I.B. BAD ON A VIBRANT BUT BIFURCATED MARKETPLACE
What's growth got to do with it? (1/19a)
BRUCE GIVES OBAMA
A SEND-OFF SHOW
How fitting is that? (1/19a)
BBC RADIO 1 HOSTS FUTURE STARS
...including DIY up-and-comer Jorja Smith. (1/19a)
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT ON STREAMING
Political performance battle A companion piece to the SNL cold open. (1/19a)
The Grateful Dead was never a singles act, right? Well that will change a bit next year when Rhino Records helps the Dead release the first edition of the Grateful Dead 7-Inch Singles Collection as part of a reissue series that will include all of the band’s albums.
The subscription-based singles collection opens 3/1 with the band's debut, "Stealin'" b/w "Don't Ease Me In," released on Scorpio Records in the summer of 1966. This limited edition reissue is the single's first pressing in 50 years.
Next year, the Dead will issue the first four of the band's 27 singles on 7-inch colored vinyl, each limited to 10k copies and available exclusively at dead.net. Subscriptions will be $44.98, and the remaining 23 singles will be released over the next few years.
The album reissue series starts 1/20 with The Grateful Dead: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition that includes the original studio album released in March 1967 and a second CD of the 7/29/66 and 7/30/66 shows at the P.N.E. Garden Auditorium in British Columbia, Canada. The Grateful Dead will also be available as a 12-inch vinyl picture disc, limited to 10k copies worldwide.
The series will continue with each album’s release timed to its 50th anniversary and will include a bonus disc of unreleased recordings.
Speaking of unreleased live recordings, Vol. 21 of Dave's Picks comes out 2/1 and will feature a 4/2/73 show from the old Boston Garden.
Photo credit: Dave Hogan
By Phil Gallo
The single most enticing aspect of Exhibitionism, the history of the Rolling Stones exhibit that opened this week in New York, is not the voluminous collection of instruments and stage costumes. It’s the videos.
Not the ones they used to promote singles in the MTV era, though there is space devoted to those, but new ones created for this exhibit that had a well-received run in London before heading to Gotham’s Industria. By using mini-documentaries to enhance the story of their 50-plus career, the traditionally static displays of guitars, clothing and paper goods are given an added layer of context and meaning. In nearly every section of this extensive exhibit—imagine walking through an IKEA store where all the merchandise is Stones related and sound is coming at you from every which way—every angle of the band’s astounding run is given a historical perspective whether it be one of the band members or a blues icon such as Buddy Guy.
Martin Scorsese examines his own fanaticism for the band while narrating a history of the Stones on film, complete with clips from Cocksucker Blues, Shine a Light and Sympathy for the Devil; Don Was enthusiastically talks about the Stones’ recording style outside a re-creation of Olympic Sound Studios. The last stop in the exhibit is an energizing 3D film of the Stones performing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on their last tour—it sends a fan onto the Greenwich Village streets starving for more.
Appropriately enough, the hallway entrance to Exhibitionism is a bank of various-sized screens showing multiple images from the early ‘60s to 2016 to tell the Stones’ story. That leads to a re-creation of an early shared apartment—it’s filthy but there’s a great collection of blues LPs—a collection of the boys’ early instruments, among them Keith Richards’ sunburst Harmony Meteor H70 and the electric dulcimer Brian Jones used on “Lady Jane.”
There are photos, early gig posters, test records; the lyric book from Some Girls and models of the stages used for the stadium tours of Steel Wheels, Voodoo Lounge, Bridges to Babylon and A Bigger Bang. A healthy amount of space is devoted to the story of the tongue logo.
Significantly there are boxes of master tapes and test records from 1970s recordings labeled “mono”: When will we ever get to hear those on an official release?
A New York Times article indicated the strength of the collection was in the stage clothing of Mick and Keith, and while the collection is impressive, by no means does it dominate Exhibitionism. Their clothes are separated into three eras—King’s Road, which covers the 1960s, Glam, which runs 69-89 and includes jumpsuits, capes and T-shirts, and Spectacle, which is heavy on coats and jackets—and the videos here give a fans a chance to see the outfits in use. A “backstage area” closes out the exhibit by shedding some light on their sidemen, chiefly Bobby Keys, Billy Preston and their multiple pianists.
Exhibitionism excels in detailing the evolution of the Rolling Stones as artists. There’s nothing gossipy, nothing to explain the death of Brian Jones, drug troubles, legal issues or changes in the lineup. Oddly, it could use a few more contracts or advertisements or other important papers to show how they took control of their destiny, made records on their own terms and took stagecraft to a new level in the 1980s.
But as collections of instruments and memorabilia go, this is an expert presentation. It comes with a hefty price tag—$37-$84.50 depending on the level of experience one desires—but one that any Stones fan would be wise to pay.
Photo by Carl Scheffel/MSG Photos
By Phil Gallo
When positive reports filtered in from the recent Desert Trip, I got to thinking about how impressive it is that acts who have been performing for 40 or 50 years still remain relevant whether it's through new material, the prescient qualities of their classics or just the intensity with which they perform.
The Rolling Stones, The Who, Bob Dylan and Neil Young are acts I have been going to see since the mid-1970s, first as a fan and later as a reviewer. In many cases, it’s hard to shake the visceral impact those acts have on a young, impressionable listener, whether it’s through the records or the live performances, and in some way, as a critic, there’s a bar they set that you always want to see them surpass.
It got me to thinking: What about acts I have been going to see for 30 or 40 years who never achieved the superstar status of the Desert Trip Six? Do they still have relevance?
As luck would have it, four acts I have enthusiastically followed since the 1970s—Elvis Costello, Sting, David Bromberg and Gregg Allman— were booked to play New York within a seven-day stretch. (Allman, unfortunately, had to postpone his City Winery residency). Let’s put it to the test.
Costello, who played two nights at the Beacon Theater, had the bill most likely to tap into nostalgia; his “Imperial Bedroom and Other Chambers” tour obviously meant his 1982 album would be the spine of the show. But rather than play Imperial Bedroom start to finish, Costello moved around his catalog while performing all but one of its 15 songs—“Boy With a Problem” was left out—surrounding the album’s smartly crafted pop rock with a healthy dose of songs from the five albums that preceded it and its ’83 successor Punch the Clock. Late in the 2-hour, 45-minute show, he played three songs from the musical he’s working on, a stage adaptation of A Face in the Crowd, which he hopes will be mounted next year.
As concerts that feature a revisiting of an album go, this was brilliant. Imperial Bedroom, like its predecessor Trust, has a specific band sound courtesy of producer Geoff Emerick, The Beatles’ engineer. Costello worked around the album’s singular sonic identity by mixing up the song presentations—most performances featured his trio The Imposters, but he moved between rhythm guitar and piano, sometimes solo and sometimes with Steve Nieve and/or his backup singers; it made the night feel consistently fresh.
Remember, Imperial Bedroom and Trust solidified Costello as a songwriting craftsman—yes, he would return to the nasty, biting rock of his younger self within a few years, but these two albums reflect a deep knowledge of songwriting styles and an ear for classic record production.
Revisiting it now, on the heels of his impressive biography in which he carefully detailed every influence on his music, makes considerable sense in the wake of his last three records—the experiment with The Roots and two File Under: Americana discs. Getting to Broadway means demonstrating an ability to write for characters and convey their emotional states, a feat he achieved impeccably on Imperial Bedroom.
Sting’s show, an iHeartRadio promo gig at Irving Plaza, lasted only an hour but provided a fair sense of how well he can still tap into the songwriting styles he employed on The Police’s first two albums and combine that energy with his more worldly concerns.
That “Next to You,” the lead–off track from The Police’s debut Outlandos d’Amour, was one of three Police tunes played, which supplied a perfect comparison—the new single “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” is its wiser, older cousin. “Message in a Bottle” and “Every Breath You Take” bookended the night and in new songs “Down, Down, Down,” “Petrol Head” and “One Fine Day,” Sting connected with the dynamics, pop hooks and intensity that defined his trio’s best work. No surprise, he played bass the whole night.
Of course, instead of singing strictly about love, he tackled climate change, a 19th century cross-dresser, a trucker obsessed with sex and religion and Europe’s migrant situation, but hey, that’s Sting for you.
Bromberg, too, was in album release mode at the 815-seat New York Society for Ethical Culture auditorium, having just put out The Blues, The Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues, his third since his 2007 return after 17 years spent in the violin business.
I’ll admit that when I first encountered Bromberg and his music in 1975, it was his deft bounce between blues and bluegrass, fiddle tunes and folk music, pathos and humor. That he did this with A-quality musicianship made him unlike anyone on the singer-songwriter scene. He was unclassifiable then, Americana now.
Perhaps that’s the reasoning behind his sticking with the blues for half the 90-minute show. Bromberg and his eight-piece band played eight blues tunes in a row, highlighted by his spirited version of Blind Willie McTell’s “Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues” and a swinging take on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight to the Blind,” before letting loose and playing bluegrass, an English drinking song, some country and dabbling in some traditional jazz interplay among the four horn players. In the long run, the night was about musicianship and solos—lots of ‘em—and they closed with an encore that no one will forget, an unamplified, gentle rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
The three shows reaffirmed the faith we place in musicians as fans, that they can reconnect us with our collective pasts without pandering. These concerts were nothing like the shows I saw them play in the ‘70s or ‘80s or ‘90s and for that I’m grateful Shows don’t have to be greatest hits events to make them worthwhile.
While writing this piece, the news arrived that Leonard Cohen had died. I only saw him once, back when he was attempting to find a place in rock music with a groove, and it was a show I didn’t care for. Had I seen one of his more recent performances, I’d have the perspective I know have with Elvis, Sting, Bromberg and countless others. So do yourself a favor: Go see a musician you haven’t seen in awhile. It will do your soul some good.