Sunday, April 16, 2006

kiko and the lavender moon

Los Lobos gig. Melbourne. The Forum. 2006. Tuesday 11 April.

Due to the rural brethren arranging the meet spot I went to
Federation Square. The night was surprisingly warm and mild for this time of year enabling me to sit outside with a $6 pot of Stella . By 6:30 pm the country cousins were just entering the Tulla Freeway and I was wishing I had ordered a Guinness and by 7 pm they had parked and were strolling into Transport, (beware arty FLASH web site) which I'm told is trendy and cutting edge.

Cutting edge means sharp on prices and badly tuned doof music on small inadequate but ubiquitous tweeters masquerading as speakers. Not a good start to a night of music. [no points to readers who can detect a theme lately or can see where I might be heading here]

Anyway seeing as the wind was only occasionally strong but still warmish we skulked outside and found a defunct speaker and propped at a table with Stellas and some food. Unfortunately I ordered a huge plate of Tapas $17 which contained some nice bits, olives, grilled capsicum, lettuce , bread but also some items I do not eat, grilled baby octopus and mushrooms. Luckily the rurals are more sophisticated than me and they managed to scoff a few baby octopii and mushies. But really it was more like an anti-pasta than a proper tapas. After a few more beers it didn't matter so much.

After spending a lot of time finding the well hidden toilets in Transport we shuffled over the road to the venue - The Forum. If you haven't been to the Forum click onto a few of the pictures, like this one, or this one, or this, to get an idea of what it is like inside or from the outside.

We were a bit early and were pleasantly surprised to discover that there was booze on sale inside and seats. The usual suspects were gathered to the fray, boomer guys with balding heads, pony tails and earings, the women in either stuck in 70's hippy gear or trying hard with jeans and jackets, with the odd feet on ground person who just arrived from work in a suit and tie. Plenty of room inside, didn't look as if it would be a sellout at 8 pm.

The opening act was some young guy who looked about 16 playing guitar in a fast and flash way. Amongst other competent stuff he knocked out a few versions of some Beatles songs which seemed to go down well with some of the punters. Luckily he seems influenced by Leo Kottke and John Fahey, so when he pulled back the speed a bit it sounded sweet. I didn't catch his name but he said he was off to Byron.

After he went off there seemed to be about a 3/4 full crowd. I'd say break-even crowd. Given that on that same Tuesday night in Melbourne there was a choice of Keb Mo, Hothouse Flowers, Daniel Lanois and Los Lobos, it seemed to me the gigs would appeal to the same markets and that the promoters were segmenting the market and giving punters an impossible choice. So I'm guessing attendance at all those Tuesday gigs were down. My country pals had seen
Lanois the previous weekend up at the Palais in Daylesford and pronounced it a good show.

Wandering around during the first act we attempted to find the sweet point for sound. Seemed to be up front, leaning on the stage middle.

Los Lobos arrived. Loud. Tight. Wall of sound. Huge bass thump. Sounded a bit muddled up in the seats, standing down the front was clearer but very loud. The sound tends to wander around in that huge cavern up the front at the Forum. As usual I thought the sound could have done better.

Anyway. Good concert. Not great because of sound muddle. Highlights. Anything where the accordion featured. A very good version of Kiko, vocals clear, accordion clear, atmospherics clear. The real highlight you ask? End. Crowd demands encore. Band comes back to encore and launches into a loud, chord, riffing, rolling version of, guess what, Cinnamon Girl. Crowd, well me at least, go beresque, band plays tribute to Neil at end of song. No La Bamba.

Out dreaming 'bout green shoes
Haircuts and cake
And then he wishes
The world away
And then he kneels
As if to pray
He dreams and dreams
Kiko and the lavender moon

Monday, April 10, 2006

wasted days and wasted nights

Ellen Fanning nearly wasted my night by managing to take an opportunity to talk to the Stones for 30 minutes and with Channel 9 turn it into an hour of ads plus a few truncated live clips plus nonsense from Ellen. What on earth is that woman on about. Bert Newton would have done a better job of interviewing. Stupid questions about their age and nudge nudge wink wink smirks about sex. Then a bit about drugs. Nothing about the music. No context. No comment that in comparing some live footage on a few songs Jagger's voice seems to have improved over the years. Still not up to his admitted hopes of a Howlin' Wolf sound but fuller and more authoritative nonetheless. Pity his lyric writing is still stuck in the teenager stage.

Luckily I had my new DVD of
The Mavericks LIVE in Austin TX @ Stubbs BBQ. It is good to see my favourite beer when in USA Dos Equis are only $3.75 at Stubbs. The DVD arrived 10 months after I had ordered it, so long ago I had forgotten all about it. I could have got the bloody thing direct from Amazon delivered to my doorstep in about 7 days for less than half the price it cost me to wait 10 months then have to drive to the shop and wait 20 minutes while they tried to find it. When will retailers learn who they have as competition.

Anyway after I gave the Stones special away as a bad joke I started sampling the DVD. The band is augmented by horns and extra other musos on this concert. They are in great form and deliver the goods.
Raul Malo is a chunky sublime singer who manages to sound like all his influences at the right times and to also sound uniquely Raul. He channels the best of Elvis, Roy Orbison, Merle Haggard and a bit of Hank as well as Frank and even croon like Humperdink. And do it all well to a driving country, tex-mex, rockin' ska showband. Or something like that. He also writes great songs and even does Besame Mucho on this concert.

The Extras bit on the DVD is a long "interview" with the 4 core band members, it focuses on the music and is better by a factor of about 100 than the Channel 9 attempt with the Stones. A nice touch in the extra at one stage they break into Van Morrison's Bright Side of the Road in a practice session.

In The Mavericks' arrangements, and they are arrangements, and especially in Raul's voice you can also hear, Bob Wills, Louis Jordan, Patsy Cline, Ray Charles and Buddy Holly, Bing Crosby, Ray Price, BB King, Roger Miller and George Jones, The Beatles, Burt Bacharach, Gram Parsons, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, Steve Earle.

Trampoline is a landmark album that should be in every serious collection. I'll take a few paras off the web page below:

From the opening salsa swing of Dance The Night Away, the rip roaring rhythm and blues of Tell Me Why, the pop blizzard of I've Got This Feeling, right through to the funky sounds of the exotic/erotic I Hope You Want Me Too and the dance hall jazz of the 20's inspired Dolores. The Mavericks do all this without forsaking any of the fabulous melodies or sparkling musical touches of past efforts. In fact, due to the method of recording the album; the band, singers and orchestra all playing together in one enormous renovated church; they have captured the spirit of The Mavericks in the most powerful and vibrant cool-lection of songs recorded to-date. This is the album which spawned 'The Havana Horns', who would accompany The Mavericks on the road and in additional new recordings, through to 2000.

This vibrancy was well and truly pounced upon by the European audiences throughout 1998 and 1999, especially in the UK, where Dance The Night Away managed to reach No 4 on the 'pop' charts. (It also achieved the status of most played 'live' song of 1999 by the UK Performing Rights Society.) During 1998 the album sold unexpectedly well in Europe, exceeding 850,000 by the end of that year. However, their homeland only showed comparatively scant regard for this joyous triumph; with mainstream radio (both country and pop) unable to cope with this outburst of originality, and promptly threw up the shutters. Consequently, Trampoline in the USA suffered minimal sales.

I just love Raul and the band. Get on the train.

Further info:
Raul runs a
well written blog or journal. It is worth reading his most recent entry about his relationship with Buck Owens.
Introduction to the band The Mavericks.
Info about Raul.
New CDs coming out
Review of CDs by BBC
THE MAVERICKS , The Definitive Collection , (MCA Nashville), US release date: 28 June 2004

Saturday, April 08, 2006

the last week in lent

Tonight I'm off to the famous Rainbow Hotel (pity about their web site) to hear Rob Luckey and The Lucky Bastards on the recomendation of Amanda F. E. Mule and Denise. [I think you might be able to stream TWANG if you check this arvo]

On Tuesday, yes Tuesday, I'm off to see the only band to be a living history of rock since
The Band. Los Lobos.

Next Tuesday must have a certain alignment of the planets, because if I wasn't off to see Los Lobos I would be off to see
Daniel Lanois at the Atheneum, or Hothouse Flowers at The Corner Hotel,or Keb Mo at the Prince. I see Lanois is doing something at Readings Carlton @ 6 pm Monday - I might pop along.

Thursday I'll probably be along at the
West Papuan Benefit at The Grand Central.

The next week
Eddie Reader is doing gigs with Boo Hewerdine.