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Posts Tagged ‘Randy Newman’

raphael_saadiq_-_the_way_i_see_it

By Joel Francis

Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It
Classic soul throwback.
Avoids tribute clichés by
keeping spirit true.

TV on the Radio – Dear Science
Great band gets better.
Bowie-meets-doo-wop epics.
Tunes for brain and feet.

Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson – Two Men with the Blues
Disparate worlds?
Not so fast. Legends say no.
Smiles all around.

David Byrne/Brian Eno – Everything That Happens…
Restless souls rejoin.
Straight-ahead compared to last album
Twenty-three years ago.

Randy Newman – Harps and Angels
Not Pixar film score.
Track 4 tears Dub-ya new one.
Mark Twain of music.

Justin Townes Earle – The Good Life
Old country played right.
More Hank Williams than Junior.
Dad Steve should be proud.

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah, Pt. 1
Esoteric beats
and furious politics
make for dark album.

Portishead – Third
More dark atmospheres,
Dormant band surprises all;
Not trip-hop retread.

She and Him – Vol. 1
Vanity project?
Hell no. Zooey is for real.
M. Ward is great foil.

Q-Tip – The Renaissance
Ten years not Tip’s fault,
stupid labels shelve three tries.
Glad to have you back.

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Above: Watching the Dirtbombs rip through “Ever Lovin’ Man” at The Bottleneck was one of the Top 10 shows of the year.

By Joel Francis

(Note: All concerts in Kansas City, Mo., unless otherwise stated.)

10. Dirtbombs, The Bottleneck, Lawrence, Kan., May 25
The Dirtbombs didn’t get started until midnight, but no one seemed to mind. With barely three dozen fans in the club, just showing up was a sign of devotion.  For the next hour, singer/guitarist Mick Collins and his band plowed through solid cuts like “Ever Lovin’ Man” off their latest album, “We Have You Surrounded,” and soul covers like Sly and the Family Stone’s “Underdog” from their classic album, “Ultraglide in Black.” Collins hails from the Motor City and he embraces its every aspects, combining the soul of Motown with the soiled fuzz of the White Stripes and Stooges.

9. Carbon/Silicon, Record Bar, March 29
It isn’t often a member of the Clash comes to town, and even more rare they’d play a 200-person room like The Record Bar. With barely a nod to his old band, guitarist/songwriter/singer Mick Jones displayed the chops and charm that made him a legend. Read the full review.

8. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Qwest Center, Omaha, March 14
Bruce Springsteen closed his “Magic” tour with a three-hour performance at the Sprint Center. I didn’t make that one, but I did see his warm-up gig a few months earlier in Omaha. Springsteen and company treated the crowd to most of his latest album and liberally sprinkled classics like “Jungleland,” “She’s the One” “Thunder Road,” which featured a guest appearance from hometown boy Conor Oberst. Read the full review.

7. Rhett Miller, Largo, Los Angeles, April 11
The Old 97s had barely reconvened when Rhett Miller struck out alone for two nights on the tiny stage at Largo, Los Angeles’ legendary artist-friendly club. He dusted off several 97s favorites and debuted songs from the group’s upcoming album “Blame It On Gravity.” Miller also tromped through his solo catalog and treated the intimate crowd to his favorite covers. The appearance of pianist Jon Brion midway through the set was the cherry on the sundae. The two musicians renewed their musical friendship through songs like David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” and Wilco’s “California Stars” that had the pair grinning like schoolboys. Miller announced he was recording the show for future release. Keep your fingers crossed this pops up.

6. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Granada Theater, Lawrence, Kan., Jan. 29
It was after 11 p.m. on an icy winter night when the Dap-Kings took the stage. Within minutes it felt like a hot 1966 summer afternoon. Clad in matching suits, their three-piece horn section complementing the three-piece rhythm section, the Dap-Kings – go-to performers for everyone from Amy Winehouse to Seattle’s Saturday Knights – settled into a solid soul groove. Moments later, the diminutive Sharon Jones skittered across the stage as if she were shot from a cannon. Like a perfect hybrid of James Brown and Tina Turner, Jones partied through songs from her three albums and taught the crowd a few new dance moves. The heat from the band must have pushed the overall mercury up, because when it was all over outside didn’t feel as cold.

5. Randy Newman, Folly Theater, Oct. 11
Randy Newman found a break from his day job scoring movies to make a quick run to the heartland and give his first Missouri show in a generation. Working primarily from this year’s “Harps and Angels” album, Newman’s solo set was stocked with more than two dozen catalog favorites peppered with hilarious asides, all performed in front of a sold-out, appreciative audience. Read the full review.

4. Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, Starlight Theater, Sept. 23
Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones may be beating down Robert Plant’s door to reconvene Led Zeppelin, but Plant would be better served sticking with Alison Krauss. With a muse mightier than his former bandmates can imagine, Plant and Krauss delivered two hours of spellbinding music with arguably the greatest backing band of all time. Read the full review.

3. Dave Brubeck, Folly Theater, Oct. 2
Dave Brubeck quit touring Europe a few years ago, so the 88-year-old jazz pianist’s occasional treks to Kansas City are even more prized. Most people know Brubeck from his groundbreaking quartet with Paul Desmond, but his new group is arguably as good. Randy Jones did more with the nine pieces in his drum kit than most drummers can do with triple the amount, while saxophone player Bobby Militello applied sheets of sound and originality to Desmond’s well-worn and much-beloved “Take Five.” The quartet encored with a brief, smirking reading of Braham’s “Lullabye.”

2. Radiohead, Verizon Wireless (formerly Riverfront) Ampitheater, St. Louis, May 14
Radiohead’s last concert in the area was on the “Hail To the Thief” tour and I have been kicking myself for five years for missing them. No longer. The band’s set burned with the intensity of a supernova, climaxing with “Fake Plastic Trees.” Early detours through the “Idiotheque” and all of “In Rainbows” made the evening both invigorating and draining – and just enough to hold me over until the next tour. Read the full review.

1. Tom Waits, Fox Theater, St. Louis, June 26
Hipsters, hippies, bikers and beatniks alike populated the sold-out congregation for Tom Waits first visit to St. Louis in a generation. He made it a night to remember, performing rarities like “Heigh Ho!” (for the only time on the tour), old favorites like “Rain Dogs” and new gems like “Day After Tomorrow.” Oh yeah, and advice on how to bid on eBay. Read the full review.

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Above: We’ve got a friend in Randy.

By Joel Francis

The setup couldn’t have been simpler – a grand piano, bench, monitor, couple of microphones, a small rug. But add Randy Newman to that list and the payoff couldn’t have been greater Saturday night.

Strolling casually onstage at 8 p.m. sharp, Newman rolled into “It’s the Money That I Love.” Throughout the next two and a half hours (counting a 20 minute intermission), he walked through nearly three dozen album tracks and hits like “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” “I Love L.A.” and “Short People” for a nearly sold-out Folly Theater crowd.

He may have been alone onstage, but Newman had a theater of fervent supporters. The audience of NPR-listening baby boomers was pin-drop quiet on the moodier numbers and clapping and laughing on the upbeat songs. When Newman finally enlisted their help on the chorus of “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It)” the enthusiastic response was startling. “You sound like a Queen record,” he joked.

Newman is as good at directing a crowd as he is an orchestra. He shifted effortlessly from the laugh-out-loud satire of “Korean Parents” to the melancholy “I Miss You” – a love song “for my first wife while I was married to my second one,” Newman said – to the upbeat children’s song “Simon Smith.”

Some of the evening’s best lines came between songs. “The World Isn’t Fair” was prefaced by a story about his son’s progressive pre-school where they would “sit around on cushions and come home with lice every couple weeks” He led into “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It),” a screed about rock stars who don’t know when to retire, by explaining “no one is applauding at home” and “no one is going to tell Paul his best work was with Wings.”

Every song was a highlight, but several numbers stood apart. “Dixie Flyer,” a song about Newman’s emigration from the Bayou State to Los Angeles, segued into “Louisiana 1927,” a historical recount of the great Mississippi flood. Two songs named after cities, “Birmingham” and “Baltimore,” were powerful paeans to the working class in decaying towns.

Although the generous setlist encompassed Newman’s entire catalog, it tipped toward his last two releases. All but one song from this year’s wonderful “Harps and Angels” was performed. That album provided one of the better political songs in recent memory, “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country.”

Newman let his songs do his stumping for him. Several of the numbers he wrote more than 30 years ago, like the bomb-happy “Political Science” and the plea “Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)” sadly have a contemporary relevance.

Today, Newman is better known for his sweeping film scores and Pixar songs than stinging lyrics and clever songwriting. He did OK with only 88 keys to replicate his orchestrations. His more complicated songs, like “A Piece of the Pie” and “Harps and Angels” survived the transition more or less intact. “Love Song (You and Me)” actually sounded better stripped down.

Like many of his generation’s best songwriters – Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Tom Waits come to mind – Newman’s froggy voice is an acquired taste that is easily parodied. Saturday’s magical immersion in Newman’s world of five centuries of European history in three minutes (“The Great Nations of Europe”), senior forgetfulness (“Potholes”) and erotic humor (“You Can Leave Your Hat On”) was more than enough to convert the few who carried any reservations into the theater and leave the devoted a performance to cherish.

Setlist: It’s the Money That I Love/My Life Is Good/Marie/Short People/Birmingham/Bad News From Home/The World Isn’t Fair/Korean Parents/I Miss You/Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear/A Few Words in Defense of Our Country/Laugh and Be Happy/Losing You/You Can Leave Your Hat On/I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It)/Political Science/<intermission>/Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)/The Great Nations of Europe/Potholes/In Germany Before the War/Baltimore/Only A Girl/Love Story (You and Me)/Real Emotional Girl/You’ve Got a Friend in Me/Harps and Angels/Dixie Flyer/Louisiana 1927/Guilty/I Love L.A./God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)/A Piece of the Pie/I Think It’s Going to Rain Today/<encores>/It’s Lonely at the Top/Feels Like Home

Below: Because you were going to Google it anyway….

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