Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Kanye West @The Nokia Theatre, Aug. 29th

I got a pair of free tickets from Amex's giveaway and briefly considered dumping the tickets since I didn't want to miss kung fu, it being a Tuesday, but lordy, am I glad I went! I took Fer along to the state of the art Nokia Theatre in Times Square, and despite our lateness in joining the line, we managed to get good positioning on the floor.

After making the crowd endure a long ass set by DJ AM (yes, the former flame of Nicole Ritchie), which wouldn't have been so bad if we weren't impatiently waiting for the main attraction, Kanye finally hit the stage just before 10:30pm, starting off with "Diamonds from Sierra Leone." He had both a male and a female backup singer, a full string section including harp, and DJ 8-track, who provided percussion samples and music samples.

The Britta had said to me that he thought hip hop could be crap live, so my expectations for this were set low, but Kanye proved that he was deserving of the hype. For the next 90 minutes, Kanye worked us hard. He came at us with hit after hit from both of his albums. His set was interrupted by a two song set by John Legend, who sang his hit "Ordinary People," a gorgeous song, and then remained on stage to sing backup on "Heard 'Em Say." Kanye was also joined by Common for a few cuts.

In singing "Gold Digger" Kanye joked how it was the only time white people felt comfortable saying "n*gga."

He then did a brief history of various songs he helped produce/write in the years before he made it big as an artist in his own right, including hits by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.

Following that interlude, Kanye brought out Pharrell. To the audience's delight, they covered "Drop It Like It's Hot" (or was it "Beautiful"?) and "Frontin'."

To close out the show, Kanye went back to his first album for "Jesus Walks" (always stirring), "Never Let Me Down," and his first single "Through the Wire."

Throughout the show, Kanye proved himself to be charming, funny (we learned that he knows "Anchorman" verbatim), hard working, in touch with the audience -- for real. I came away astonished -- he blew me away.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Revenge of the Book Eaters @Beacon Theatre, Aug. 23rd

Met up with Fer, Dave and Stacey for Revenge of the Book Eaters, a fund raiser for 826NYC, "a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers to inspire their students to write." A group of fantastic humorists, including Jon Stewart, John Hodgman, Dave Eggers and Sarah Vowell were joined by musicians John Roderick (of The Long Winters), Sufjan Stevens and David Byrne.

I was lucky to land second row center seats the day they went on sale.

Revenge of the Book Eaters, Beacon Theater, 8/23

John Roderick played a short acoustic set.

Revenge of the Book Eaters, Beacon Theater, 8/23

Sufjan and a few of his band members played a handful of more recent Illinois(e) cuts.

Revenge of the Book Eaters, Beacon Theater, 8/23

Revenge of the Book Eaters, Beacon Theater, 8/23

David Byrne played a longer country set filled with covers and a few Talking Heads tunes, including a countryfied "Big Country."

As an encore, Sufjan joined David on stage for a cover song about Saginaw, Michigan, but not by Sufjan.

The evening reminded me how I used to make time in my life for volunteering, especially tutoring. I think this evening might cause me to explore some possibilities.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Michael Cerveris, et al. @Bowery Ballroom, Aug. 21st

Monday night, joined my fellow theater geek Wheatie for a fundraiser by the members of the cast of Sweeney Todd and friends, including Duncan Sheik and Nellie McKay. If you recall, Wheatie and I enjoyed seeing the amazing Broadway show in January. Tonight, a bunch of these amazingly talented people got together at my favorite venue to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

The first portion of the evening featured a number of the actors from the show, including Johanna and Tobias:

They did not play Sweeney songs, but played a number of crazy covers and original pieces. (No, they did not cover "Crazy.")

Then, Nellie McKay, after joining in on some songs, played a short 3 song solo set -- pretty nutty and delightful, as usual:

It was during her set we spotted Patti Lupone, or I should say, Mrs. Lovett, seated in the balcony.

The next portion of the evening had Duncan Sheik play stripped down versions of some songs from his upcoming musical, Spring Awakening:

Finally, for the last part of the evening, we got to experience Mr. Sweeney Todd himself, Michael Cerveris, and his band rock out. One song, Powerlines, reminded me a lot of Bob Mould and Husker Du. His rock voice was surprisingly different from his stage voice -- more subtle and higher than his baritone that I was used to. Happily, he didn't spit a single drop, as he infamously does during Sweeney Todd. Julie1 told me that she saw Michael Cerveris as Hedwig years ago. I couldn't picture it till I heard him sing last night.

To close out the evening, Michael and his band were joined by Duncan and Nellie and Co.

So awesome, all of it!

Dog Voices @The Sea Shell, Aug. 19th

Okay, so this isn't a usual music blog entry, but it sort of is...

My best friend Christina is getting married soon, so this past weekend we headed down to the Jersey Shore for a 4 day bachelorette weekend. We stayed at this motel on the beach called the Sea Shell. Five girls crammed into a room, ready for a ton of fun. Our view from our balcony in the morning:

Our room was right over the tiki bar and had a view of the pool, so later on during the day, it really felt like we were on some MTV spring break show:

The best part was on Saturday when we caught this great cover band, Dog Voices. They came up on the roof in front of our balcony and played from there:

Because Christina was wearing a veil and a sash that said "Miss Bachelorette," people were super cool and bought us tons of drinks and shots and offered all kinds of advice re: marital life. We thought it'd be a great idea if we took turns wearing the veil all the time.

Later on in the evening, Dog Voices played the indoors restaurant/bar downstairs as well. The lead singer of Dog Voices, Monte, who hammed it up with Christina, thought that wearing the veil was a good idea, too:

I am so exhausted from all that silly partying, but we showed Christina a great time. I am so excited for her and her fiance, Chris!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Roots @Webster Hall, Aug. 14th

(No pics for this one -- the rat bastards at Webster Hall actually made me check in my camera with security! And they charged me $4 for the privilege too!)

So met up with Jamie and Irene tonight at the hotbox, Webster Hall. Fucking sweated like I did one of my 2 hour Kung fu classes again. Never again will I bother going to Webster during the summer months. Yuck.

My other big complaint tonight is that Kool cigarettes somehow sponsored this show. This is the second show this month where I had to endure cigarette logos prominently displayed. (Phoenix featured Camel logos all over Bowery.) This time, on either side of the stage were plasma tvs constantly broadcasting Kool propaganda, every once in a while interrupted by the Surgeon General's warning. Lame.

But otherwise, the show was pretty fun. We once again stood on the side platforms so we had a good view of the stage. We caught the end of Pharcyde, which was, for lack of a better term, a'ight. They featured a freestyling MC named Supernatural who riffed off of items presented to him by the people at the front of the crowd. Very entertaining.

After a useless intermission featuring some Fly Girl dancer types and an annoying MC, the Roots got on stage around 9:45. They are an amazing act -- Black Thought is non-stop relentless with the words backed by fantastic live musicians -- ?uestlove being prolly the most prominent at drums. Throughout the show, they allowed the various musicians to play extended solos. I was most impressed by the guitarist who channeled both Santana and Jimi Hendrix during his solo (in addition to providing backup vocals).

Midway through the Roots' set, Talib Kweli hit the stage and did a few of his own cuts, backed up by two female singers, and his DJ. No live musicians for him, unfortunately, but good to catch, nonetheless. I really wish I had seen him and Mos Def perform as Black Star.

The Roots returned to the stage after Talib's set, playing full throttle. While their main set was captivating, it was their encores that really tore it up. They played a modified version of "The Seed 2.0," which rocked. But what brought the house down? Cee-lo of Gnarls Barkley himself joined them on stage and sang "Crazy." Fuck yeah!

After that amazing moment, the Roots were not done yet -- they played an amazing bunch of snippets of covers, basically taking us through a history of hip hop in some ways. A little bit of Kanye, a little bit of Wu, some of Salt 'N Peppa...friggin' bombtastic! It all ended at about 12:30. Nutty for a Monday night!

This was my second time catching the Roots -- my first time was two years ago at Irving Plaza. They made me sweat, but it was well worth it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Sonic Youth/Yeah Yeah Yeahs @McCarren Pool, Aug. 11th

Tonight went back to McCarren Pool in Williamsburg for the excellent double bill of Sonic Youth and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. (We missed Blood on the Wall on purpose.) Ste and I were eager to see Sonic Youth, so we jumped into the pool while Wawa, Heather and Dave waited outside for Stacey to show up. We did spot Michael Pitt -- yes, the boy who showed his penis in the Dreamers.

It was fairly easy for Ste and me to slide up pretty close and center. The sun lit up the stage as Sonic Youth hit the stage, and they were fabulous. They focused mainly on their latest album, Rather Ripped, but did pull a few out of the archives as well. It was cool to see Thurston, Kim and Lee trade off lead vocals for the various songs. And can I just say, that Kim is pretty smokin' for someone who's 53!

The First Lady and President of Post Punk

Next up, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The two portions of the evening couldn't have been more different than night and day, or day and night...

I saw the YYYs in February before they released their second album, Show Your Bones. At that great show at the Bowery, they focused on their new songs, which the crowd didn't know just yet. Tonight, after a having a good number of months to digest it, the crowd ate it all up. Karen O. came out wearing a crazy outfit and brought her usual frenetic energy to the stage -- she's got the chi. Nick Zinner, looking all goth and frail, worked the guitar hard. And we did get to hear "Maps" and "Y Control" so I was pleased.

One thing I did learn today -- trying to take pictures while in the mosh pit is probably a futile idea. After a few useless pics, I gave up and bopped along with the rest of the enthusiastic bunch. I even had to help keep a few crowd surfers afloat.

Like I said, the two bands could not have been more different. Both were awesome, but I think the order they played in -- Sonic Youth first, then the YYYs -- was appropriate. In terms of respect, all deference should be paid to Sonic Youth, but the YYYs were a slam dunk to the evening. Tomorrow night they're supposed to switch their order of appearance. I wonder what that'll be like...

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Phoenix @Bowery Ballroom, Aug. 7th

Thomas de Phoenix, a/k/a Sophia's Baby Daddy, il est tres yummmm, n'est-ce pas?

(And he smells like a Frenchman, too!)

(The French Kicks were also pretty rockin'.)

(Sorry for the shitty cell phone pics. Another case of dammit, I wish I had my actual camera...)

Monday, August 7, 2006

Sleater-Kinney @Webster Hall, Aug. 2nd

Carrie, Corin & Janet,

We will miss you lovely ladies!

More chi! Rock on! Kick ass!

Love, Qbertplaya