It was a bitter cold evening last night in Upper Darby, where many traveled to see the British indie rock group Alt-J on their headlining tour in support of this year’s This Is All Yours. After the global success of their debut An Awesome Wave, which won the Mercury Prize in 2012, the band start getting the rep as “The next Radiohead.” Last night, they definitely lived up to it.
Primus has nothing to prove to anybody. They are at a golden point in their career that very few of their 90s contemporaries have been able to reach. They have paid their dues, crafted a completely unique and totally unmistakable sound, worked tirelessly for years to carve out a loyal cult of a fanbase, and now can essentially expound upon any creative whim they happen to have at any given time. This point was driven home at their Primus & The Chocolate Factory tour opener at The Tower Theater last Wednesday night.
One listen to his outstanding 2014 LP Worlds and it’s evident that Chapel Hill’s Porter Robinson stands out tremendously from the electronic dance music pack. It boasts a sophisticated sense of structure and song, of melodic and textural ideas that are the anthesis of the formulaic build-to-crescendo-to-bass-drop template that’s been all over the festival and club circuit for the past four or five years. As our Patrick Meehan pointed out in his concert preview last week, a quick disillusionment with the dance music factory led Robinson to refocus on writing what he viewed as a personal statement.
While his outside-the-box approach to the record is clear and commendable, his approach to performing, on display at The Tower on Friday night, still sits very much within the EDM DJ wheelhouse. Continue reading →
Last Wednesday, alternative rock staples Rise Against put on a show to a packed crowd at Upper Darby’s Tower Theater. The Chicago band, touring in support of their 2014 album The Blank Market, brought along solid openers, beginning with Radkey, a three piece punk band from St. Joseph, Missouri. Continue reading →
Epic (adj): heroic or grand in scale or character. It is perhaps one of the most over- and misused words in the English language. Yeah, that grilled cheese may have been tasty, but it wasn’t quite as monumental as Odysseus. But I’ll tell you what was epic: English prog-rock legends Yes’ concert at the Tower Theater. It would have been easy to doubt a group whose 46 years together do not by any means belie them, not to mention that founding singer and frontman Jon Anderson left the group in 2008. I don’t think Yes cared about these things. When you’re the band that played the most attended festival-style show in United States history here in Philly (the “Spirit Of Summer ’76” show at JFK Stadium on June 12, 1976 for 130,000 fans), a few grey hairs (or more precisely, a full head of white ones, but who’s counting?) aren’t going to get in the way of putting on a show of, that’s right, epic proportions.
Yes opened up their extremely sold out Tower Theater show with their 1972 Close To The Edge LP played in reverse. What became immediately clear as they rumbled their way through “Siberian Khatru” was that Yes’ sound is massive, which has a hell of a lot to do with founding bassist Chris Squire’s bold playing (and as it happens, his appearance isn’t much different). And while guitarist Steve Howe may have gained a few wrinkles here and there, his hair is as long as ever, and more importantly, he still knows his way around a guitar like his 5 consecutive “Best Overall Guitarist” victories in Guitar Player magazine would suggest. That, or the 3,000-odd fans bellowing out their love for him during the intricate flamenco guitar solo piece that is “Mood For A Day”. Oh, and Jon Anderson’s replacement, the similarly named Jon Davison, wasn’t half bad. Wait, scratch that. He was, to use appropriately English lexicon, bloody amazing. I can honestly say that I have never seen a frontman gesticulate, prance about and sing more passionately that Davison did. His oriental patterned shirt was pretty cool too.
After playing a couple new songs, both of which were decent enough, Yes made their way through all of the 1971 LP, Fragile. All of it. The thing about that album that I didn’t realize until I saw it live is that each song seems better than the last. Sure, the record’s opener, “Roundabout” was a hit, but “South Side Of The Sky” easily makes my top 10 guitar riffs list, and “The Fish [Schindleria Praematurus]” is probably the second best rock song ever to be written in 7/4 (“Money” by Pink Floyd takes precedence in my book, and so would Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean”, but that song isn’t really in 7/4). They encored with the timeless classic, “I’ve Seen All Good People”, which, come to think of it, includes one of the best 3-part harmonies known to rock & roll. As for the final encore, “Starship Trooper”, I’m going to have to refer you back to the beginning of the review, because no word describes it better than “epic”. Keytar and guitar (or should I say, geetar) solos from Geoff Downes and Steve Howe respectively were unbelievable. I left the room in shock. Yes still rocks.
Every music fan has their own personal list of all-time favorite concerts. But imagine if you were old enough to experience a legendary rock and roll act like Chuck Berry in his prime, while in the same breath catching emerging bands like The Black Keys and Nirvana before they got huge. It’s pretty likely you never got to do either of these things. But there is one hypothetically feasible way to make it happen: invent a time machine. So let’s pretend for a minute this doable – here’s what I’d go back in time to see.
1. Led Zeppelin – March 31, 1970 at The Spectrum
The earlier you saw Led Zeppelin the better. Towards the middle of the 70s, Jimmy Page’s heroin addiction affected his onstage presence, and Robert Plant’s voice became noticeably strained. There’s a phenomenal video, which you can find on YouTube, of Led Zeppelin playing at the Royal Albert Hall in London from the same year, which features my personal favorite versions of “Communication Breakdown,” “Bring It On Home,” “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” and “How Many More Times.” The grainy video (which also features Page doing the seemingly impossible: making a sweater vest look cool) isn’t all that clear, but the sound is great and that’s really all that matters. It’s likely you would’ve gotten the same mind blowing performance in Philly (check out this vintage review by longtime Philly journo Clark De Leon).
2. The Strokes – October 9, 2003 at Tower Theater
Julian Casablancas’ voice in the early 00s was a thing of beauty. He had the perfect Jim Morrison-esque rock and roll growl, and is probably one of the most overlooked singers in rock history during his prime. Although, I’m a huge fan of The Strokes’s later stuff as well, there’s no denying their first two albums were two of the best rock albums in the early aughties – a time that was otherwise riddled with awful rock bands like Nickelback and Breaking Benjamin.
3. Oasis – October 23, 1994 at J.C. Dobbs
This was the first time Oasis ever played in Philly and also their first ever American tour. Around this time, tensions between Noel and Liam Gallagher had yet to reach the point of totally hating each other’s guts. Also, due to a randomly placed wall on J.C. Dobbs’ stage, this show was rumored to be the only time Noel played on the left side of the stage.
4. The Who – October 19, 1969 at The Electric Factory
The Who actually played two shows at the Electric Factory on this day (bands did that back then, apparently). Anybody who’s ever seen Who videos from the late 60s knows that the band was a powerhouse back in this time period — especially with the late Keith Moon on drums. Also, this probably isn’t the Electric Factory you’re familiar with. The original one was at 22nd and Arch and closed down in 1973. The current one at 7th and Willow opened in 1994. Listen to audio from the show here.
5. The Clash – March 6, 1980 at Tower Theater
The year 1980 was a good one to see The Clash live. You would have heard songs from all their best albums including Give ‘Em Enough Rope, London Calling and their self-titled debut. Also, you’d get to see their iconic lineup. By 1983, drummer Topper Headon and guitarist Mick Jones would eventually be kicked out of the band.
6. The Black Keys – February 5, 2009 at Electric Factory
There were at least two or three times I almost saw the Black Keys before they got huge. For whatever reason, I couldn’t go to the concerts, but I always knew they’d be back in Philly again so I never let it bother me much. That is, until they released Brothers and the band made it big time. Continue reading →
As his tour in support of Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song winds back through Philadelphia, local musician done good Amos Lee will swing by City Hall tomorrow afternoon to be honored by Mayor Michael Nutter. The singer, whose roots lie in South Philly and South Jersey, will receive a mayoral proclamation for both his musical output and his work with charities like Musicians on Call and Farm Aid.
In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News’ Molly Eichel, Lee said the city remains near and dear to his heart. “I have great memories of neighbors and neighborhoods and the intensity that Philadelphia offers,” Lee told the Daily News. “I love it. It’s my home. It’s my family’s home. It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized by the city, and I appreciate it greatly.”
Lee will be honored at City Hall tomorrow at 1 p.m. He performs tomorrow night at The Tower Theater; tickets and information on the show can be found via the XPN Concert Calendar. Watch a fan video of Lee’s recent Free at Noon performance below.
Ali Wadsworth is not a new voice in Philly by any means, but she’ll be releasing her debut solo LP at Ruba Club tonight. The celebration will be an incredible one: a cocktail hour, sets by Auctioneer, Thom McCarthy and Divers and a “super top secret party band” will surround the centerpiece performance by Wadsworth and her band. Before striking out on her own, Wadsworth was a member of Unlikely Cowboy with Good Old War’s Dan Schwartz, Goldiebox with her sister Claire and Philly super-group Fantasy Square Garden. The new album, recorded by Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Man Man), features songs written for Wadsworth by her friends and fellow musicians. Tickets and information for the all-night party can be found on the Facebook event page. Watch Wadsworth perform “Still Not Over You” at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology below.
Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck will perform at The Tower on October 13th. The Beach Boys frontman and Yardbirds guitarist will co-headline the fall tour alongside fellow Beach Boys members Al Jardine and David Marks. Wilson is currently working on a new album for Capitol Records, which Beck will appear on. Tickets for the show go on sale August 9th and will be available here. Below, watch Jeff Beck cover The Beach Boys’ “Surf’s Up” and “Surfin’ USA” from Tribute to Brian Wilson.
Local singer-songwriter Amos Lee has announced a show at The Tower Theater on November 27th. The XPN listener favorite will be touring in support of his new record Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song, set for release on October 1st. It will be Lee’s fifth studio album and features cameos by Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin and more. While performing in New York for a Bowers and Wilkin’s Sound Session, Lee debuted a new song off the album called “The Man Who Wants You” – watch the live video for the song below and view the full track list for Mountainshere. Tickets for the all-ages show go on sale August 7th and will be available here.