On Stage

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Who was here in 1969? asked Mick Jagger, referencing the Rolling Stones historic Hyde Park show, held just two days after original guitarist Brian Jones’ death, at which a crowd estimated at a quarter of a million people turned up to pay their respects. “Welcome back,” he said in response to those who stood with hands raised. “It’s nice to see you again.“

Back then, nobody had paid a penny to see the Stones; 44 years on, some tickets were changing prices for upwards of a thousand pounds. Inevitably, the times, they have a changed.

The bank manager long ago won the battle for the heart of the Stones – surveying the baffling number of hospitality packages and “tiers” of general admission at Hyde Park, one can’t help but feel sorry for the poor fan who just wanted a ticket for the gig. But all one’s scepticism disappears the minute the riff of Start Me Up explodes out of the speakers, an awful lot more sure-footed than it sounded on the TV from Glastonbury.

And while a sizeable section of today’s audience weren’t even born the last time Mick and co ambled through Midnight Rambler here, the fact that they’d turned out in their thousands to tread in their parents’ sandal-steps speaks volumes about the band’s enduring appeal. Things got off to a less than auspicious start. Keith Richards fluffed not one, but two of opener Start Me Up’s opening three chords – a riff one suspects, given the number of times he’s played it, would be harder for him to play wrong than right.

Fortunately they proved to be the only bum notes of a near-immaculate set that not just recreated the previous weekend’s Glastonbury crowd-pleasing histrionics, but arguably surpassed them. Richards looked more relaxed and far better dressed, trading licks and cigarette smoke with long-term sparring partner Ronnie Wood.

Drummer Charlie Watts was the epitome of insouciant cool, providing the rock-solid foundations from which the likes of It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It), Honky Tonk Women and an epic Paint It Black were majestically constructed.

The Stones may no longer be “the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world” (is anyone?), but their muscle memory and catalogue mean they are still a fearsome force once they’re in full flow. Gimme Shelter has the unstoppable, lumbering force of a supertanker; Paint It Black, an eternal monument to the point in time when blues fans started dropping acid, still sounds like it was written by some sinister, alternate consciousness, then gifted to the band – the nihilism of the lyric may be cartoonish, but the attack of the music isn’t.

The presentation, too, is stunning. There are no fancy props on stage, but the band are enveloped on huge screens, which during Sympathy for the Devil portray the trees of Hyde Park in flames, while firepots belch orange flame and drape the front 30 or 40 yards of the crowd in smoke. It’s thrillingly effective, and only the delighted whoops of 65,000 or so prevent it feeling suitably demonic. And if Jagger’s call-outs to “everyone at the back” feel forced, given that thousands have paid a good bit extra for the privilege of standing nearer the front, then the explosive force of Midnight Rambler (with added Mick Taylor) or Jumpin’ Jack Flash forces one to swallow qualms. A beautiful You Can’t Always Get What You Want and the inevitable (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction finish the show, and it’s hard to believe, as Keith Richards grins through his fag smoke, that they won’t be back doing it all again soon.

1390479-the-black-keys-kroq-accoustic-617-409The Band is set to conquer 2014 with plans for a massive North American tour. The band, minus founding bassist, will embark on a 33-city tour from mid-January to March with support from Best Coast, Cults and Fidlar.

The band released a four-track called EP-1 on September 3rd, following bassist’s departure from the band earlier this year. “Everyone was just devastated,” The manager, told us. “But everybody believed in the songs. We decided to just carry on and see what happens.”

The group has been busy, playing Riot Fest last month and also stopping by Late Night With Jimmy Fallon with new touring bassist Kim Shattuck. The rockers are currently on a European tour, which kicked off this weekend.

The band has also shared a video for EP-1 track “Andro Queen. It’s a trippy, dimly-lit journey directed by Ondi Timoner. Read more…

Will Hermes of Rolling Stone called the song’s keyboards “a serrated organ growl backed up with a SWAT team of hand claps” and cited it as an example of Danger Mouse’s prowess as a producer and co-writer. Summarizing the song, Hermes wrote, “It’s Sixties bubblegum garage pop writ large, with T. Rex swagger and a guitar freakout that perfectly mirrors the lyrics, a paranoid rant that makes you shiver while you shimmy.” John Soeder of The Plain Dealer labeled it one of the album’s finest and said that it sounded like a hybrid of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2″.

Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly said that the song, “with its swarm-of-bees organs and acid-trip gospel harmonies, could be a lost Nuggets gem”. Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times, writing about the song’s retro stylings, said that it “sounds as if it’s existed forever”.

Will Hermes of Rolling Stone called the song’s keyboards “a serrated organ growl backed up with a SWAT team of hand claps” and cited it as an example of Danger Mouse’s prowess as a producer and co-writer. Summarizing the song, Hermes wrote, “It’s Sixties bubblegum garage pop writ large, with T. Rex swagger and a guitar freakout that perfectly mirrors the lyrics, a paranoid rant that makes you shiver while you shimmy.” John Soeder of The Plain Dealer labeled it one of the album’s finest and said that it sounded like a hybrid of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2″.

Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly said that the song, “with its swarm-of-bees organs and acid-trip gospel harmonies, could be a lost Nuggets gem”. Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times, writing about the song’s retro stylings, said that it “sounds as if it’s existed forever”.

Will Hermes of Rolling Stone called the song’s keyboards “a serrated organ growl backed up with a SWAT team of hand claps” and cited it as an example of Danger Mouse’s prowess as a producer and co-writer. Summarizing the song, Hermes wrote, “It’s Sixties bubblegum garage pop writ large, with T. Rex swagger and a guitar freakout that perfectly mirrors the lyrics, a paranoid rant that makes you shiver while you shimmy.” John Soeder of The Plain Dealer labeled it one of the album’s finest and said that it sounded like a hybrid of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2″.

Eric Clapton was the opening act of his own Crossroads Guitar Festival on April 12. He took the stage at New York’s Madison Square Garden just before the official starting time of 7:30, as if he couldn’t wait to get the night going. Seated with an acoustic guitar, dressed in shades of gray and wearing glasses, Clapton performed a short set with his current touring band, starting with an earthy stroll through Charles Brown’s “Drifting Blues.” He also set the tone for the next ten hours, spread across the 12th and 13th, by giving generous spotlight and solo time to his initial guests: singer-guitarist and ex-Clapton sideman Andy Fairweather-Low and country picker Vince Gill.

It was a characteristic gesture for Clapton, one of rock’s most self-effacing guitar heroes, and Crossroads itself, which featured sets and guest shots by more than two dozen other guitarists including Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Mayer, Keb’ Mo, Sonny Landreth, Albert Lee, Robert Cray, Steve Cropper, Robbie Robertson and rising star Gary Clark Jr. Clapton, 68, is the founder and supervising spirit of the festival, which benefits his Caribbean addiction-treatment facillity of the same name and was held indoors for its fourth edition, after single-day outdoor extravaganzas in Dallas in 2004 and Chicago in 2007 and 2010.

Clapton is also Crossroads’ inevitable headliner. He closed on the 13th, this time on electric guitar and with a surprise guest, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. The latter looked fit and soloed with short, tart phrases in the Big Bill Broonzy-Little Walter chestnut “Key to the Highway” and the 1958 Chuck Berry B-side “Sweet Little Rock and Roller.” Richards also took a moment to honor Clapton, with good rude humor, for doing “such a beautiful job” with this shindig. “So let’s give him the clap!” Richards said with a hoarse laugh, putting his hands together.

Blues and Fraternity

But Clapton mostly curates and attends each Crossroads as a student, fan and genially competitive friend. On the first night at the Garden, after that acoustic set, Clapton came back out to swap breaks and smiles in a variety of settings: with the Allman Brothers Band; the jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel; and a formidable row of bluesmen, including Cray, King and Jimmie Vaughan. The emphasis in that gang, all seated out of respect for the 87-year-old King, was on fraternity. “If you give them a big hand,” King told the audience, gesturing to the others, “you make me feel good.” In fact, although he played only intermittent guitar, King held up his vocal share of “Sweet Sixteen” and “Everyday I Have the Blues” like an undiminished lion. And when it was Clapton’s turn to solo in the latter, he turned up his heat as if called on in class by a master teacher.

In his two songs with Rosenwinkle, Clapton demonstrated why he is – appropriately for such a reluctant star – still one of rock’s busiest session guitarists and live sidemen: his ability to elevate another’s starring moment with blending fluency. The up-tempo shuffle “Way Down That Lonesome Road” was closer to Clapton’s usual stride, and he answered Rosenwinkel’s rounded-treble be-bop charge with a slicing flair in his straight-blues runs. But in the ballad “If I Should Lose You,” Clapton soloed with the right supporting distance in tone and ego, complementing Rosenwinkel’s fluid poise with dextrous, understated melancholy.

Later, with the Allmans, Clapton did it again in the Derek and the Dominos rush of “Why Does Love Got to Be So Bad.” He and guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks all soloed in the song’s long, closing sigh, their strong, individual voices meshing into a glistening, bittersweet tangle in the growing quiet. Read more

the_black_keys-valley_viewOver 10 years and seven albums, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have turned their basement blues project into one of America’s mightiest bands. Weaned on Stax 45s and Wu-Tang loops, the Black Keys smeared the lines between blues, rock, R&B and soul, with Auerbach’s horny Howlin Wolf yowl bouncing off garage-y slashing and nasty body-rocking grooves.

Like that other guitar and drums duo from the Rust Belt, the Akron, Ohio, guys brought raw, riffed-out power back to pop’s lexicon. On 2010’s Brothers, they found a perfect balance between juke-joint formalism and modern bangzoom. The result was a few Grammys and so many TV ad placements, The Colbert Report did a sketch about it. El Camino is the Keys’ grandest pop gesture yet, augmenting dark-hearted fuzz blasts with sleekly sexy choruses and Seventies-glam flair. It’s an attempt at staying true to the spirit of that piece-of-shit minivan on the album cover – similar to their first touring vehicle – while reimagining it as a pimpmobile. This is the Black Keys’ third meeting – following 2008’s Attack & Release and one track on Brothers – with Danger Mouse, a.k.a. Brian Burton. Here, the band essentially becomes a trio, with Burton as co-producer/co-writer throughout. His brilliance, as the planet heard on Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, is blowing details of classic pop up to Jumbotron scale. Listen to the keyboard part that kicks in the door of El Camino’s “Gold on the Ceiling”: a serrated organ growl backed up with a SWAT team of hand claps. It’s Sixties bubblegum garage pop writ large, with T. Rex swagger and a guitar freakout that perfectly mirrors the lyrics, a paranoid rant that makes you shiver while you shimmy.

The single “Lonely Boy” works the same way, launched on a gnarly, looped guitar riff whose last note slides down like a turntable that someone keeps stopping. Then a sugar-crusted keyboard comes in, along with what sounds like a boy-girl chorus, changing the swampy chug into a seductive singalong.

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