Radiohead: Perfect in Atlanta

Live Review: Radiohead and Other Lives at Philips Arena, 3/1/12

Those who admittedly “don’t get” Radiohead have clearly never experienced a live show. But others, who have been fans of the band since the beginning, have found it easier to appreciate Radiohead’s music as the band has evolved over nearly 20 years on the scene. Despite their electronic/experimental leanings, anyone would be a convert after being witness to one of these astonishing productions.

With the phenomenal musicianship of each member of the band, every song was brilliantly performed – even those unfamiliar to many in the audience sounded like hits. There has been little if any radio play for Radiohead’s songs since the beginning (“Creep,” “High And Dry” and “Karma Police” are exceptions, which had limited success in America – none of which are played live very often). To be honest, The King of Limbs Radiohead is a far cry from the more accessible Pablo Honey Radiohead of 1993.

Lead singer/frantic dancer Thom Yorke (who also skillfully handled guitars, keyboards and piano) commanded a perfect evening for Atlanta fans on the third stop of the King of Limbs tour. Ed O’Brien (guitars, backing vocals, electronics), brothers Colin (bass guitars, keyboards) and Jonny Greenwood (guitars, keyboards, etc.), and Phil Selway (drums, percussion) round out this critically acclaimed British quintet. A majority of tracks off of the new album were played and sounded spectacular live. The 20,000+ rabid fans filled the sold-out Philips Arena and were possibly the only thing louder than the band. Radiohead definitely felt the love that night, crowd surfers and all.

Besides creating music that no one can predict, this group is also known for breathtaking visuals. On the new tour, there are twelve giant screens (each measuring roughly five feet by five feet) hanging high above the stage, showing live images of each member. Several cameras were mounted stage left and right. The huge wall behind the band looked more like bubble wrap, but soon would be host erratic and colorful designs via thousands of LEDs which may or may not have been responsible for seizures throughout the throngs of crazy fans. As the show progressed, those colossal screens began to slowly lower until they were hanging at various angles just above the bandmember’s heads. This mezmerising effect made every seat in the house a front row experience. The screens raised and lowered throughout the show.

Yorke has transcended into Rock God status. At the beginning and end of every song, enamored fans hooted, hollared and screamed their approval. The same thing happened each time he spoke. Even clearing his throat brought applause. Yorke seems the epitome of contentment as he danced and jumped and flailed around the stage, much like Michael Stipe was known to do. Stipe and R.E.M. were one of Radiohead’s inspirations and they opened for the Georgia natives a few times in the nineties.

After an incredible set of 16 wonderful songs, the band gave two encores. In all respects, Yorke was extremely appreciative and thanked the fans repeatedly. Ending the first encore, he sat at the keyboard and sang a few bars of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” which lead seamlessly into the marvelous “Everything In Its Right Place,” one of the evening’s most well-received tunes. When Yorke sings, “Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon / Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon,” it’s hard to imagine that’s his life now. The dude was smiling more and dancing more and living more. At concert’s end, the band had surpassed the two-hour mark.

As Radiohead continue to evolve musically, they also improve upon their live performances. This night in Atlanta should rank up their with their most flawless of evenings. Everything seemed to be in its right place. The only drawback was that many songs were not played due to time constraints and/or the band’s own lack of willingness to play them. Nevertheless, every serious music fan should add Radiohead to their short list of “must see” shows.

Oklahoma’s Other Lives opened the show with a fantastic set. Supporting Radiohead on the first leg of the tour, Other Lives culled most of the songs from last year’s Tamer Animals (TBD) album, including the incredible “For 12.” Just last summer, the band was in Atlanta opening for the Rosebuds in the much smaller EARL venue. They’ve come a long way in a few short months.

Frontman Jesse Tabish lead the six-piece ensemble through a too-brief set of beautiful tunes. Their sound is relatively close to the Radiohead neighborhood of music and the audience recognized that. They will finish out this American tour with Radiohead, then move on and evolve, as all great bands do.

Set List:

Bloom, Little By Little, Airbag, Weird Fishes / Arpeggi, Morning Mr. Magpie, The Gloaming, Kid A, Pyramid Song, Nude, Identikit, Lotus Flower, There There, Feral, Idioteque, The Daily Mail, Bodysnatchers

Encore:

Separator, You And Whose Army?, Myxomatosis, The One I Love / Everything In Its Right Place

Encore 2:

Staircase, Reckoner, Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Uncle Green resurrected

Live review: Uncle Green / 3 lb. Thrill CD release party with Pink Pompeii and The Head at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, 2/25/12

For fans of 90s alt-rockers Uncle Green (who became 3 lb. Thrill with a label deal), last night’s reunion show was a godsend. Although that major label thing did not last, the following did. After the successful Kickstarter campaign last year to master and self-release Rycopa, die-hard fans have been chomping at the bit awaiting this reunion show. The foursome did not disappoint.

And it also seems as if the band picked up right where it left off. Some rust is always expected for a reunion show. Seriously, these guys haven’t played a gig together for six years. Despite that, they sounded fresh and tight. And all those Rycopa songs from 1997? Still sounding relevant.

The boys joked and poked fun at each other throughout the night, exhibiting a friendship that is still apparently intact. Drummer Pete McDade, who did all the heavy lifting in finding those tapes, is raising a family in Atlanta. Bassist Bill Decker also resides in Atlanta while Jeff Jensen (vocals, guitar) lives in Washington, D.C. and Matt Brown (vocals, guitar) calls New Jersey home.

While the band revisited the glory days with many classics that the fans really were yearning for, the night was ruled by the highly listenable tracks from Rycopa. The driving “Not In Range,” was a favorite as was the awesome “Geronimo.” The dueling vocals of Jensen and Brown work together seamlessly. All four are seasoned musicians who play together as if that 15-year break was 15 days.

The wonderful “Pretty Good Lie” joins many other songs that could easily have made it on the radio back in ’97 (or even today). But somehow this is sweeter, after the aging process has matured these tunes and allowed them to percolate to perfection. Regarding the audience, it was a full house of old school Uncle Green / 3 lb. Thrill fanatics, who appeared to know all the words to all the songs. Even the new stuff.

Brown was fighting a scratchy throat and informed fans that he’d researched this on the Internet and put all his faith in one website, which instructed him to drink pineapple juice. He commenced to drinking that stuff like shots at the bar. Many are asking about another album, another show. No real answers yet, but if the support for Rycopa and this “one-off” show are any indication, these guys still have an audience. To pick up the new release, go to CD Baby.

Listen: “Not In Range” & “Pretty Good Lie”

Atlanta trio The Head opened the show with an energy that can only be possessed by the youth. Idealistic, catchy power-pop never sounded this good from what has to be Atlanta’s best kept secret. Twin brothers Jack (drums, lead vocals) and Mike Shaw (bass, keys, lead vocals) joined with their best friend Jacob Morrell (guitar, backing vocals) to bring an urgent and excellent sound to the stage. Supporting their latest release, Hang On, this group is poised to hit it big in a very short time.

The stunningly packaged CD was – get this – given away free at the show in exchange for an email. That’s how you do it, people. The live show is intense. Both brothers can sing and all three are exceptional musicians. Hints of the Stone Roses peeked out of a few songs, as did a tad of Arctic Monkeys. Be that as it may, The Head is all original power-pop and very talented. Go to The Head Music for free downloads of all their music. You will not regret it.

Listen & Download: Hang On

Pink Pompeii filled the gap with their unique sound. Rob Gal (production, guitar, synth) is joined by Nan Kemberling (vocals, cello) and Courtney King (vocals, guitar, synth) to create something completely different. Pink Pompeii describe themselves as “computer + guitar + cello + vocals + love + bass + keys = pp.” That about nails it. This electropop outfit from Atlanta has the classical-music-meets-the-dancefloor market all sewn up.

Pink Pompeii songs such as “Trash,” “Dark Cloud” and “Please Help Me Out” are crafted with a precision very few groups achieve, yet it was a let-yourself-go kind of set bowing to no rules. The ultra-perky Kemberling lit up the room with her smile and her voice. It’s good to see someone enjoying their work so much.

Gal, who is credited for production work on Rycopa, seemed to be the ring leader of the trio. He joined Uncle Green/3 lb. Thrill onstage for a few songs, as well.

Listen: “Dark Cloud”

This was a great night of diverse musical styles. Each band complemented the next and prepped the audience for a very enjoyable evening. Let’s hope it can be repeated soon.

Uncle Green / 3 lb. Thrill Set List

I Don’t Wanna Know About It, He’s The Man, Elmira Place, Pretty Good Lie, Not In Range, Karen Dine, Daddy’s Got Money Again, Wake Up Now, Save A Seat For Me, Miracle Of Me, Geronimo, It’s A Red, Red, Red, Red, Redneck World, Diana, Don’t Fix It If It Works, Gunshow, Grrrranimal Party

Encore

Dymaxion, House With No Windows, I Always Knew You’d Come To Me

Cloud Nothings fill the EARL

Live Review: Cloud Nothings with Gold-Bears and A Classic Education at the EARL, 2/17/12

Kids these days. Just think they know everything. Well, Cloud Nothings‘ Dylan Baldi decided to give it a shot and put his money where his mouth allegedly was. Dropping out of college at 18 and stocking up on CD-Rs, he had an album. Since then, the Cleveland band has been signed to Carpark Records and last month released the critically acclaimed Attack on Memory. Although the first single, “No Future/No Past,” is a broodingly dark track (accompanied by a wickedly creepy video), it does not have the same uptempo, indie rock sound as pretty much the remainder of the album.

Having said that, Baldi even cranked those tracks up to 11. As with most young people (it was not immediately clear if he was even allowed to attend this 21+ event), he gets excited on stage and the screaming Dylan Baldi took over for several songs. Gotta give it to him though, he gave 110% on every song.


Most of Memory was performed, along with a few earlier selections, including “Hey Cool Kid,” “Forget You All The Time” and “Understand At All.” It’s the new stuff, though, that is garnering attention from fans and critics alike. A departure from the lo-fi beginnings, Memory is reaching out to a bigger audience. Whether channeling Nirvana or The Strokes, Cloud Nothings have that indie edge that keeps your foot a-tapping.

Opening the evening was Atlanta’s Gold-Bears, a “crash pop” band that hit the ground running. The driving indie-pop songs were mostly fueled by the new drummer (“the old drummer sucked”), who burned a million calories that night. Promoting last year’s Are You Falling in Love, the Bears have a clean sound that the crowd clearly appreciated.

The night’s big surprise was Italy’s A Classic Education. With a tight band, great musicians and a lead singer with a great voice and stage presence, there’s no where to go but up for these guys. Playing several catchy tunes from their two full-lengths Call it Blazing and Hey There Stranger (both on Lefse Records), the band did a fine job keeping the energy going, after just flying in the day before from Europe.

They Might Be Giants rock the Variety

Live Review: They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Coulton at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, 2/10/12

In the first of a two-night sold out weekend at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse, They Might Be Giants took a well-deserved break from the “family” shows. Don’t misunderstand, the typical family show takes place at 2:00PM on a Saturday afternoon, and is filled with gems from the TMBG kid-era No! and the Here Comes series (the ABCs, the 123s, Science). These back-to-normal regular shows are all rock and grown-up talk. Originally a duo with John Linnell and John Flansburgh gracing small stages in the mid- to late-eighties with a guitar, an accordian and a drum machine, the Two Johns now have a phenomenol backing band that really know how to rock.

The evening was filled with 25 years of TMBG hits, but especially songs from the latest 18-track release Join Us (Idlewild Records). From that, “Can’t Keep Johnny Down,” “You Probably Get That A Lot,” “Old Pine Box,” “Celebration” and “When Will You Die” were standouts. They have brought back some of that early sound that made them famous in the fist place (catchy, quirky, hooky and fun).


Interspersed between songs were the Avatars of They (John and John’s alter-egos in puppet form). The two sock puppets are able to say inappropriate things and get all political but it’s okay. They’re only puppets. The crowd was also part of the show, as when they were divided down the middle by a spotlight from the stage to the balcony. Stage left was apes, while stage right was people. Each side competed by raising fists in the air and screaming. People won.

From the old stuff, fans heard “Subliminal,” “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” “Snowball In Hell,” “Cowtown,” “James K. Polk,” “Particle Man,” “The Guitar” and “Fingertips.” Two encores included “Doctor Worm” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” among others. The band is rounded out by Dan Miller, Danny Weinkauf and power drummer Marty Beller. These three guys complete TMBG. The Two Johns have come along way since the drum machine days. This is an excellent band.

The opening act was Jonathan Coulton (“and the Coultoneers”), a trio assembled not unlike the Giants (quirky, poppy melodies with smart and witty lyrics). Coulton played much of his recent release Artificial Heart (Jocoserious Records), plus fan favorites “Code Monkey” and “Still Alive.” But it was “Re: Your Brains” that really got the crowd involved. The song is about a poor schlub who becomes a zombie and now wants to return to work. The audience quickly learned the chorus (“All we want to do is eat your brains”) and Coulton filled in the rest of the song with hilarious lyrics (“We’re not unreasonable, I mean no one’s gonna eat your eyes”). It’s an instant classic and possibly the most memorable song of the entire evening.


Look for both on tour and enjoy great music and videos at tmbg.com and/or jonathancoulton.com

Uncle Green or 3 lb. Thrill: Whatever you call them, they’re back

Review: Rycopa by Uncle Green/3 lb. Thrill

It was the late-eighties and for Uncle Green, the dream was coming true. They were a well known college rock band that was successfully touring. Soon came the big label deal, exposure, chance of a lifetime. After a short stint on the label, it was back to the drawing board. Several attempts to regain label support failed and the four members continued on with their lives and the business of raising families.


After years of wondering, drummer Pete McDade decided to hunt down the “lost tapes” that were ready for release back in ’97. Those songs were recorded in that now-famous rented house in Atlanta’s Little 5 Points. After nearly two years of searching, the tapes were discovered buried deep in a Sony warehouse. Many emails, calls and sleepless nights later, he had them in his hands. Now what?

The members of the band, which formed in high school in the early ’80s in New Jersey, were scattered about the country. McDade began the arduous task of reconnecting musically (see The Blues Brothers: “We’re putting the band back together.”). Remaining members of the band, Matt Brown (vocals, guitar), Jeff Jensen (guitar, vocals) and Bill Decker (bass) were all open to the idea of self-releasing the newfound tapes. A Kickstarter campaign ensued to fund the mastering and the fans came through – in a big way.

The massive Rycopa (a 32-song blast) hits you from all fronts. To list all the apparent influences would be tough. From “Standing Out In The Rain” (Ben Folds) to “St. Lazaro” (Squeeze – in fact, if that’s not Difford and Tilbrook, I owe a man some money) to “Sunrise Lullaby” (Beatles) to “Super Kitty Uh Huh” (Monster-era R.E.M.), Rycopa is hitting on all cylinders. But to say that Rycopa is just an amalgam of all these apparent influences would be unfair. Like their previous life, Uncle Green/3 Lb Thrill have definitely created their own personality. From Brown’s vocals to each members contributions, they are easily identifiable with a distinctive sound.

Rycopa kicks off with “Not In Range,” a rolling rocker that is officially dubbed the first single, in this writer’s humble opinion. Throughout several tracks, the boys keep their sense of humor (“Lucy In The Streets With Dimetapp,” “It’s A Red, Red, Red, Red, Redneck World”). But don’t expect to hear that instant hit with addictive hooks. Rycopa takes a few listens – then you’re hooked.

In honor of the foursome’s belated release, a special one-off reunion show will take place Saturday, February 25 at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta. For all those fans of Uncle Green and 3 lb. Thrill, this is a gift from the heavens. It will showcase all the fantastic stuff from Rycopa, as well as a trip down memory lane, performing all those songs the fans know by heart from the nineties. To grab a copy of the new release, go to CD Baby. For ticket information, move quickly to Ticket Alternative. Tickets are only $12.

Openers for the show will be The Head and Pink Pompeii. Also, be sure to catch a very special in-store performance (family friendly!) at 3:30 the day of the show at Decatur CD.

Future Islands freak out a lot of people (in a good way)

Live Review: Future Islands at the EARL in Atlanta, 11/26/11

To call Baltimore’s Future Islands “interesting” would be a gross understatement. Lead singer/growler Samuel T. Herring takes the listener on a journey on par with the most disturbing David Lynch creations. He drifts seamlessly from a guttural grunt to a strong and stunning voice, sometimes flirting with a falsetto. And he’s funny. It’s as if Henry Rollins and Jack Black had a love child. A dark and brooding love child.

Imagine all this with a backdrop of synth-rock epicness and you’ll understand the essence of Future Islands. I can guarantee that this is like nothing you’ve ever seen or heard. And after most songs, Herring spit out a “Fuck right!” to somehow underscore how awesome that last song was. No reminder necessary. His passion and sweaty performance convinced the roomful of listeners at the EARL that this was a very special Thanksgiving weekend treat.

Herring’s scary demeanor aside, this was one hell of a rock show. The trio also includes the talented Gerrit Welmers (keyboards and programming) and William Cashion (guitars). No eye contact among the three was witnessed. Maybe Welmers and Cashion are afraid of Herring, too. They simply did their thing and kept their eyes averted for most of the evening.

Touring in support of their recent release On the Water (Thrill Jockey), the boys grooved into hints of vintage New Order and Cure. Some songs take you down three different roads at once, as if three genres have collided. Songs like “Balance” and “Before The Bridge,” from the new album, along with terrific selections from last year’s In Evening Air including “Vireo’s Eye,” “Walking Through That Door,” “Tin Man” and “An Apology” were a welcome change from the usual riff raff heard in local bars. This is a band to watch and you owe it to yourself to check them out now.


Self-proclaimed “stump rockers” Lonnie Walker opened the show and exceeded the crowd’s expectations being the first band in a three-band evening. The Raleigh natives played like headliners. Drawing comparisons with the dB’s and the Feelies, these 80s-college-rock-sounding dudes are for real. Such righteous songs as “Grape Juice” and “Teenage Poem” gained the audience’s attention immediately. The band is currently touring in support of These Times Old Times (Terpsikhore).

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat stunned and amazed with reckless abandon. Two guys: one banging a single drum while singing, the other one (Devlin Rice) playing the bass and being ginormously intimidating. If these guys require a label for their music, it has not yet been invented.

Ranging from screaming anger (“Gas Station Attendant”) to low-key, funny hooks (“Rats”), Schrader’s songs thrilled and delighted virtually everyone in the room. He repeatedly echoed what one fan apparently stated, that he was reminiscent of Jim Morrison (the truth is, he sounded very much like the late Doors man). These two woke up the room (and everyone else within a ten-mile radius). Three one-of-a-kind acts on the same stage and the same night. The EARL hit a homerun with this one.

Holy Ghost! bring salvation to Hell

Live Review: Holy Ghost! on the Masquerade Hell Stage, 11/21/11

Brooklyn’s Holy Ghost! have been on a steady incline this past year, getting a thrust from their Static on the Wire EP release last year and especially their self-titled release this past spring. The New York duo of Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel have know each other since first grade, and been making music almost that long.

It all began with some bluesy covers, then the move into hip hop, and now they’ve created a sort of 21st century disco, for those who care to listen. Apparently, there are a lot who care to listen. Promoted on James Murphy’s DFA Records, Holy Ghost! have received rave reviews and have been hitting the pavement hard this past year. Still, the band is not a household name in America. (And yes, it’s that James Murphy, of the wonderful – and missed – LCD Soundsystem)

This was the third trip through Atlanta in 2011 for Holy Ghost! Back in March, they swept through, supporting the terrific Cut/Copy tour. Then in August, they were part of the electronic/DJ Identity Fest. Now, on a headlining tour, Millhiser and Frankel have proven to be ready for the challenge.

Playing nearly the entire album, as well as some tracks from 2010’s Static on the Wire, Holy Ghost! pleased their fans with some excellent late 70s/early 80s sounds that do not seem dated. It’s an update on that era, with a 2011 NYC spin. “Hold On,” “Do It Again,” “Wait & See” and “Hold My Breath” were just a few of the tunes performed.

Hold My Breath – Holy Ghost! from DFA Records on Vimeo.

Holding court on the Hell Stage of Atlanta’s Masquerade is no small task when the metal/hardcore Thrash and Burn tour is pounding away on the Heaven Stage (upstairs). The boys laughed it off and actually seemed to be using the thumping from above as a sort of programmed drum machine. Somehow, it worked.

So, with a little more exposure and a lot more touring, American may just be ready for a little salvation with Holy Ghost!

Wilco enlighten Atlanta with The Whole Love

Live review: Wilco with Nick Lowe at the Cobb Energy Centre in Atlanta, 9/29/11

After initially being pegged as a “country rock” band, Wilco has shed that skin over the past few years. Critics hail the band as “The American Radiohead.” With the release of The Whole Love (dBpm), it’s clearly time to reconsider this and begin saying, “Radiohead is the English Wilco” (listen to the lead-off track “Art Of Almost” and you’ll understand).

The Chicago group, headed up by Jeff Tweedy, has once again released a critically acclaimed and commercially successful album. The first single, “I Might,” is more pop than usual, with a sixties organ keeping it happy. Wilco kicked off the Atlanta show with “One Sunday Morning,” a beautiful song, despite it’s twelve-minute length. As he played the Rickenbacker and sang those songs, Tweedy exceeded his annual quota on smiles. Dude was having a good time. And how could he not be? Looking at all that talent surrounding him: the indomitable Nels Cline shredding the guitar, bassist John Stirratt, drummer Glenn Kotchke and multi-instrumentalists Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgenson. It was a master class on rock.

“We’d like to announce a special guest we’ve had on stage this evening. Nels is playing Duane Allman’s guitar. He is borrowing it for the night,” Tweedy announced. “This is like using Picasso’s brush or Noah’s hammer.” One could argue that it’s like Monet borrowing Picasso’s brush. The band played most of the excellent new Whole Love, seamlessly weaving in these songs with classics from such albums as Sky Blue Sky, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Being There and Wilco (the Album).

More than once, Tweedy mentioned how much better this second night crowd was than the previous group. Of course, this is standard operating procedure for a band to announce and will always garner cheers and applause. However, it was somehow believable, especially when he said, “They were just weird.” For sure the energy level was turned up to 11 during this second show, as several fans who attended both shows attested. At times, the crowd’s voices far outblasted those of the band, which can be a blessing and a curse for an artist (It’s reassuring that everyone knows our lyrics, but shut up and let me sing). It’s a nice problem to have.

Wilco played for about 90 minutes before retiring backstage to wait for the inevitable encore. Then another seven songs and 30 minutes later, they called it a night. One downside was that Mr. Lowe had joined them in a couple songs during the previous night’s encore. Not tonight. He was probably halfway back to England when the lights came up.

It was a phenomenal performance and the venue’s superlative acoustics only added to the experience. Wilco continue on the Whole Love tour in the states, then jump over to Europe, than back to the U.S. They’ll wrap up in Chicago in mid-December. If you see one concert this year, make sure it’s Wilco.


Nick Lowe, a.k.a. “The Jesus of Cool,” proved why he’s the britpop/new wave god responsible for inspiring so many artists. His sound is at once folksy ballads and acoustic-style Clash. And a minimalist set it was from Mr. Lowe, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and that voice. And that white head of hair held together with those black Buddy Holly glasses. But the songwriting is among the best. It was a treat hearing his 1979 hit “Cruel To Be Kind” in such a setting.

Lowe performed several cuts from his new release The Old Magic (Yep Roc Records). His songs continue to be an amalgam of witty storytelling and deep thinking. Always a winning combination. Lowe surely felt the love in the room as fans roared between songs. Though there was no “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” or “I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock And Roll)” it was a moving performance and made this two-for-one bill priceless. “All Men Are Liars,” “What’s Shakin’ On The Hill,” “I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass” and “The Beast In Me” more than satifsied hardcore Nick fans.

Wilco Set List

One Sunday Morning
Art Of Almost
I Might
Muzzle Of Bees
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
One Wing
At Least That’s What You Said
Capital City
Misunderstood
Jesus, Etc.
Born Alone
Box Full Of Letters
War On War
Standing O
Rising Red Lung
Impossible Germany
Dawned On Me
Shot In The Arm

Encore

Whole Love
California Stars
Hate It Here
Walken
Red-Eyed & Blue
I Got You
Outta Mind (Outta Sight)

Blondie and the Romantics enjoy the fruits of their labor

Live Review: Blondie with The Romantics at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Atlanta, 9/23/11

The punk/post-punk/new wave movement has been littered with bodies since it changed the musical landscape in the late seventies and early eighties. There are few bands who have withstood the test of time and still remain relevant. Very few. Blondie appears to be one of the lucky ones. The relevance is underscored with the new release Panic of Girls this month, a near-return to Blondie’s early eighties glory.

Sixty-something rock veteran Debbie Harry showed real vim and vigor and exhibited why she became famous in the first place. Many songs were off the new record and fell smoothly within the realm of Blondie’s early work. Along with Harry, guitarist Chris Stein and drumming wonder Clem Burke remain from the original line up. Burke, who is clearly a Keith Moon devotee, tore through those drums like he was 20 again, CBGB shirt and all.

And Harry sang like her 20-year-old self. It’s one thing to do reunion tours. It’s a whole other thing to do these tours behind a new album of original material. Good material. All the old favorites were on the set list, including “Atomic,” “Call Me” and “Rapture,” which led seamlessly into a full-on cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right.” This was a surprise to many in the audience and sounded incredible. The encore consisted of two of their biggest songs, “The Tide Is High” and “Heart Of Glass.”


The Romantics proved yet again why they were MTV and Top 40 darlings in the early eighties. The sing-along hits were all played. “Talking In Your Sleep,” “Rock You Up,” “She’s Got Everything” and the big one, “What I Like About You.” Lead singer Wally Palmar tours with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band when on hiatus with The Romantics. Brad Elvis raised the bar for the Romantics hits with his precision drumming skills. Often referred to as the “four-handed drummer,” Elvis entertained fans with his hijinks behind the kit. But the real draw is his efficient use of the space-time continuum on those skins. One must see it to believe it, but this dude’s one of the best drummers in the country. Like Burke, Elvis is a dyed-in-the-wool Moonie (Keith, that is), and would fit right in on the next Who tour (listen up, Pete and Roger).

It was a night to reminisce and be nostalgic of an era that changed music. To see both bands still performing at the same level – or maybe higher – is reassuring.

Chromeo nearly brings down the house in Atlanta

Live Review: Chromeo at the Masquerade in Atlanta, 9/22/11

Please don’t tell Dave-1 or P-Thugg that disco is dead. And if it was, Montreal’s Chromeo have revived it bigger than the Frankenstein monster. The electro-funk duo got together in 2004 and has been filling dance floors and bursting eardrums ever since. Having been compared to a swath of such 80s icons as Klymaxx, Sylvester and even Hall & Oates, Chromeo play familiar sounds but with a cutting edge. Check out this amazing collaboration with Daryl Hall from Live from Daryl’s House.

The duo is made up of Dave-1, the charismatic frontman who sings and plays guitar, looking like he just stepped off the set of Miami Vice. P-Thugg is the DJ synth master who looks like your plumber with shirt unbuttoned and belly hanging out (speaking and singing ONLY through the talkbox – think Frampton Comes Alive). It’s an unlikely duo, both visually and musically. Maybe that’s why it works. The fans believe it works. Before the duo even took the stage, the crowd was chanting “Chromeo, ohhhh-ohhh!” sounding like a 21st century remix of The Wizard of Oz munchkins.

Touring in support of their latest release, Business Casual, Chromeo have brought back 70s funk with an 80s synth feel and a 2011 attitude. Contemporaries Hot Chip, Holy Ghost!, Cut Copy and LCD Soundsystem would all concur. “Hot Mess,” “Night By Night,” “Fancy Footwork,” “Bonafied Lovin” and “Momma’s Boy” each brought down the house. This is not music you’ll hear on your local Top 40 radio station because it does not fit within the constraints of that music. When someone says, “Think outside the box”, they’re talking about Chromeo.

The floor at the Heaven Stage (upstairs) of the Masquerade was giving several inches as hundreds of crazed Chromeo fans jumped up and down in unison. If the floor survived this show, it will be intact for eternity.


Opening the show was Sammy Bananas, who’s DJ skills were only topped by his saxophone skills. That’s right, he’s working the turntables, filling the dancefloor, dropping some wicked beats – then out comes a saxophone. Not a saxophone file played from his Mac, but a REAL saxophone. It was a welcome surprise and the crowd went batty.

On deck were Mayer Hawthorne & The County, providing “blue-eyed R&B” to a happy throng of dancers. Imagine the best R&B/Soul music fronted by this young white dude who sounds like Smokey Robinson (but with more confidence). Hawthorne most definitely wanted all eyes on him as he is a first-class showman and wanted no fan to miss a second. “Okay Atlanta, let’s put the phones away and act like the show is happening right now!” he said, with a touch of sarcasm. The band acted like they were the headliner, and got the love and respect as such from fans.