Photos by G.
Here’s a name you need to know: Laura Mvula. The British singer played her first headlining show in New York on May 20, 2013 at Bowery Ballroom and obviously, it was sold out. She had to move the show from the originally scheduled (and much smaller venue) Mercury Lounge date to accommodate overwhelming demand for tickets. Makes perfect sense to me. After a great set by Irish singer Foy Vance, whose voice has an a quality not unlike the voice of Ray LaMontagne, Laura Mvula (pronounced “M. Voola”) hit the stage at 9:30 PM.
This was my second time seeing Foy Vance and just like the first time I saw him, before the end of the show, he got the entire crowd singing along. He mentioned that he has a new album coming out eminently, so you should definitely check out his music if you are looking to hear the music of a singer/songwriter who has an insanely great voice.
Laura Mvula’s music, if you aren’t already familiar with it, has elements of soul and jazz and the internet rightly has mentioned a Nina Simone/Amy Winehouse -esque quality to her voice. In between songs, she told stories about what she was going to play for us and had mentioned that earlier in the day, one of her heroes, Jill Scott, tweeted her seal of approval to Laura. Several hours later, she received the seal of approval from New York as she received thunderous applause after each song.
Like some of the “new school” of amazingly talented singers such as Adele, Emeli Sande, Lianne La Havas and Jessie Ware, Laura Mvula has quite a few slow songs that showcase her amazing voice and then when the pace picks up on the faster songs, the performance space turns into an impromptu dance party (see the upbeat “Green Garden” for example). We thought the encore would be final song of the night – a stripped down version of “Human Nature,” (yes, the Michael Jackson song!) but the crowd was not having any part of letting Laura Mvula end the show. Overwhelming applause brought Laura back for a second encore and performed a reprise of “She.” Her debut album “Sing to the Moon” is out now and if you liked any of the descriptions mentioned above, you’d be foolish not to get it.
See the setlist after the jump.
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Photos by G.
Owl (from left to right: Chris Wyse, Dan Dinsmore, Jason Achilles Mezilis)
California based rockers Owl came to New York last night and played the Bowery Electric on May 19, 2013. Moments before the show started, technical problems at the venue threatened the gig, but luckily the Bowery Electric was able to pull it together in time so that Owl could end our weekends on a rockin’ note. If you are unfamiliar with Owl’s music, you’d not leave one of their gigs disappointed if you like The Cult (of which lead singer Chris Wyse works with them) or Alice in Chains. One of the highlights of their hour long set was the interaction between lead singer Chris Wyse and guitarist Jason Achilles Mezilis. During many songs, Wyse and Mezilis traded guitar and bass licks back and forth and the non-verbal conversation went over really well with the packed house at Bowery Electric.
You can stream Owl’s latest album “The Right Thing” on their official website. The link will open in a new window. Thanks Owl for a great night. I had a hoot! (OK, that was a bad pun even for me).
Photos by G.
The legendary Tom Jones dropped by legendary New York venue Bowery Ballroom on May 18, 2013 to showcase his latest album “Spirit In The Room.” Here are 10 observations from the show.
1. I am over 30 years of age and I was the youngest person in the room. By far. Possibly by 30 years.
2. Tom Jones is an amazing performer who deserves the praise he gets as he had the 500 person venue eating out of his hand for the entire show….
3. …despite playing only one of his greatest hits (“Green Green Grass of Home”) in the nearly 2 hour show.
4. All the die hard Tom Jones fans (some who I spoke with admitted to seeing him close to 1000 times) were delighted that he didn’t play any “hits.” The casual fans that came to see the hits walked away from the show bitter.
5. This was the first time I’ve ever seen people in walkers in the front row at Bowery Ballroom and as you know, I’ve been there hundreds of times.
6. Nobody threw panties or bras onto the stage. And for that, I am truly grateful!
7. Despite not playing his own hits, we heard covers of songs originally by Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Odetta, Paul McCartney, Tom Waits, Richard Thompson, Elvis Presley, Joe Henry and Leonard Cohen.
8. Tom Jones went on stage around 9:15 PM. He entered the building for the first time that day at 9:02 PM.
9. During a slow song, so many people in the audience took the opportunity to yell out “Play ‘Delilah’,” nearly drowning out Tom, but because he is the consummate performer, he overcame the audience jeers and when the song was over, got some of the loudest applause of the night.
10. I would totally go see Tom Jones again.
11. I think I better dance now!
See the setlist after the jump.
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Photo of the Lovesexy album cover by G.
Lovesexy by Prince
On May 10, 1988, Prince released his final 1980s masterpiece, “Lovesexy.” The 9 track album was his most spiritual record to date, possibly influenced by his last minute decision to scrap the dance/funk “Black Album,” which contained some of Prince’s dirtiest lyrics to date. Prince was the master of mixing spirituality with funk and turning the tables on you as evidenced by songs such as the opener “Eye No,” a rewrite of his still unreleased song “The Ball,” featuring the late Boni Boyer who takes you to musical church with her gospel flavored vocals. The mega hit “Alphabet St.” is up next, starting exactly where “Eye No” ends and in fact, for many years, the “Lovesexy” CD was issued as one track to give the listener an uninterrupted musical/spiritual experience. “Alphabet St.” features a rap from his dancer Catherine Glover (better known as “Cat”), and the line “Cat, we need u 2 rap,” is a favorite refrain even amongst non-Prince fans. “Glam Slam,” which inspired the name of night clubs that Prince would later build, is next and was a minor hit. Side one finishes off with the rock ballad “Anna Stesia,” which appears to be Prince apologizing to his God for even considering releasing the “dirty” “Black Album.” “The Black Album” was later officially released 10 years later when Prince was trying to get out of his contract with his label Warner Bros.
Side 2 kicks off with the current state of the world track “Dance On,” and its lyrics about guns and violence are still relevant 25 years on. The title track “Lovesexy” follows and it’s a perfect example of how Prince used to be the master of intertwining sex and spirituality as Prince’s alter-ego Camille makes an appearance during the climax of the song (that is literally a climax) but rather than have a proper orgasm Prince tells his lover that if he comes back as a woman, he wants a body like yours! The sexy ballad “When 2 R In Love,” recycled from “The Black Album” slows things down and features Prince’s sexy poetry that is so absent from his music today as lines like “The thought of his tongue in the V of her love / This thought / it leads the pack” let the mind wander into X-rated territory even though the lyric is G-rated. Threading sex and spirituality, the next track is the minor hit “Eye Wish U Heaven,” and when the song was released as a single, he turned the 2 minute and 43 second track into a 10 minute opus that has 3 distinct sections to it. The B-side of “Eye Wish U Heaven,” is the track “Scarlet Pussy,” performed by Camille trading licks (literally and figuratively) with then band mate Sheila E. And as only Prince can, the song is not about directly about sex. Instead it is about a feline and her suitors and is one of the funkiest tracks Prince has committed to tape. The album closes with the epic finale “Positivity,” which advises the listener at the end of the song “Hold on 2 your soul / We’ve got a long way 2 go.”
The album cover (as you can see above) was perfect for this record that fuses sexuality and spirituality in that way only Prince can get away with as Prince appears naked on the cover, but the picture is anything but “dirty.” Prince took the album on a world tour and his Lovesexy band consisted of some of the best musicians he’s ever played with. In addition to a lavish stage production that featured a ton of dancing, Prince playing many instruments and NO lip-synching, Prince transformed many of his past songs into funky new medleys and after performing in stadiums, he and his band wound down their night by playing completely different material, for another 2 hour “jam session” at small clubs in the cities they were in. Many recordings of those shows have been bootlegged and they stand out amongst Prince fans as a golden period in his career where he was musically on fire. As his lyrics fused sexuality and spirituality, on stage he was able to fuse every style of music often seamlessly blending jazz with guitar solos that would make Jimi Hendrix stop and take note.
One of the things that makes “Lovesexy” stand the test of time is that Prince challenged his audience to discover new ways of thinking without being a preacher. Unfortunately, 25 years on the same cannot be said as Prince strictly tells his listeners how they should conduct their lives as he has converted to the religious cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Comparing the way Prince conducts his life now as opposed to the way he did 25 years prior, the message of “Lovesexy” is stronger than ever – “Religion needs spirituality and not the other way around.”
Happy anniversary, “Lovesexy.”
Photos by G.
Johnny Fuckin’ Marr! The guitar god from The Smiths and Electronic has a solo album out called “The Messenger” and he performed a sold out show at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on May 3, 2013 to promote it. Johnny Marr didn’t sing when he was with The Smiths, so many people may not know that he is both great on guitar and vocals. The show was epic on so many levels. Of course, the final song featured former Smiths band mate Andy Rourke (more on that in a moment), but in addition Johnny Marr busted out some classic Smiths songs and also a pair of Electronic songs mixed in with tracks from his latest album.
Johnny Marr played two Electronic songs that I never thought I’d ever hear live before, and though he doesn’t sing lead vocals on the studio versions, he made them his own last night. He performed “Forbidden City” and “Getting Away With It” which were both great, and if you stay tuned, a video of the latter will be coming soon. He also dusted off some Smiths classics including “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before,” “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” “London” (and a video will be coming soon, so stay tuned) as well as the final song “How Soon Is Now?” where he brought former band mate Andy Rourke on stage for what will probably be the closest thing to a Smiths reunion that the world ever sees.
Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke
On a personal note, it’s really amazing to me that I uploaded a video of the historic performance and it’s already gone viral having been reposted on the likes of Rolling Stone, NME, Brooklyn Vegan and Slicing up Eyeballs!!!
Johnny Marr doesn’t often tour, but a friendly word to the wise, the next time he comes to your city, do not miss him! I hope he comes back around because it was really epic hearing his new album mixed in with classic tracks from his past. Hearing 500 people sing the words in unison also was pretty cool and you could tell that Johnny was having as great a time as the audience. Respect!
Johnny Marr Merch
The setlist was:
The Right Thing Right / Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before (Smiths) / Upstarts / Sun & Moon / There is a Light That Never Goes Out (Smiths) / Forbidden City (Electronic) / London (Smiths) / The Messenger / Generate! Generate! / Say Demesne / Bigmouth Strikes Again (Smiths) / Word Starts Attack / New Town Velocity / I Want The Heartbeat.
Encore: I Fought The Law (Clash) / Getting Away With It (Electronic) / How Soon Is Now (Smiths) – Featuring Andy Rourke.