Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’

(Above: R.E.M. opened their 2003 concert in Kansas City with the rarely performed “Star 69. Here the band does it at Glastonbury ’99. )

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

“This next song,” Michael Stipe said, “is a request.”

The number wasn’t a surprise. Much like right now, the country was leading up to a big election year. It was startling the band would start playing requests just two songs in to the set. But what made “World Leader Pretend” seem so stunning was that I had requested it.

Oh, I’m sure I’m not the only person who logged on to R.E.M.’s Website, selected the upcoming concert at Starlight Theatre and plugged “World Leader Pretend” into one of the three request slots. In that moment, however, it felt like the band was playing for ME, way up near the top of the theater bowl.

That feeling was reinforced two songs later when Stipe announced another request. “Fall on Me” is my all-time favorite R.E.M. song, and occupied another of my limited request spots. Those two moments, coupled with that night being my first (and now only) time seeing R.E.M. in concert made the night an incredible experience that cemented my passion for the band.

Shortsightedness prevented me from seeing R.E.M. eight years earlier, when they sold out two nights at Sandstone Amphitheatre in 1995 with Sonic Youth. Despite promoting the critically derided (but personally beloved) “Monster” album, that was R.E.M.’s first tour since the gigantic success of “Losing My Religion” and “Everybody Hurts.”

Eight years later the band was in a very different place. Drummer and not-so-secret weapon Bill Berry had left and the remaining trio had released three increasingly experimental records with decreasing results. They had toured faithfully during that time, but always skipped Kansas City. In 2003 they were pumping a greatest hits collection and the generally lifeless “Around the Sun” was right around the corner. In that moment R.E.M. seemed like Johnny Unitas with the Chargers or Babe Ruth with the Braves. “Accelerate” and this year’s “Collapse Into Now” proved they were more like Bobby Hull with the Jets.

And now, nearly exactly eight years to the day1 after I saw them at Starlight, R.E.M. are done. Buck will probably continue to play sideman to Robyn Hitchcock and Scott McCaughey, Mills will make pleasant but unnecessary James Taylor-meets-Brian Wilson solo albums, and Stipe will direct films and make weird solo albums that sound nothing like R.E.M.

I’m happy that R.E.M. decided to call it a day instead of endlessly releasing uninspired product (I’m looking at you, Red Hot Chili Peppers). But I’m also sorry that I likely won’t hear the new sounds of three of my favorite musicians working together again.

R.E.M. have always been a part of my musical landscape. They were legends when I discovered music, and it makes me sad to think they now only exist in history. But I’ll always have the tape of “World Leader Pretend” and “Fall on Me” in my mind.2

1 Setlist.fm reminded me the concert was on Sept. 17, 2003.

2 If anyone has a real recording of this night, please let me know.

Keep reading:

Stuff your stocking with these live collections

Classic Christmas Carol: “Jesus Christ”

Review: “The Oxford American: Book of Great Music Writing”

Read Full Post »

(Above: The video for “Love Kills,” one of two songs Joe Strummer wrote for 1985 film “Sid and Nancy.” These songs represented his first post-Clash solo work. )

By Joel Francis

Every Christmas Eve, a significant block of time is set aside to honor the late Joe Strummer, who died on Dec. 22, 2002. This year, The Daily Record examines four songs from the last days of The Clash and Strummer’s reluctant transition to solo artist.

“This Is England” by The Clash, from “Cut the Crap”

The final single in the Clash’s illustrious career, “This Is England” has been unfairly overlooked. After firing manager Bernie Rhodes in 1978, Strummer convinced the rest of the group to bring Rhodes back in 1981. That decision hastened the end of the band. Rhodes played Mick Jones off of Strummer, and after the difficult “Combat Rock” sessions convinced Strummer the band would be better with him in charge and without Jones.

Strummer fired Jones, but regretted the decision for the rest of his life. Realizing he had been duped, Strummer and Paul Simonon, the only remaining members in the band at the end, abandoned the material recorded for the post-Jones album “Out of Control.” Rhodes finished the album alone, changed its title to “Cut the Crap” released the album without the band’s permission.

As sad and unfortunate as this tale may be, it shouldn’t detract from the greatness of “This is England.” The synths and drum machine may not line up with the Clash’s established sound, but the diatribe against the Motherland, soaring chorus and knife blade guitars are pure Strummer.

“Sightsee MC” by Big Audio Dynamite, from “No. 10 Upping Street”

When Mick Jones found artistic success with his post-Clash ensemble Big Audio Dynamite, Joe Strummer was both elated and devastated. He was happy for his old friend, but fell into a depression, because he knew the Clash were over. Strummer found a way to work with Jones again, though, when he appeared in the studio and offered to produce the group’s second album.

Despite being penned by its two best-know members, “Sightsee MC” sounds nothing like The Clash. Full of samples, synth beds and big drums, the production hasn’t aged well, but the song was very its time when it was released in 1986. Jones’ rap delivery recalls the Clash song “The Magnificent Seven,” and the Jamaican patios fits in with the band’s love for reggae.  Spidery guitar line and references to “send out a mayday to London” delineate Clash connection.

Strummer frequently performed “Sightsee MC” in concert during his 1988 “Rock Against the Rich” tour with his new band, the Latino Rockabilly War.

“Filibustero” by Joe Strummer, from the “Walker” soundtrack

After writing songs for “Sid and Nancy” and “Straight to Hell,” Strummer became British director Alex Cox’ go-to guy for soundtracks. “Walker,” Cox’ 1987 “acid Western” starring Ed Harris and Peter Boyle has been mostly forgotten, but its soundtrack stands proudly as Strummer’s first post-Clash, solo LP.

Strummer was surprisingly tentative in his leadership of the project, though. Every day he showed up at the Russian Hill recording studio in San Francisco with a boom box and cassettes of sketches and ideas he had heard and recorded the night before. Instructing his musicians to “work something up” he’d disappear for several hours, then return to hear what developed. Under those circumstances, it’s amazing the music not only turned out well, but pleased Strummer.

The lead-off track, “Filibustero” sounds like something out of the Buena Vista Social Club or Afro-Cuban All-Stars. The former punk rock warlord uses Latin American rhythms, arrangements and melodies to capture the film’s Nicaraguan setting. For some reason, “Filibustero” was released as a single, which included several remixes. It did not chart, but it did establish Strummer on the road to world music he would explore in depth a decade later with the Mescaleros.

“Trash City” by Joe Strummer and the Latino Rockabilly War, from the “Permanent Record” soundtrack

Strummer’s work on the “Permanent Record” album marked his fourth soundtrack in as many years, but these sessions were different. After flirting with world music on “Walker,” Strummer was ready to rock out again. He recruited several L.A.-based underground musicians, including former Circle Jerks bassist Zander Schloss and former Red Hot Chili Peppers/future Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons, and dubbed them the Latino Rockabilly War.

Of the five songs the group contributed to the “Permanent Record” soundtrack, only “Trash City” was released as a single. The track fades in like a party already in progress, as Iron’s drums and Strummer’s guitar hammer the rhythm home. Dropping his normally serious, political façade, Strummer sings about visiting “a girl from Kalamazoo” and tosses in non-sequiturs about coffee shops in Seoul, bowling and vandalism for good measure. The yelps and scream on the outro show how much fun Strummer is having.

Keep reading:

Happy Clash-mas Eve (2008)

Review: Carbon/Silicon at the Record Bar (Mick Jones/Terry James project)

Read Full Post »

(Above: Chickenfoot live it up going “Down the Drain,” one of the highlights of their performance Tuesday night at the Uptown Theater.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

On paper, there was a potential disaster: Chickenfoot, the hard-rock supergroup that includes members of Van Halen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, ignored several of those groups’ Top 10 hits to concentrate solely on new material at their Tuesday night concert at the Uptown Theater.

However, what sometimes comes across as forced and stiff on album, was loose and fun as former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar and bass player Michael Anthony, Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani tore through their new songs like a set of old favorites for a nearly sold-out crowd.

For the two hours they were onstage, the Uptown felt like a rock club. Throughout the night, Smith perpetually tossed drumsticks into the audience as Hagar signed autographs and slapped hands. The curtain draped across the back half of the stage pushed the band so close that Smith was able to pick out a pretty blonde in the front row and convince her to administer a spanking.

The night opened like the album, with “Avienda Revolution.” The second number, “Soap on a Rope,” featured a big greasy guitar riff that wouldn’t have been out of place in Hagar and Anthony’s old band. As Satriani reeled off one of his gravity-defying solos, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Anthony, smiling and bopping like the two had played together since high school.

Anthony broke out the Jack Daniels bass for barn-burning “Down the Drain.” Hagar introduced the number saying it was born out of a studio jam, but the way the group changed textures and tempos while maintaining intensity proved that this band was more than a vanity project.

Satriani rarely works with vocalists, so it was interesting to watch how he interacted with Hagar. Typically, his fingers say so much it’s difficult to get a word in edgewise, but he served the songs well, tastefully stepping back during the verses instead of just spinning his wheels until the next solo.

“Bitten by the Wolf” was the lone number during the main set that didn’t come from Chickenfoot’s self-titled album. The bluesy acoustic number was well received, but the crowd tore the roof off singing along to the next song, “Oh Yeah,” which has generated some radio airplay.

After the obligatory Hagar car song “Turnin’ Left” -– an ode to NASCAR –- the Red Rocker finally strapped on an electric guitar for the closing ballad “Future in the Past.” He reached for the six-string again, playing lap slide to introduce “Bad Motor Scooter,” a number Hagar wrote with Montrose in the ‘70s. It was the lone nod to any back catalog.

The night ended with another car song, Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” but the band lingered onstage long after the song was over. As Smith, Anthony and Hagar reveled in the fans, Satriani filmed the moment for posterity. The fun was so infectious, everyone was reluctant to leave and break up the party.

Admittedly, it would have been nice to hear “Dreams” or “By the Way,” but why look to the past when there’s so much promise in the future?

Setlist: Avienda Revolution, Sexy Little Thing, Soap on a Rope, My Kinda Girl, Down the Drain, Bitten by the Wolf, Oh Yeah, Learning to Fall, Get It Up, Turnin’ Left, Future in the Past/encore: Bad Motor Scooter, Highway Star

ckft

Read Full Post »