Thank You, Friends Big Star’s Third Live…and More
Concord Music Group
There is something so infectiously timeless about the music of Alex Chilton and Big Star, and it’s never been so realized as on this star-studded concert of Big Star’s Third. Recorded live at the Alex (ha!) Theatre in Glendale, California in April of 2016, this DVD/CD set reinforces the universality of Big Star’s music like never before. Songs that you thought you alone had discovered and cherished turn out to be favorites of the cream of the indie rock world- I mean, just check out the ensemble: Big Star’s Jody Stephens on drums, Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey, The Posies Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, Mike Mills from R.E.M., Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone of Wilco, Robyn Hitchcock, Dan Wilson of Semisonic, and Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers, among others. The freakin’ Kronos Quartet is the string section, for goodness sake!
The show began with assorted Big Star classics, including a ferocious “Feel” with Stringfellow on vocals, a heartfelt “When My Baby’s Beside Me” from Jeff Tweedy and more. But two performances stand out. First is “Thirteen”, one of Chilton’s most heartfelt and expressive classics. It’s performed by North Carolinian Skylar Gudasz in a rendition that literally could move you to tears, and it’s only equaled by Chris Stamey’s version of Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos”. To watch him sing the opening lines – “Every night I tell myself, “I am the cosmos, I am the wind”/But that don’t get you back again”, your heart melts in recognition, and drives home why Big Star holds such a place in the hearts of fans- because it speaks to you – and only you. Despite the increased visibility of the band in later years (in large part due to this traveling show), the songs resonate deeply, and on moments such as “O, Dana” (sung here by Jon Auer) or “Back of a Car”, you wonder how they tapped into your most private thoughts. That’s art of the highest magnitude.
But the heart of the show was Third, the last album by Big Star – and really only Alex and Jody- performed live. The band had broken up before, during and after recording, and the songs had never really been performed live. The original string charts were made available, and hearing moments such as “Nighttime” by Jeff Tweedy, or a moving “For You” sung by Jody Stephens brings songs that previously existed only on vinyl alive, with string arrangements and a rowdy horn section. Oh to have been there, truly.
Big Star was a pivotal American band, whose simple songs moved you in ways never before experienced, emotional without artifice, rocking without posturing. Its music that has -and will continue- to find new ears, long after the band is sadly gone. Thank You, Friends will show you why.