Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lou Reed - Electric Factory - Philadelphia PA - April 19, 2008

Through one of those simple twists of fate, I was heading to Philly for the weekend and found out Lou Reed was playing at the Electric Factory. Now, I'm a huge fan of Lou for many years and haven't seen him in concert since 1986, I think, so of course I had to go. We arrived early and headed to a local diner for something to eat; when we returned, the line was across the front of the building and down the block; it was general admission, so we thought we'd be back a ways when we got in, but we got right to the front (first row in front of the stage! It seems Lou's aging audience prefers seats to proximity these days - poor bastards).

Around 8:40 PM Lou takes the stage, greeting us with "Hello, Cleveland," which got a laugh. The band started with "Mad," from the Ecstasy album. Throughout the song, Lou was the conductor, telling the bass player to bring it up, the lead guitar to bring it down -- it was nice to watch a veteran rocker (as Rolling Stone dubbed him so many years ago) fine-tuning his show. A surprise was the great Steve Hunter (who played on Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies, Welcome to my Nightmare, and The Alice Cooper Show) on lead guitar. He and Lou played off each other all evening, and it was truly a joy to hear.

Next up was the Velvet Underground classic "Sweet Jane." And it rocked.

Lou introduced the next song by saying it was about divorce, "something most of you won't have to deal with" (note: most quotes are paraphrased, as my memory's not what it once was). He then launched into "Baton Rouge," haunting with its refrain "so helpless."

He said the next song was from the movie Juno, and launched into "I'm Set Free." Later he corrects himself about the Juno reference.

"Ecstasy" followed, with Lou drumming his chest to get started. It was evident that this was a song he enjoyed playing.

Following came his explanation that he got it wrong, and this song was from Juno; the keyboard player began singing "I'm Sticking With You."

A few songs later, Lou introduced Laurie Anderson on electric violin, and began playing "Talking Book." About halfway through the song, he got a little miffed with the audience, who were talking a bit too much for his taste (and mine too, especially the drunk women next to me), and he asked the audience "Do you want to keep talking or do you want me to finish this song?" He finished it, though he and Laurie seemed to share a disappointed look at the end. Perhaps they wanted to do more with the song, but the audience wanted to move on...

Next up were "Halloween Parade," from New York, followed by a song introduced with "This is a song you probably don't know," then launching into "Video Violence" from the 1986 album Mistrial. And yes, Lou, I knew the song, anyway.

After "Guardian Angel," the closing song was "Magic and Loss," which was a treat. I've always loved the line "there's a little magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." For an encore, we got "Perfect Day," and it was.

Full set list (as listed on the Lou Reed forum here; the comment from moderndance is me, btw):
  • Mad
  • Sweet Jane
  • Baton Rouge
  • I'm Set Free
  • Ecstasy
  • I'm Sticking With You
  • Power of the Heart (is this new? anyone know?)
  • I Wanna Know (The Pit and the Pendulum)
  • Talking Book
  • Halloween Parade
  • Video Violence
  • Guardian Angel
  • Magic and Loss
  • Perfect Day
And will someone please explain to me what the guy playing, as Lou put it, "electronics, the computer, and who knows what else" was doing with the Apple MacBook? Was he using Garage Band or something?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Earth in crisis, warns NASA's top climate scientist

What if there were a global warming crisis and the fossil fuels industry tried to hide it? Speculate no more, as a NASA scientist says that's exactly the case. How about that? Are you still so sure we need another coal plant in Schuylkill County?

Via Digg.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Asia - Kirby Center, Wilkes-Barre PA, April 4, 2008

Asia rocked the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre last Friday evening and it was fantastic. This is the original lineup, including the legendary Steve Howe (of Yes) on guitar, Carl Palmer (of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) on drums, Geoff Downes (of Yes and the Buggles) on keyboards, and John Wetton (of King Crimson) on bass and vocals.

First impressions: Steve Howe looked like my college poetry professor, which is to say, old (sorry, Harry). I mean really old. But boy can that man play guitar - throughout Roundabout (yes, the classic Yes song!), he was simply a joy to watch. The man has fingers like a spider, and he made playing some complicated sequences look effortless. If only he didn't dress like an elderly man, including those grey dress pants and shiny striped shirt...

Back to the age thing, they all looked fairly old, which I think my mind had a hard time wrapping itself around. The cognitive dissonance was disconcerting for a while (and still is, to some degree).

Carl Palmer was simply incredible, probably the second-greatest drum solo I've ever seen (the first being Neil Peart, of course).

Other highlights included In the Court of the Crimson King followed by the Buggles' Video Killed the Radio Star which, while an unusual combination, was a great moment in rock and roll. I'm a big fan of King Crimson, so to see their signature song live was a thrill (though I would have preferred 21st Century Schizoid Man). The Buggles tune is a classic that I've listened to a lot recently.

Oh, they played some Asia songs too, including some great sounding tracks (Never Again, Extraordinary Life) from the new CD, Phoenix (I picked up a copy on the way out, which shows how much I liked the new stuff). Heat of the Moment was, of course, great to hear live, aided by the band encouraging the audience to sing along. And Don't Cry was the first encore; it's one of those songs that just makes you feel young. Setlist, as found here (seems right according to my recollection):

  • Daylight
  • Only Time Will Tell
  • Wildest Dreams
  • Never Again
  • Roundabout
  • Time Again
  • Bolero from Cutting it Fine (Geoff Downes keyboard solo)
  • Clap (Steve Howe acoustic solo)
  • The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (acoustic)
  • Ride Easy (acoustic)
  • Voice of America (John Wetton acoustic solo)
  • Open Your Eyes
  • Fanfare For The Common Man
  • Without You
  • An Extraordinary Life
  • In the Court of the Crimson King
  • Video Killed The Radio Star
  • The Heat Goes On, w/Carl Palmer drum solo
  • Heat of the Moment
  • Don't Cry
  • Sole Survivor