me was the induction of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band I've been a fan of for more than two decades.

I was curious which members of the band would be inducted, and who would show up.  There are basically two classic lineups: first, Anthony Kiedis, Flea, drummer Jack Irons and the late Hillel Slovak on guitar. And second, the most popular lineup, Anthony, Flea, drummer Chad Smith, and guitarist John Frusciante, who quit the band for the second time a few years back. All six of those guys got in.

But I was wondering about the lineup from their first album: Anthony, Flea, drummer Cliff Martinez (who recently scored the film Drive) and guitarist Jack Sherman. Plus, guitarist Dave Navarro, who replaced Frusciante the first time he left, and Josh Klinghoffer, who is in the band now. Oddly, Martinez was inducted but Sherman wasn't.  If their 1984 self-titled debut is considered to be such a milestone in the band's career, why wouldn't everyone from the album be inducted?  I think the answer lies in that Martinez left under good terms, while Sherman was fired, and I think he later sued the band. The thing is, management shouldn't be deciding who is included, they shouldn't be able to re-write that history.