Live Review: Arctic Monkeys, Twin Peaks at Chicago’s The Riviera (9/23) – Just that ol’ time rock ‘n’ roll.

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September 23, 2013

Chicago’s archaic Riviera Theatre had its foundations rocked Monday night by two-and-a-half hours of loud, unapologetic rock ‘n’ roll from local favorites and recent CoSigned rockers Twin Peaks and the ever reliable Arctic Monkeys.

Tearing through favorites off their debut album, Sunken, Twin Peaks looked like they couldn’t be having more fun, business as usual for the teenage four piece. During blitzed out tracks like “Boomers” and “Natural Villain”, frontman Cadien Lake James controlled the venue with ease, gathering instrumental support from bandmates Jack Dolan, Clay Frankel, and Connor Brodner. The Chicago DIY scene has been and should continue to pay close attention to these guys.

Bathed in blue light, the UK foursome emerged from the sides of the stage, hands raised in the air to thank the packed house for coming out to party. Sticking mostly to newer and slower material off AM, the show had its lulls but also highlighted their new directions, specifically the album’s hip-hop drum beats and gritty desert rock influences. Of course, the biggest reaction was to the opening chords of “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”, a nostalgic cut that left the entire venue in the air.

Following slower cuts like Humbug single “Cornerstone” and AM’s “No. 1 Party Anthem”, the jumbly “Fluorescent Adolescent” brought the mood back into a swing, which helped grease up the eccentric funk of “Knee Socks”. As expected, the band waved their goodbyes, acting like a three song encore wasn’t about to happen. Nobody was fooled, the band played three more (two of them from AM, no less), and then it was really over. The number of fans that stayed hoping for another encore said plenty of the night’s success.

Do I Wanna Know?
Dancing Shoes
Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
Teddy Picker
Crying Lightning
Snap Out of It
Evil Twin
Old Yellow Bricks
Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
Pretty Visitors
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
No. 1 Party Anthem
Fluorescent Adolescent
Knee Socks
One for the Road
Do Me a Favour
R U Mine?

Tom Petty & His Heartbreakers Rock NYC’s Beacon Theater

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Live Review: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Beacon Theater NYC

20 May 2013

Petty’s voice is still a wonder. At 62, he sings as smoothly and sleekly as ever, but he also packs enough punch to bring the anguish of “Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” home.

Imagine Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers drop a new LP, and it’s just killer. Not just “killer” in that Echo or Mojo way, as in a killer document of a killer band doing what it was hatched to do. I mean in that Wildflowers or Full Moon Fever way, that damn near universal way, the songs so urgent with defiant life they could haul you up out of a coma. Imagine Tom Petty puts out a new record so vital and affecting that it would be adored by anyone who has ever before liked a Tom Petty song, even just “Free Fallin.'”

Now ask yourself, “How would anyone ever hear it?”

There’s nothing new about rock and rollers touring on long after they’ve outlived their hitmaking potential. What is new is the bewildering fact that still-significant artists like Petty or Springsteen have somehow outlived their own radio formats. You can still hear “Wildflowers” on Classic Rock, on those playlists that the wooly mammoths grooved to as the tar bubbled up around them, but if there were a new song that sounded like “Wildflowers” the only stations on terrestrial radio that might possibly play it would have to label it country. In fact, country already has a “Wildflowers”: Brad Paisley’s “Ticks,” which cops to ripping off Petty right there in the chorus.

Petty made sure nobody mistook anything in the first of his four Beacon Theatre shows (we’ll be back tonight, too) for Nashville. He opened with a good hour of album tracks as swampy and fucked-up as the Northern Florida he hails from, searching, bruised-up rockers like “Love Is a Long Road,” “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” and “Fooled Again (I Don’t Like It).” Maybe he figures if radio won’t play him now, he may as well play the ones it wouldn’t even play back in the day. What would you do if in 15 years you somehow went from top-of-the-world rock star to Wynton Marsalis-like practitioner of an un-commercial art?

Deep cuts that cut deep, last night’s long run of dirges laid bare the early Heartbreakers’ true place in rock history: the exact middle ground between the ’70s studio-slick southern rock and the desperate blurt of the punk to come. “I don’t like it!” Petty yowled, on record and at the Beacon, the words hocked up out of his chest. Folks hoping for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” might have shouted the same.

And all that was before lead guitar hero Mike Campbell uncorked the soaring hurt of his lead line on “Good Enough,” off 2010’s cock-rocking Mojo, the swampiest of all this swamp rock, a strangled White Album-style blues as soaked though with humid misery as the cottonballs of a St. Louis grandmother used to wedge into the holes in her screen door each summer. Like much of that first hour, this was superb if you like this kind of thing.

Three songs in Petty half apologized for all the heartache, and he even offered up an ace “Won’t Back Down” as a sop to the Greatest Hits crowd. But make no mistake: There was no oversized novelty Mad Hatter headgear coming. During a soupy space jam deep into “Mr. Tweeter and the Monkey Man”– yes, the Traveling Wilburys slog he co-wrote with Bob Dylan — there was plenty of time to wonder at the impossible number of fucks that Petty does not give. You know all that dark matter scientists can’t find even though it makes up most of the mass of the universe? It’s nothing but those fucks.

Petty’s in fine voice — he still sounds like a cartoon sheep imitating a southern Bob Dylan — but even finer iconoclasm. The mood lightened, at last, 11songs in with a tempered, unplugged “Rebels,” a new arrangement touched with Sunday morning, followed by low-key string-band charmers “To Find a Friend” and “Angel Dream.” (Plus a hymn-like cover of Little Feat’s “Willin,'” honeyed up by Scott Thurston’s back-up vocals.)

Those were grand but topped by “Melinda,” a better Dylan song than the one he wrote with Dylan. Powered along by Campbell’s electric mandolin, this spare, rollicking, haunted original (only available on Petty’s excellent The Live Anthology) could pass for a cover of some long-gone folk song — a cover that builds into Bad Plus-style piano/drums not-quite-jazz ensemble-jamming mayhem from Benmont Tench and Steve Ferrone.

Hits “Refugee,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” and “American Girl” seemed to win back crowd members who had drifted; the Heartbreakers bashed out the latter two songs with speed and fire enough to convince us that they still find something new in them, that the music is something these guys still make together rather than something they just perform night after night.

Gnomic, cheerful Petty didn’t say much. His run of Beacon Shows won’t be for everyone, but they are for him, and his band, and for anyone eager to be reminded that the genial stoner of “Last Dance With Mary Jane” is still that same scrappy, indomitable Gainseville kid, the one with a screaming guitar and a world to defy.

Music video by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers performing Mary Jane’s Last Dance. (C) 1993 Geffen Records. Watch official video below.

© 2006 WMG
You Don’t Know How It Feels – Watch Video Version below.

Runnin’ Down A Dream is a 2007 documentary film about Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, directed by Peter Bogdanovich. The 4-hour documentary chronicles the history of the band, from its inception as Mudcrutch, right up to the 30th-anniversary concert in Petty’s home town of Gainesville, Florida, on September 21, 2006, at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, University of Florida. The film features interviews with George Harrison, Eddie Vedder, Stevie Nicks, Dave Grohl, Jeff Lynne, Rick Rubin, Johnny Depp, Jackson Browne and more. Petty’s solo career is also touched on, as is his time with The Traveling Wilburys.

Tom Petty’s Career on Film: Watch the Trailer for “Runnin’ Down a Dream” below.

Ryan Bingham – Live Review @ Scala London

16 November 2012

Ryan Bingham is the real deal – raised in a roadhouse brothel in New Mexico, he was riding rodeo south of the Mexican frontier by the age of five. I first saw him play in a small town in Texas, with a former dope-smuggling rancher friend of mine who gave Bingham his first real break by writing about him for a local cowboy music magazine.

Bingham went on to be a poster boy for American roots music, winning an Oscar, a Grammy and Golden Globe for his contribution to the Crazy Heart soundtrack, which in turn secured him status as darling of the Nashville music scene, and an album produced by T-Bone Burnett. I was expecting – and dreading – that his second UK tour might involve the O2.

Phew. Bingham seems to have renounced much of what was on offer, to the bewilderment of American reviewers who worry that “political statements” might “jeopardise his career”. Having left Burnett, his record label and studio, Bingham appeared in London with a band paying respect to his cowboy-rock roots. The musicians were happiest when off the leash, delivering polished but tempestuous rock’n’roll to drive Bingham’s songs on an insurgent new album – searing indictments of unjust and divided America, whether Obama won or not.

Of course, Bingham played to the crowd with his Oscar-winning The Weary Kind by way of an encore, and what has become a rollicking all-American favourite, Southside of Heaven. But the core of the set was his unrelenting Hard Times, which we should now see as having been the shape of things to come when it featured on early tours. The evening had hardly begun when we hit Western Shore, dedicated to “all the homeless kids living in streets and alleys, and I guess you have that here too”.

Those of us who already knew Flower Bomb, and its comfortless sketch of mass unemployment, hunger and medication for stress, did not necessarily know it had been inspired by Banksy’s mural of a boy throwing the same – it was sung with that raw voice Bingham has perfected, the sandpaper edge now turned to gravel and dust.

If he owed his early style to Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, he seems recently to have consulted Rage Against the Machine, but with a smile as well as a scowl. Post-Oscar success, Bingham emerges on this tour not as the rising star mainstream America planned him to be, but something far more compelling: a counter-star, a truly great rock protest singer.

DPT: ‘Flower Bomb’ by Ryan Bingham (Live, Acoustic & HD)

Ed Vulliamy