Ben Howard Live in Seattle





It’s not often you discover a great new artist. And it’s not often that said artist transcends the record they’ve made that increases the experience of seeing them live versus listening to studio music. Last night at The Neptune, Ben Howard took his cd Every Kingdom as simply a departure and created a live experience that was quite simply amazing, and at times, moving. The arrangements to the songs have changed, the quartet sometimes sounded like an orchestra, and Howard’s guitar playing seemed to stretch the boundaries of what an acoustic guitar can produce.

The cellist played drums, percussion, guitar and several other things, the drummer played several guitars and Mr. Howard, himself, played a variety of guitars seemingly tuned to whatever wondrous place he was in his head. All to great effect. My only quibble was that Mr. Howard’s bendable voice was relatively low in the mix and sometimes hard to hear. To really hear the lyrics, one needs to listen to his Mercury Prize Finalist cd.

Currently traveling in America, I do hope that he and his band return to the States soon.

Check out his music here:

A beautiful song, Further Away!

Oh, and The Neptune turns out to be a very fine place to see live acts. See the photo above as proof of their terrific transformation from cinema to performance space.


Dave Matthews: Mercy

Just downloaded the song Mercy by Dave Matthews. The best song he’s put out in years, in my opinion. I’m looking forward to the entire new cd produced by Steve Lillywhite. It brought to mind my first experience with Dave Matthews Band music. I was traveling through the Canadian Rockies and bought their CD CRASH in Vancouver, BC, and could not stop listening to it from Jasper to Calgary. I loved the syncopated rhythms, the music’s clarity, the clarinet, the guitars, violin, everything.

And now, listening to the new single, Mercy, is taking me back to that trip, which was a bit of a fever dream as I was very ill after doing a show in BC. I remember the mountains, ice and clouds while spinning Proudest Monkey. It was an extraordinary trip, and remains a distinct memory. I’m hoping the rest of their new CD will be just as good as their initial single.

The picture above was taken in the Colorado Rockies this time last year. I love mountains and I think they’ll figure heavily in my next novel.

Paul Buchanan: Mid Air

Every once in a while an album comes along that is so beautifully in tune with what has gone on in your life recently, and Paul Buchanan’s Mid Air is that one.

I’ve been waiting for new music from Paul Buchanan and The Blue Nile for nearly 8 years since their last CD, High. I only heard of this impending music two months ago, but so much has happened in those two months, and this music comes at just the right moment.

I’ve been a huge fan of The Blue Nile since I first heard their incredibly sonic and gorgeous sounding CD A Walk Across the Rooftops. The only band in the 80’s who were able to meld electronic music with a sort of emotional resonance and clarity during a very scary decade of music. Over the course of 25 or so years, The Blue Nile has only released four CDs – Hats being their masterpiece.

And now comes Mr. Buchanan’s new solo recording: a 14 song set that melds together – one song after another – into a thing of beauty. During the writing, he lost a great friend, and it is evident in the music’s quiet. Essentially just piano and vocals, with a brush of instrumentation here and there, his voice quavers over the notes, and when you listen to him, especially through some great headphones, it seems like he’s right there with you.

It’s a stunningly moving song cycle. I encourage you to buy it if you love music. Here’s a link to more info about it and some amazing reviews:

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Atlanta

Bruce Springsteen in Atlanta: I’ve seen countless Springsteen shows in all the various configurations over 30 years and this show was, hands down, the most emotional. I was a chocolate mess.

Going in, I thought it would be very different: solemn, something missing, large gaps in the music where Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici would have been – they were missed, to be sure, those long, elegant sax lines and organ runs. I got used to Danny missing on the last tour, but when the “Big Man” passed away, I didn’t think that it would be possible to fill those shoes. Gladly, the E Street Band and Bruce Springsteen, are soldiering on amidst great loss. It is different, and they are honoring, and giving the audience the release they need by the roll call in “My City of Ruins” and then a penultimate moment during “Tenth Avenue Freezeout” when the big man joined the band. Here, the entire band stops the music and the crowd erupts into a sort of cosmic call and shout, screaming as loud as we can so that others might hear. I’m hoping that the audience’s engagement is helping the band along during what has to be a bittersweet experience on this tour. Now, a whole town is up on stage marshaling the community that is The E Street Nation to continue down the road despite obstacles and loss. I believe they are saying, “gather your loved ones close, celebrate them, move on and have as much fun and joy as you possibly can until it’s your turn.”

I’m looking forward to Los Angeles and the shows after. My thanks and love to John for making Atlanta happen, and the many hours I spend listening to the live concerts I have. The shot above was taken during “The Rising.”

Bruce Springsteen: Going On Tour

At the Wrecking Ball, Giant's Stadium - NJ, September 2009, with a new found friend, Paul Harrison (center) from London, England.

Ok, so you’re tired of hearing about Bruce Springsteen from me. I get it. But here’s the deal. Thirty-three years is a long time. It’s a long time to be a true fan of a musician, and a band. Think of all those one-hit wonders out there who never stood the test of time. Think of KC and the Sunshine Band, Toto, Styx, Men At Work! All bands that have come and gone and you have no idea where they went off to and you ask yourself – why aren’t they still around? Then you think of Bruce Springsteen, who is 62, who is still embarking on major tours with a band that has lost key players, but still plays every concert as if it’s their last. And it’s meaningful music. Particularly now. Particularly when things have been tough for so many people, and people have lost their homes, their livelihoods, their self-esteem. And while Bruce is a kabillionaire now, he still roots for the common man, and hopes for common decency, and that everyone gets a fair shake, even though many of his songs sing of those who’ve missed out on the American dream. Young bands like Arcade Fire and The Gaslight Anthem embrace the sounds of the E Street Band while giving their own, fresh takes on music. Bruce remarked about Arcade Fire’s live performances and how “there’s a whole town up on stage, and that is quite lovely.”

Mr. Springsteen is heading out on the road, and around the world, with a community of his own on his upcoming tour. While we’ll miss Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons, we can rejoice in the fact that Bruce is happy to keep the family together, incorporate nephews and sons into the live act, and continue to play to millions of people. I, for one, love the community of people that come to his shows. I’ve met a lot of great people attending all the ones I’ve gone to. Particularly those on his last tour, people who felt that an end of an era was upon us, and it was. Losing Clarence Clemons was like ripping out the heart of a live animal while it was still clinging to a grand life.

Here we are, on the cusp of a new tour, a new “town” on stage with new inhabitants, but with the same mayor. I’m looking forward to going out on tour again, meeting more people at tailgate parties, or sitting next to me in the bleachers, or standing shoulder to shoulder to what is as close to going to church as I’m ever gonna get. And I will be a chocolate mess at the tour opener. Guaranteed. I’m glad my partner will be there, and glad for a community to come together once again holding me, and all of us, up.

Love is Making Its Way Back Home – Josh Ritter

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Josh Ritter, so it was exciting to discover his new video. It’s one of the coolest videos I’ve ever seen, and I can’t imagine how long it took to create! Unbelievable. Utilizing over 12,000 pieces of paper in stop-motion animation, the creators worked for days to bring this 4-minute video to reality. Check out the video here:

The video was produced by Erez Horovitz and the photo is from Prominent Figures