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    Suggested by the topic on live recordings (‘Got Live If You Want It’), I’d like list-members to either tell us about concerts they have attended or, if they don’t feel up to it, to post noteworthy reviews here. Since I live in a lone farmhouse at the bottom of the world your account may be the closest I get to the Royal Albert Hall.

    On which, er, note: did anyone attend the Cream reunion last week? It was reviewed by the rather griping Alexis Petridis in The Guardian as follows:

    The first live show for 36 years by Eric Clapton’s blues/rock “power trio” may have attracted the attentions of the media, but it has had difficulty snaring anyone under 40; young people are conspicuous by their absence from the bars and foyers of the Royal Albert Hall.

    The atmosphere is less like a rock concert than a corporate hospitality tent at Wimbledon. Paunchy men in sports jackets clink ice in gin and tonics, and mumsy ladies fan themselves with pricey souvenir programmes. Presumably some of them were here the last time Cream played the Royal Albert Hall, squinting at the band’s November 1968 farewell concert through a fug of aromatic smoke. Tonight, however, the air is thick with something else, not as pungent, but no less heady: nostalgia for a lost era, when a 15-minute drum solo called Toad could have your average audience roaring their approval, rather than clambering over each other to reach the exits.

    You can see why anyone who wasn’t there at the time might approach Cream’s surprise reformation with trepidation. History frequently gives the impression Cream were formed for the specific purpose of giving the Jimi Hendrix Experience something to upstage.

    Hendrix, rather unsportingly, fetched up in London two weeks after their first gig, and immediately set about making them look a bit stodgy. He has continued to do so after his death; one of the few benefits attached to choking on your own vomit at 27 being that it prevents you from reaching middle age, donning an Armani suit and crooning deadly soft rock ballads about how your wife looks wonderful tonight. In addition, as Clapton notes between songs, Cream “didn’t go on for very long – the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune cut us off in our prime” – but their 2 year career was responsible for generating a lot of concepts that leave you wondering whether listening to rock music is such an edifying way to spend your time.

    Their star-heavy line up of Clapton, drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce gave birth to the notion of the supergroup, in which already-famous rock musicians struggle to squeeze their collective egos into a confined space, usually with artistically disastrous results. Their massive-grossing US tours gave rise to the concept of stadium rock as we know it today. And their deathless penchant for extended soloing gave rise to improvisatory jazz-rock, perhaps the most noisome genre in musical history. After the band’s split, Clapton dismissed its “maestro bullshit”, but tonight, he seems worryingly reconciled to it. “We’re going to play for as long as we can,” he announces happily, a remark greeted with deafening cheers, rather than the deeply apprehensive gulp it warrants. A computer generated approximation of a psychedelic slideshow bathes the back of the stage, but what is startling about Cream’s oeuvre is how decidedly un-cosmic it sounds in the cold light of 2005. Spoonful and Sleepy Time Time offer a curiously straightforward take on the blues: the solos may be lengthy, and accompanied by much pursing of the lips, frowning etc, but they’re oddly prosaic and polished. You get a brief glimpse of what the fuss was about during Rollin’ and Tumblin’, when Bruce abandons his bass guitar in favour of a harmonica, and Clapton and Baker churn out a frantic, clattering riff. Baker turns out to be the evening’s surprise star. A noticeable resemblance to Wilfred Bramble in Steptoe and Son bodes ill, but his drumming is fantastic, adding a snapping, raw edge. In fact, it is Cream’s theoretically less substantial material that stands up best four decades on. Full of snaking melodic turns and false endings, Badge is simply a fantastic pop song. Deserted Cities of the Heart strikes an admirable balance between lush vocal harmonies and hulking, muscular power, and even the whimsical psych-pop oddity Pressed Rat and Warthog has the sort of character you are hard-pressed to find in less arcane areas of Cream’s catalogue.

    Whether their reformation is enough to firm up Cream’s shaky place in the pantheon of rock legends is a moot point. But as the crowd rises mid-song to cheer another Clapton solo, and coloured lights bounce off balding pates in the stalls, you suspect that contemporary reappraisal is the last thing their fans are interested in.



    the first rock concert i attended was a performance by frank zappa and the mothers of invention in august 1969. i had just turned 14, and upon hearing about this upcoming event, expressed my great desire to go. my parents said they would buy tickets, but on one condition – my older brother had to take me. i’m sure the last thing he wanted was his goofy younger brother tagging along, but free tickets are free tickets, so take me he did. i’ll be forever in his debt for this act of brotherly selflessness. it was a great show, and really opened up my ears, eyes and heart to the incredible experience that live music can be.
    some other highlights thru the years have been:
    zappa 1974, sun ra and his arkestra performing in a small club in montreal 1978, eddie “cleanhead” vinson in the same montreal club ( lots of dope smoking and stories with cleanhead himself ) weather report here in ottawa shortly after the release of their second record, larry coryell 1973 ( the band that appears on “offering”, one of the really great electric jazz / rock albums) and seeing the “bundles” edition of soft machine at our local hockey arena as opening act for two “big-name”, incredibly untalented rock bands.
    in two weeks time, i’ll be in attendance at this years edition of the great victoriaville festival. some highlights there will be, i think, anthony braxton / fred frith, braxton’s new sextet, plastic people of the universe with the agon orchestra, nels cline, william parker’s little huey orchestra, and of course the acts i’ve never heard before, but will be turned on to. for more info go to: http://www.fimav.qc.ca.
    yeah, there’s nothing quite like the live music experience.



    summer has arrived here in ottawa, and that means festival season. things are underway as we speak.
    our jazz festival started last thursday. it is, for the most part, a pretty white bread affair. the big headliners are harry connick jr. (for two nights no less), and diana krall.
    but they do manage to sneak in some interesting shows. i have tickets for evan parker, who will be doing a solo show, the roscoe mitchell quintet, jean derome’s new trio (fans of fred frith’s keep the dog band may recognize this name), and octurn, who are a belgian nine or ten piece band. this is a new name to me, but they sound interesting.
    two weeks from now our blues festival begins. this has become a huge event over the last couple of years, second only to chicago’s ?



    It’s been a working Sunday so, just before I draw the covers around my head, I’ll idly ask: Who would you most like to see in concert? Given that I live in New Zealand the answer is (almost) everybody, however here’s a more exclusive list:

    1) Paul Bley
    2) Chris Whitley
    3) Billy Harper
    4) Robert Wyatt
    5) Mark Hollis (although he’s retired)
    6) XTC (who renounced touring early on)
    7) John Cale
    8) Can
    9) Dave Holland
    10) Otis Taylor

    I’d sleep well after attending concerts by any of the above – such dreams….

    Max Gate



    i’ve been pretty lucky over the years as far as live concerts go. i’ve had the opportunity to see an awful lot of my musical heroes in rock, jazz, blues and folk.
    robert wyatt is certainly someone i’d love to see in concert. some others would be joe henry, alvin youngblood hart, charles hayward, harvey mandel, freddie roulette (as far as i know, this gent is still alive) and yo la tengo.
    i’d also like to include a fantasy list, if i may:
    the insect trust
    little walter (with the aces)
    thelonious monk quartet w/ john coltrane
    hatfield and the north
    henry cow
    captain beefheart
    the buffalo springfield
    butterfield blues band w/ mike bloomfield
    charlie parker
    soft machine 1970-1971
    roland kirk



    my ‘comeback’. sort of. i enjoyed pc-free-time a few weeks.

    max gate asked: Who would you most like to see in concert?

    after seeing brian wilson in 2002 in london



    joni mitchell. surely.



    my gig-going experience is a bit less than most here by the looks of it ;) but some highlights include

    several roy harper gigs
    he’s my hero! luckily he lives in ireland like me so ive got to see him a good few times

    jandek, jandek & loren mazzacane connors
    two more heros, i was at jandeks unannounced first ever gig in glasgow last year but was too gobsmacked to take it in. his duo set with loren mazzacane connors this year was stunning.

    current 93
    this was at the same festival as jandek in glasgow last year. it was fantastic.

    this was in 2001 and was a bit like being wrapped up in a warm hazy cloud!

    the flaming lips
    this is probably the most fun gig ive been to. great tunes too.



    last week (may 15 to 19), i should have been in victoriaville, quebec for the festival internationale de musique actuelle de victoriaville, or FIMAV. unfortunately, the festival organisers have decided to take the year off to re-group and re-think.
    here in ottawa, not much has been happening live music wise, but there has been some.
    in early march, the strawbs played a show at the black sheep inn, which is a smallish bar just outside of ottawa. this was the electric version, and was the band that appears on ?



    sometimes you have to go through some real nonsense to see some great music.
    my wife and i were vacationing in halifax, nova scotia this summer, and in their local entertainment newspaper was an ad for a band called the gertrudes, who described their music as ” a good ol’ saloon party in deep space”. the gertrudes are an 11 piece band hailing from kingston, ontario, ?



    zeebras, thanks for the recommendation. i listened to the songs on my space and i like them.riley’s ”in c” interpretation seems great, too. I listened and watched 10 minutes or so.(i never have the patience to watch into the screen of the computer and listening to music). I really can imagine that to see the gertrudes live can be really impressive.

    as i listened to their songs i thought about a similarity to a band i like very much. the band is called



    allgolden, it’s my turn to thank you. fire on fire is a new name to me, and i really liked what i heard. i’ll certainly be tracking down their cd’s.
    and let me take this opportunity to once more recommend the insect trust. a favorite band of mine since 1970, when i first heard their second album “hoboken saturday night”. these folks could be considered the godfathers (and mother) of the “weird americana” tag given to folks like fire on fire, beat circus, joanna newsom and others.



    last night we had our minds completely blown while at a concert by lee harvey osmond. LHO is the latest band fronted by tom wilson, who is a canadian icon of sorts best known for his band junkhouse and as one third of the great blackie and the rodeo kings. this band does a real swampy psychedelic late night memphis highway beefheart tom waits hoodoo type thing, with great playing from all concerned. tom sings and plays amplified acoustic guitar and writes most of the songs, brent titcomb (a lengendary canadian folk icon in his own right) on percussion, harmonica and vocals, a bassist, drummer and a gentleman on pedal steel and electric guitar, who is fantastic. both guitarists are plugged into effects boxes, which they use sparingly, but very tastefully and effectively, and when they stretch out and jam, it’s pretty thrilling. ?



    max – John Cale – look out in january 2010. he may come down under although who knows if he’ll be checking out nz.



    our never ending quest for live music brought us to montreal last sunday for a concert by emmylou harris and her red dirt boys and buddy miller.
    buddy opened the show with a short set, featuring himself on various guitars and vocals and chris donahue, from the red dirt boys on bass. ?

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