Categories
Music Reviews

The Jacks

The Jacks

Remember You

Edgeout Records/UME

Los Angeles rockers, The Jacks, are back with their second EP, Remember You, a five-song winner that successfully combines hard rockers and pop-driven love songs. The quartet includes Jonny Stanback (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Tom Hunter (vocals/lead guitar), Scott Stone (vocals/bass) and Josh Roossin (drums/percussion), four best friends who came up on the L.A. music scene. Their signature catchy hooks and infectious grooves were inspiring on their first EP, a self-titled, five-track release back in June of 2019 (read my Ink 19 review here ink19.com/2019/06/magazine/music-reviews/the-jacks), and their sophomore effort does not disappoint. With Grammy-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli (The Raconteurs, The White Stripes, My Morning Jacket) at the helm, the boys from The Golden State truly shine on their second record. And it makes sense that they would work with a Jack White producer. Their first EP had clear Jack White influences on it.

“Threw It All Away” kicks things off in high rock ‘n’ roll gear with a catchy, drum-driven, funky groove and great lyrics.

I know you want it but you’re never gonna figure it out/Cause now you got it and you threw it all away

Just take a walk along the edge of your insanity/And then come tell me what you find

But then the tables turn with “We Were Only Young,” offering a poignant, bittersweet message.

We were only young just for a moment/But we’ll never find our way back home/We were only young just for a moment/Forever lost in the unknown

Remaining in a mellow tone, “Olivia” follows with a Paul Simon meets Jason Mraz vibe. The acoustic, upbeat simplicity is paired with the complicated lyrics of an unraveling relationship.

Well I heard that you were leaving for the summer/Except you’re never coming back ever again…Oh Olivia come on and take a chance…Oh Olivia have you heard the news/If you believe in me then I’ll believe in you

Returning back to hard rockers on the last two tracks with “The Only One” and “Just A Little Bit,” The Jacks show how truly versatile their music is. “The Only One” is the hardest rocker of the bunch, as it builds and builds with killer guitar and is once again, drum-driven. Just when you think the song is over, it starts again with searing guitar and an abrupt ending. I really love this one. You can hear The Black Keys influence on it.

Closing with “Just A Little Bit,” another hard rocker with a ’70s throwback/The Strokes feel to it, the EP is over as quickly as it began, leaving me wanting a lot more.

With two EPs under their belts, I truly look forward to a full-length album from The Jacks. They have a great deal of potential and their sound is very appealing. It’s no wonder that they have worked with top industry producers. Check them out for yourself and support this up-and-coming band by purchasing their 2 EPs.

www.thejacksofficial.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Blondie and Garbage

Blondie and Garbage

with Deap Vally

Hard Rock Live; Orlando, FL • August 9, 2017

It took me 20 years, but I finally “get” Garbage. I mean, sure, I was entranced by Shirley Manson’s alternative supermodel sex appeal like everyone else, back when that grungily smoldering black and white video for “Queer” hit the airwaves, but the beats and the dance-bred foundation of what Garbage quickly became was a little too pop for my angsty tastes. Not so anymore. Sick beats + tormented lyrics + a charismatic chanteuse = an optimisitic pessimism that can only come from a member of Generation X. It only took me finally seeing the 90’s icons in concert to understand the beauty that is Garbage.

Garbage

Jen Cray
Garbage

Jen Cray

Co-headlining with Blondie (I’ll gush about them in a minute) on the Rage and Rapture Tour, Garbage returned to an Orlando stage after nearly two decades and pulled off the impossible — they wowed a sold-out Hard Rock Live crowd, many of whom were there specifically for Blondie, and they did so even with holding out on their biggest hits until the tale end of their 80 minute set! The timeless majesty and effortless cool of Shirley Manson, the production magic and steady beats of drummer Butch Vig (also known as: the dude who produced every great album in your record collection!), the glory of witnessing a band who’ve been around since 1993 who still retain all of their original members — it was like discovering a new food that you had no idea you liked so much!

Jen Cray

Jen Cray


Jen Cray

Their set was bold in its choices (surprise inclusions like their Bond movie theme “The World Is Not Enough”), and Manson’s reign as queen of the night would have been impossible to challenge, had they not been billed alongside Debbie Harry. “It’s not easy doing what we do when you’re a woman in rock,” Manson declared before sharing a bit of wisdom that was passed down to her from someone she admires, “‘She who can withstand the most pain Wins.'” And then she dropped her mic’ and walked off stage to a roaring applause…. ok, she didn’t throw down a mic’ drop, but she totally could have.

Blondie

Jen Cray
Blondie

Jen Cray


Jen Cray

And then Blondie entered the room. Only Debbie Harry can rock a hat that looks like a bumblebee and a cape that demands “Stop Fucking The Planet” and look both graceful and timelessly cool. Like a bikini clad Helen Mirren on an exotic beach, or Lynda Carter strutting her wondrous self down a red carpet alongside our modern day Wonder Woman, Debbie Harry appears to have found the fountain of youth. I won’t reveal her age, because a lady never tells, but she was of drinking age in the late 70’s when Blondie was owning the CBGB stage so, ya know, do the math and then take another look at these photos. Be astounded.

Jen Cray

Jen Cray


Jen Cray

Just as astounding — how incredible that band sounded. Diving right into the hits with “One Way or Another,” their set was a nonstop demonstration of the epic catalog that Blondie has made over their 40+ year career, and with most of the original band. Alongside Harry was guitarist Chris Stein and the magnificent Clem Burke on drums. The audience knew they were in the presence of icons, of punk rock Royalty, and they behaved as such, but that didn’t mean the band was still putting in the sweat to really work the crowd. This was no titans of rock going through the motions for a paycheck, this was a band still runnning on the high of live performance and it was inspiring!

Deap Vally

Jen Cray
Deap Vally

Jen Cray


Jen Cray

Also on the bill, Deap Vally — a female duo out of L.A. whose fat sound and heavy beats still swam warmly through my brain even after the heavy weight bands that followed. Their sound was like The White Stripes meets Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with the bold big Rock approach of a band like Kim and the Created. They may as well have been custom made for my tastes, and their set was something I was still rattling on about for days after. They were the cherry on top of an already perfect double bill of music.

Check out for photo galleries: Blondie, Garbage and Deap Vally.

http://www.blondie.net ; https://www.garbage.com/; www.deapvally.com

Categories
Music Reviews

’68

’68

Two Parts Viper

Cooking Vinyl

The past projects of the singer/guitarist of ’68 is irrelevant. If anything, it’s the embarrassing senior portrait that should forever stay buried in that yearbook in that box at your parent’s house. Rather than dig up those softly lit, Olan Mills love letters to kodachrome nostalgia, prepare your ears for an everlasting gobstopper of sound that shifts from one flavor to the next while maintaining an equilibrium of chaos and melody. Less abrasive than their volatile debut In Humor and Sadness, what Two Parts Viper does is invite you in with the promise of cobra biting rage only to surprise you with a heavy blues garage punk explosion.

This should not work. This two piece bastardization of metalcore and legit blues punk, a band with roots that sprung from The Chariot and Norma Jean, should not be this good.

When the bold slow intro of album opener “Eventually We All Win,” with it’s ticking time bomb beat and nursery rhyme melody, ignites into an atom bomb or furious noise and a vocal effect that smashes up a Kurt Cobain growl with a Jack White yelp the tone is set for a band that knows know boundaries. The record dips its dirty toes in post-hardcore art rock waters, on “Death Is A Lottery,” and gets straight up melodic grunge hit on “Without Any Words (Only Crying and Laughter).” “This Life is Old, New, Borrowed and Blue” is like a White Stripes song as performed by Rage Against the Machine and it’s the perfect amalgam of noise and melody. Closing out the album is an uncomfortable howl of pain and rage as told through the voice of a desperate plea (“What More Can I Say”). It’s barely listenable, but that simple fact makes it kinda brilliant. It’s a final F-you that eventually irons itself out into a gorgeous outro.

If metalcore had to exist in order to allow a band like ’68 to be born, than it existed for a good reason.

theyare68.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Motobunny

Motobunny

Motobunny

Rusty Knuckles

One could get lost in the family tree that has sprouted Motobunny so let’s just summarize: members of The Love Me Nots and The Woolly Bandits have combined to produce a double frontwoman glam meets garage meets rockabilly meets pop band that’s as hard to resist as they are to define. Legend has it that the band got together after meeting up at an Iggy Pop concert, and their sound reflects it. “Shake Me” and “Let’s Go Out” are as catchy as any Top 40 Taylor Swift hit, but with a Motley Crue flair. When Gwen Stefani took a break from No Doubt and became a pop star, that’s kind of what Motobunny feels like — like some rock ‘n’ roll chicks who wanted to get their Dance on.

Produced by Detroit’s Jim Diamond — whose credits include The Dirtbombs, The Gore Gore Girls, and the first two White Stripes albums, Motobunny’s self titled debut is pure leather clad, red lipstick painted Fun, with a capitol “F.” Other ass shakin’ tracks are “Red Rover,” and “Apocalypse Twist,” the former of which rocks a saxophone solo that’s part ska, part 80’s pop. “Drown” has a sexy burlesque vibe with a hot bass line, and “I Warned You” sounds like The Shangri-Las rocking a power ballad. Led by frontwomen Christa Collins and Nicole Laurenne, Motobunny are the sound of a damn good time.

www.motobunnymusic.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Jack White

Jack White

with Loretta Lynn and William Tyler

Bridgestone Arena; Nashville, TN • January 28, 2015

“Fetish properties are not unlike porn,” says the record store owning character Rob in the movie High Fidelity. The same thing can be said of concerts. Just like tracking down a hard to find piece of memorabilia (record, poster, what-have-you), being present at an epic performance where something out of the ordinary HAPPENS is a thrill that lasts beyond the moment and being able to say “I was THERE!” feels damn sweet, much like being able to say “I HAVE that hard to get/limited edition item that is causing bidding wars on eBay!” It feels sweeter, even, because it’s not just about owning something, it’s about BEING A PART of something.

Jen Cray

“Are you with me Nashville?” Jack White asked his hometown crowd of 18,000 people. “We’re all in this together.”

And I WAS there. I was in it — in that crowd, just a few heads back from the stage, and in that MOMENT. It was just another concert. What’s the big deal? you might say, but no, it wasn’t “just another concert.” For a few reasons: first, because THIS concert had a surprise reunion of The Raconteurs; second, because country music legend Loretta Lynn joined White onstage for a pair of duets; and third, because a Jack White concert in Nashville means a trip to his Third Man Records compound down the street and, for me, this would be my inaugural visit.

So, before setting up camp in front of the stage, let us first venture a half mile south of the Bridgestone Arena to a black, yellow and red building with a radio tower on top. It’s been said before, but there really is no better way to describe Third Man Records then to compare it to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, with Mr. Jack White in the role of the top-hatted namesake. It’s not just a store, it’s a museum, and a carnival attraction — a collector’s paradise, and a fan’s holy land.

Third Man Records

Jen Cray
Third Man Records

The Legos from The White Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Girl” video are on display, next to novelty gifts like a limited edition Jack White baseball card print (signed and numbered by artist Rob Jones). A hallway serves as a gallery for some of the label’s most unique vinyl like a triple decker record, and the “Lazaretto” 7″ which from recording to selling took less then four hours making it the World’s Fastest Released Record.

Next to the vinyl bins is a working recording booth where you can pop in and make a record, or you can get a red wax mold made of Jack’s infamous 1964 Airline guitar, or hop in the photo booth with the peppermint backdrop. The store has become a tourist attraction (that I drove 10 hours to step foot in), and for good reason. I could have spent hours in there (well, between my two trips, I kind of did), and I could spend hours more just talking about it, but back to the show…

Local guitar aficionado William Tyler achieved more ambiance and emotion in twenty minutes with only a guitar and some fancy pedals then most opening acts can achieve with a full band and vocalist. His instrumental songs are not just a demonstration of his impressive guitar work (which IS impressive), but landscapes of tone and feeling. “I’ve lived in Nashville my whole life and this is the most surreal experience,” Tyler said of his stint opening up for Jack White and Loretta Lynn.

Ah, yes, Loretta Lynn. At 82 she’s still a firecracker with a voice as strong as her personality. Decked out in a sequined dress she powered through a set of old favorites like “The Pill,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

“Shout out what you wanna hear, honey, and we’ll play it,” she told the fans.

At times she fumbled the lyrics, her nose was “running like a freight train” (as she joked), and she needed a chair for the second half of her set, but her voice and her charm more then made up for any technical difficulties. Before leaving the stage, she teased about singing with Jack at some point in the night.

David James Swanson courtesy of www.jackwhiteiii.com

Sporting a powder blue suit and an Elvis-like pompadour, Jack White sauntered onto the stage to the sort of welcome usually reserved for rock royalty and launched into “Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground,” an old White Stripes favorite guaranteed to put a little fire in everyone’s veins. For the next hour the multi tasking mogul, who famously does not make setlists but instead conducts his band through his whims based on the “key” of the crowd, shattered the boundaries between country music and rock creating an in-between so tasty we should all seek to set up camp there.

Behind his incandescent guitar work and howling vocals, he’s got Lillie Mae Rische on the violin, Fats Kaplan on the steel guitar and fiddle, Dean Fertita on keys and organ, Dominic Davis on bass (regular and upright), and the jazz/hip hop inspired Daru Jones on drums. Have you heard the beautiful simplicity of “Hotel Yorba” cranked up to utilize a full band? Seeing old White Stripes songs re-imagined and improvised on in a new setting, not to mention sang along at full volume by thousands of die hard fans is one of the greatest things about seeing Jack White in concert. He slides those songs into the set like a shot of whiskey in between each course of his solo material — which, if you haven’t yet gotten on board with you’re missing out. “Sixteen Saltines,” and “Lazaretto” are a pair of the biggest, baddest, heaviest guitar songs he’s ever played, and when he dials it down to quiet – as on “Temporary Ground” or “Blunderbuss” – it’s just plain gorgeous.

The Raconteurs

David James Swanson courtesy of www.jackwhiteiii.com
The Raconteurs

…but this show wasn’t putting a big focus on the quiet. “Buckle your seat belts,” a staff member at the store had told me earlier in the day in regards to the show, and what he may have been referring to was the hour long encore that kicked off with a surprise reunion of one of Jack’s other bands, The Raconteurs. When the curtain parted and the blue lights that had been bathing the crowd all night flashed a blazing yellow, alongside White there stood Brendan Benson, and Jack Lawrence (drummer Patrick Keeler was the only member missing). The band haven’t played onstage together since 2011, so when they charged through “Salute Your Solution” and “Steady As She Goes” the fans lost their minds!

So that was surprise number one, and it was a big one. Surprise number two happened immediately after when White’s band joined The Raconteurs onstage, and then Loretta Lynn came back out. A duet of “Portland, Oregan,” the Grammy Award winning song that White and Lynn sing on 2004’s Van Lear Rose was anticpiated (and amazing to witness), but a second duet of the second song Lynn ever wrote was unprecedented.

with Loretta Lynn

David James Swanson courtesy of www.jackwhiteiii.com
with Loretta Lynn

“When I asked ‘Can we do ‘Whispering Sea?’ she says ‘Ok, let’s do it, baby, I ain’t sung it since I wrote it.'” Jack explained. “So here we go, y’all… the first performance of ‘Whispering Sea’,”

After Lynn took her final bow, while Jack proclaimed her to be “the greatest female singer/songwriter of the 20th Century,” another 40 minutes of raging took place, highlighted by an extended “Ball and Biscuit” that wove into a killer cover of Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway.” The ever-crowd pleasing “Seven Nation Army” put a cap on a perfect performance, on a perfect day, on a perfect road trip to Nashville.

jackwhiteiii.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Jack White

Jack White

with Olivia Jean

Moran Theater, Jacksonville, FL • September 20, 2014

To those who say there are no more Rockstars, I present Jack White.

I can think of no other modern day musician whose presence onstage is so definitive as to conjure a feeling of watching a legend in his own time. And no artist Iv’e seen in current times can get every single person in the sold-out room – on up to the tippiest top back row balcony – to not only stand up but stay up for an entire 2 and half hour performance.

Marianne Martinez

“You won’t be needing those chairs… this is a rock show,” the tour’s host/announcer explained before the vast curtain parted. He also politely instructed everyone to keep their cameras in their pants which, unbelievably, people did! 3,000 fans, abandoning their cushy chairs – screaming, applauding, dancing, singing, looking at the stage and not at a screen… It was as if I had traveled back to a simpler time.

And what was the catalyst that invoked such a visceral response? Well, it was Jack White’s very first time ever playing in Jacksonville (with ANY of his bands) so, perhaps as an apology for having skipped the North Florida city for so many years, he gifted the crowd with the song that started it all: “Fell in Love with a Girl.” Dating back to 2001’s White Blood Cells this was the song that erupted the then-unknown Detroit duo The White Stripes into the stratosphere.

Not a bad way to start the night.

Buried inside of a studio set blanketed by blue light, the maestro who famously never makes a setlist – preferring to fly by the seat of the moment – conducted his band through a fan’s dream set that played heavily on White Stripes tunes including “Dead Leaves and Dirty Ground” and a nakedly heartfelt “Same Boy You’ve Always Known.” A smoldering performance of “Icky Thump” that transitioned into Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and back again kicked off the night’s encore and was so seamless that many may have missed it, or not even noticed that a Jack White riff just danced with a Jimmy Page riff and made sweet sweet love.

The Dead Weather, Jack’s project with The Kills’ Alison Mosshart, was represented with “I Cut like a Buffalo,” and a 10 minute guitar orgasm of “Steady As She Goes,” that seguewayed into The Ventures’ surf rock anthem “Pipeline,” gave props to The Raconteurs.

All of his previous successes aside, he does have a new solo record to promote (a damn near perfect one, at that) and of Lazaretto‘s 11 songs he played 7. The country blue lyrical anger of “Entitlement” felt particularly prickly after a short and cheeky sarcastic commentary he gave about musicians not being allowed to share opinions with their audiences lest they be branded angry or having “gone on a rant.”

“My lawyer has advised me that there’s only one safe topic I can talk to you about… It’s beautiful weather today in Jacksonville, isn’t it?!… so, now, you all go on social media and let everyone know I said that…”

The comment, which is both sad because of it’s truth and hilarious because of White’s boldness, was in reaction to a moment a couple nights prior when White, at a Boston concert, “ranted” about Rolling Stone magazine and about how most current performers don’t use microphones anymore, or have extra guitarists onstage to cover up mistakes. For the latter he used Foo Fighters as an example and so, naturally, the internet blew up immediately with stories of Jack White vs. Dave Grohl. Enough so that his publicist had to release a statement declaring that all was well in the rock ‘n’ roll world.

At least on this night, all that modern day distractive bullshit seemed to be put on pause (with the exception of a few bored husbands, dragged to the show by their excited wives, who kept checking football scores discretely). Even my own camera stayed in my pocket for the duration of the night, out of respect to Jack as much as out of my own desire – nay, NEED – to experience the untainted, sweaty, welcoming overload of live music as performed by someone who understands the necessity of spontaneity and rawness in rock ‘n’ roll.

Jen Cray

As the band gathered and posed for their final bow, as the last notes of “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” resonated in my ringing ears, I took my pocket sized Canon out for one, lone quick pic. Apologies, Jack, but you can’t give me a memory so perfect and not expect me to sneak one moment of it that is solely my own.

jackwhiteiii.com/live-photos

Categories
Print Reviews

Detroit Rock City

Detroit Rock City

by Steve Miller

Da Capo Press

Before our auto industry collapsed and factories outsourced our livelihood overseas for five cents on the dollar, Detroit, Michigan was one of America’s most vital and prosperous cities. From a population high in the ’50s and ’60s of nearly two million people, the beleaguered city now only has a little over 700 thousand. The jobs, the people, and the city aren’t coming back, but at their height, the Motor City had it going on.

In this oral history, Steve Miller takes us from the early days of Detroit rock and roll to the present day, and it’s a compelling tale. Don Was (Rolling Stones producer, Was Not Was) relates growing up in the shadow of the auto industry, and Scott Morgan (The Rationals, Sonic Rendezvous Band) relates his time on the road with The Rationals, whose hit “Respect” was overshadowed by a young gospel singer named Aretha Franklin. This book is subtitled “America’s Loudest City,” and when you look at the some of the talent that arose from it, it’s no wonder. The MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, Ted Nugent, and Bob Seger called Detroit home, and learned their craft on some mighty mean streets. Interviews with MC5 manager John Sinclair and Iggy Pop show both the fraternity and the ill will that were equally strong in the music scene (Sinclair on Nugent: “Everybody thought Ted was an asshole even then”). While Motown was equally influential and outsold the likes of the MC5 et al., the ripples cast by these ’60s and ’70s figureheads loom large over contemporary music and culture. One can hardly imagine the New York and England punk explosion without tracing it back to the Stooges, and the MC5 were early political activists. When their debut record opened with “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” it led to banning of the record, censorship, and a stalled career. When Sinclair was sent to prison for ten years for passing two joints to an undercover officer, it marked a turning point for the band and the city.

By the mid-’70s Detroit was starting to fade, and drugs, namely heroin, took hold. Iggy, Seger, and Nugent had left the city years before, and the once vibrant club mecca withered. It wasn’t until the garage bands, led by The Gories and The White Stripes in the ’90s, that the city could boast of a scene. But it was too little, too late. The Stripes broke up and Jack White now calls Nashville his home, and an emergency manager has been appointed to undemocratically run Detroit, presumably into the ground. While the state of the city is dismal, this book is anything but. Interviews with Wayne Kramer (MC5), Mitch Ryder, Niagara (Destroy All Monsters) and various members of The Romantics, among many others, show how this uniquely American city gave rise to a strong, take no prisoners form of rock and roll, hedonistic and driven. Full of anecdote and confession, Detroit Rock City is a testament to that once great city and the talent it produced. Kick out the jams, indeed.

Steve Miller: www.avalanche50.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Madonna

Madonna

with Paul Oakenfold

American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL • November 19, 2012

There are moments in life that are about as close to perfect as can be. Singing along to “Like a Prayer” with Madonna, a choir, and 19,000 other fans is one of those moments. In fact, seeing a Madonna production up close — and not on DVD or pay-per-view or VHS — is one of those moments! The whole two-hour Experience. Sure, there are folks who will complain that she went on too late (90 minutes later than originally scheduled, to be exact), or that she didn’t sing a certain song, but to all of the naysayers I will say this: Quit yer bitchin’! It’s MADONNA, for chrissakes!

“Am I keeping you up?” the Material Girl teased on the first night of a two-night stint at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, the final two North American dates of her MDNA Tour. “What happened, Miami? You guys used to be fun!”

Did many Madonna fans grow old and get tired, or are some of the Miami fans just too spoiled, having had the opportunity to see her play on every tour she’s ever embarked on? Madonna always plays Miami — never anywhere else in Florida, mind you (at least not since 1985), but always there. I had people behind me tossing popcorn at my dancing back telling me to “sit down.” REALLY?! For MADONNA?!

Jen Cray

Here’s what I can tell you about me personally: I found out at 3 pm that I had tickets to this show, four hours south of where I live. Within 30 minutes, my girlfriend and I were in the car and our way — road trippin’ to Miami. Money flew out of our pockets on tolls, on gas, on parking, on overpriced beer. Time ticked on, but we hardly noticed, because we were caught up in the DJ stylings of opening act Paul Oakenfold, who found a way to mix both The White Stripes, Nirvana, and Red Hot Chili Peppers into his otherwise electronic dance music mixes (love your taste, Paul). Caught up in the magic, caught up in just BEING THERE, sit down, I will not!

Jen Cray

Would it have been better if Madonna had started the show while the crowd was still feeling the Oakenfold high? Of course, but then again, anticipation has its own appeal. The delay of pleasure that makes that sweet satisfaction feel even tastier when it finally comes… if anyone should be granted the permission to make us all salivate in waiting, it’s Madonna.

With boyfriend/dancer Brahim Zaibat

Jen Cray
With boyfriend/dancer Brahim Zaibat

This particular night was being filmed for a future DVD release, so robotic-looking video cameras swooped around the stage filming every second for the Madonna concert vault (every tour she’s done since 1985’s The Virgin Tour has been filmed and released, in some fashion), adding to the surreality of the over-the-top production…

Jean Paul Gaultier's Cone Bra update

Jen Cray
Jean Paul Gaultier’s Cone Bra update

…that included about a dozen stage designs and as many costume changes, created by her long-time collaborator Jean Paul Gaultier. There’s even been an updated version of the iconic cone bra — this time it’s black, structured like a cage, and worn over a suit and tie outfit during a catwalk-strutting performance of “Vogue.”

A Madonna show is more than just a concert, it’s a theatrical Show, and this particular tour takes the audience through a cathartic journey from dark to light. The stage is first set as a gothic cathedral complete with chanting monks and a massive incensory that swings and smokes above the audience’s heads while Madonna is lowered to the stage as a silhouette inside of a confessional box.

Girls Gone Wild

Jen Cray
Girls Gone Wild

A black-catsuit-clad, gun-toting portion follows, replete with dancers with automatic rifles, simulated murder, and blood splatter that splashes onto the large screens onstage. It’s easy to see why this portion has sparked some controversy in certain cities where the tour has landed, but the images are fitting for the song selections (“Revolver” and “Gang Bang”). It’s Madonna’s Tarantino moment and it’s as shocking as her simulated masturbation scene on 1990’s Blond Ambition Tour.

Express Yourself

Jen Cray
Express Yourself

The marching band and cheerleader section is not only one of the most visually interesting segments, but also centers around a brilliant mash-up of “Express Yourself” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” The two songs swirl around one another so seamlessly that a lot of listeners seem to have missed it, along with the cheeky jab Madonna threw Gaga’s way by slipping in a quick chorus of “She’s Not Me.” The old, and new, pop classic segued right into “Give Me All Your Luvin,” performed true to last year’s Super Bowl half time show, with Madonna and her female dancers cheering with pom poms and batons, and a live marching band enhancing the already driving drum beats. Of course, this time, much of the marching band was suspended from the rafters high above.

the flying marching band

Jen Cray
the flying marching band

Also visually stimulating was the strip-tease that accompanied a sultry “Candy Shop” and “Like a Virgin” — the latter slowed down and paired with a piano. Money littered the corner of the catwalk as the 54-(!!!)-year-old icon crawled along the floor, sensuously singing while flashing her ass at the crowd. It was a good thing her son Rocco stayed offstage for this portion ( the 11-year old is a dancer on the tour… and the dancing gene runs strong in the this family; he’s quite good! ), no one wants to see his mom stripping down to nearly nothing — even if that mom is Madonna.

Like a Virgin

Marianne Martinez
Like a Virgin

The dancers are their own spectacle throughout the production, often being allowed their own moments to shine and show off, like during a gypsy-themed dance off, in which even Madonna takes a seat and cheers them on. Her dancers bring a bit of Cirque du Soleil to the show — they dance on wires, do acrobatic jumps atop of moving cubes high above the floor of the stage, and they all seem to be double-jointed, moving their arms in ways that no human should be able to.

Jen Cray

As the two-hour show neared its end, her entire troupe descended in robes to serve as the choir for the roof-rattling “Like a Prayer,” whose joyous moment I already gushed over. The joy stretched on with a colorful encore of “Celebration” so hypnotic that even the stage was dancing (well, lighted cube sections moved up and down while the dancers bounded from one to another). It may have been way past many people’s bedtimes for a Monday night, but this exhilarated ending should have served as a shot to keep the party going for everyone as they piled out onto the 2 am streets of Miami.

Celebration

Jen Cray
Celebration

The party has yet to stop, behind my eyes, inside my memory. I was seven years old when I picked out and bought my first record, a 45 single of “Material Girl,” decades ago. Not a year has passed that Madonna has so much as teetered off the pedestal of Pop Genius from where she has stood for nearly my lifetime. For no other artist would I have dropped everything and driven four hours on a moment’s notice. Madonna demands throwing caution to the wind, and I will forever be grateful that I did!

Gallery of live shots from this show: Madonna.

Madonna: madonna.com

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Music Reviews

Jack White

Jack White

Blunderbuss

Third Man Records

Those waiting for Jack White to slip up and reveal himself as just another fallible musician capable of making a false step are in for a world of disappointment because his debut effort, Blunderbuss, is one of the most consistently GREAT albums he’s ever made. With 10 major league albums spread across three bands (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) under his color-coordinated belt, that’s saying something.

And why make a solo record NOW, anyway? Even with the breakup of The White Stripes, he’s spinning many plates. His other bands are on again/off again like a senior semester teenaged couple, he’s got the Third Man Records juggernaut (record store/concert venue/label/studio), and as a record producer he’s added his touch to everyone from Wanda Jackson to Insane Clown Posse (you read that right). When did he find time to sleep, let alone to whip up a solo venture?! Like most good things, it was all a bit of an accident. The word according to White, and as a notorious word spinner it must be taken with a grain of salt, is that he started jamming with some session players who would otherwise have been sent home after a cancelled recording date with RZA. Thus the kernels of Blunderbuss were born.

What does it sound like? There’s the signature Jack White guitar sound, sure, but he only pulls it out and flaunts it on a few occasions, most notably on the instant classic “Sixteen Saltines,” the most radio-friendly rock song White has made since “Seven Nation Army.” The blues rock opener “Missing Pieces” could be a lost White Stripes track, and his cover of Detroit R&B artist LIttle Willie John’s “I’m Shakin” keeps one foot firmly planted in the blues, where we know he sits so comfortably, but even that track is more funky soul than deep bayou blues.

On the whole it’s as if White peeled off a few layers of guard, not only penning some revealing songs about love, infidelity, and loneliness, but setting them to melodies that center largely around pianos and acoustic guitars. The first single, “Love Interruption” (a duet with back up singer Ruby Amanfu that’s reminiscent of Robert Plant’s project with Alison Krauss, Raising Sand), comes right out and lays it all bare.

I want love to/ Roll me over slowly/ Stick a knife inside me/ And twist it all around… I won’t let love disrupt corrupt/ Or interrupt me –from “Love Interruption”

Rather than wield his electric like hot wire, the pace of this record feels much more relaxed. Take off your shoes and have a seat on the front porch, songs like “Blunderbuss,” “On and On and On,” and the gypsy jazz “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” seem to invite. Even the wider cast of musicians involved is a relaxed move for the notorious control-freak, White. Two bands were put together for this project — one all female, one all male. While on the album, the players mix (Raconteurs’ Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler are among the guests), on the road the two bands will take turns joining White onstage each night.

“Freedom at 21,” an angry funk jam — with a signature Jack solo — about imagined violence on a modern-day technology-obsessed gadget-carrier, is an anthem for anyone who’s ever wanted to snap at stranger obsessed with texting, talking, tweeting, or doing whatever the hell it is they do instead of living. Channeling anger in a completely opposite direction, the piano ballad with a mandolin to keep the mood light, “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy,” could be White’s veiled reaction to Meg White’s decision to break up The White Stripes.

So I got into the game/ But always keep it the same/ And I’ll be using your name…. And you’ll be watching me, girl/ Taking over the world/ Let the stripes unfurl/ Gettin’ rich singin’ poor boy/ poor boy… –from “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy”

Closing out Blunderbuss is a two-for-one track, “Take Me With You When You Go.” The song starts as a lounge-y piano and fiddle tune, but two minutes in takes a pause and a sharp turn into big Rock. The familiar electric guitar tone kicks in, the pace picks up, and the final minute of the song — and album — mash together the White we know and the White who’s just now taking off his hat and introducing himself to us.

Jack White: jackwhiteiii.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Smoke Fairies

Smoke Fairies

Through Low Light And Trees

Year 7

I’m sick. Sick in body and sick in soul. I need to get away from the noise and the sharp edges and lay my body down in the graveyard and lose myself in the quiet. Between the tall grass and an autumn wind whistling through the tombstones, I’m about to drift off, but… I need music, I need songs, I need sound.

The two apparitions in the Smoke Fairies understand the need for healing of a psyche bruised and hollowed out by the 21st century. The British duo of Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies looks back to the pastoral melancholy of Sandy Denny and early Richard and Linda Thompson, taking folk back from exhibitionist singer/songwriters to a more courtly, filigreed place, all gallows and autumn despair.

It beguiled Jack White enough to put out the stellar Gastown/River Song 7″ on his Third Man label, and Through Low Light And Trees (also produced by White!) delivers on that early promise. This ain’t some coffeehouse bullshit, this is a full-on seance between Karen Dalton, the Bronte Sisters, Nick Drake, and Sylvia Plath.

Smoke Fairies: www.smokefairies.com