Category Archives: Music

Shoegaze and Slowdive

Shoegaze music became a shadow or back seat genre of the grunge scene during the 90s. Typically played in the minor keys, the name came from lead guitarists’ fixation on their feet due to the operation of numerous effect pedals daisy chained on stage. Thanks to KEXP radio, I discovered Slowdive which may be the preeminent band associated with the genre. To the band’s surprise upon reuniting in 2014 after a long hiatus due partly to unflattering reviews, audiences hailed them dearly in London and Barcelona. Their return has been invigorated with a hot new album self titled “Slowdive”.

 My characterization of the music is “sombre mood”. If you’re willing to go into the darkness, you’ll shimmy in calm. Just make certain you come out while not over cooking your playlist with it. While the distinction of chord movement is oftentimes muddled given the heavy use of reverb, the unrushed melodies can be impactful and pointed.

Much of my attraction to Slowdive is the modest stage presence and obvious band cohesiveness lead by lead song writer and front man Neal Halstead. What his childhood chum Rachel Goswell lacks in vocal range – she makes up for in musicality on guitar and keyboard.  Her voice tonality is actually fitting to the eclectic ambience illuminating live performances. Critical to the sensitive nature of the genre, the rhythm section has a strong feel for dynamics with Simon Scott intuitively in sync with bassist Nick Chaplin. Christian Savill rounds out the troupe on rhythm guitar.                

Wynterland Band Review

With tickets sold out at the Blues Can last night, I headed over to Mikey’s Juke Joint on 12th Ave SW with a friend and enjoyed classic rock from Red Deer’s Wynterland.

This is an energetic cover band that does remarkably well at capturing popular riffs of yesteryear. I stayed for their first two sets and enjoyed classics such from Fleetwood Mac , Boston, April Wine, Pat Benatar, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Toto, and Journey among others less familiar. It’s a fun stage presence hosted by vocalist / guitarist Wynette Johnson. The biggest take away of the evening was song selection. I don’t know if they had kicked in all of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams, “Rhiannon”, and “Go Your Own Way” because of the news of FM’s concert postponement but if so, that was intuitive. Patrons obviously took to the rhythm section filling the dance floor from the outset. “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” from April Wine definitely had me reeling in Nostalgia as these guys delivered on this track pretty much note for note. 

When coming away from such an occasion, I reflect on the hard work that local musicians put into recreating popular songs for our enjoyment and the breadth of commitment required for band members to operate cohesively in this part time endeavour while maintaining full time careers. Although reduced …thankfully, Calgary has venues still available for these gigs. Go out and show your support. These bands need us.                

Nazareth in Calgary Aug 18, 2018

The only member left from the original member is bassist Pete Agnew but this group plays cohesively led by front man Carl Sentance. In fact it was remarkable to hear how easily Carl hits the high pitches typical of Nazareth’s hit tracks from the seventies. Original vocalist Dan McCafferty’s voice was raspier but I actually prefer the tonality of Sentance.

The band surprisingly brought “This Flight Tonight” and “Razamanaz” early in the set. Lead guitarist Jimmy Murrison made good use of his slide in “This flight” and Sentance got the place hummin’ with the quick tempo of “Raz”. The vast experience of Agnew on bass in concert with son Lee kept exquisite rhythm throughout the evening.

Although, never a big fan of classic “Hair of The Dog”, its signature guitar riff was unmistakable and had the audience standing at attention. “Love Hurts” was beautifully played and coloured the evening with a melancholy calm. 

“Shanghai’d in Shanghai” was one of my favourites of the evening along with an unidentifiable transcending rock rhythm piece.

Sentance donned an acoustic electric guitar for one song titled “Sunshine”. It was probably the one pronounced track of the evening which would have been better presented in studio.  Ironically it was this part of the evening where stage lighting encountered technical difficulty.

My sense was that Murrison may not have been at his best on this night having missed a particular guitar piece but it’s hard to criticize his chops. 

Certainly, many throughout the Grey Eagle Resort’s event centre were ill prepared with no ear protection. Smaller venues with big bands mean big sounds and the requisite for ear protection in lieu of no apparent decibel regulations. Thankfully, I was equipped and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.       

 

Chris Stapleton On A Whim

I’d never heard of this guy but then I saw facebook friend GB post that he was going to see Chris Stapleton at the Saddledome. GB and I have never met in person.  A couple of years back we became acquainted because he noticed my review of Fleetwood Mac live and we connected.  Hence; a spirit of spontaneity came over me upon knocking off work an hour and a half prior to show time when I saw that he was going to see this guy Chris Stapleton whom I’ve never heard of.  True to the wonder of joy manifestation through simple compelling instinct, I discovered a master craft musician.  Someday we’ll meet GB.

Although country is not my genre, this man with his supporting cast including his wife on supporting vocals lead out with a beat atypical of Nashville’s melancholy two stepping simplicity.  Instead, his up tempo power chord shredding delivery accompanied with a wide ranging diaphragmatic voice left me transfixed in his modest brilliance.  He’d hit the high octave while rolling along between chords….and these articulate slow moving chord progressions during intros were captivating. He’d capo the guitar down to suit his vocal key and when Mrs. Stapleton chimed in, it was with well timed emphasis and poignant contextually to lyrics.

The omnipotent stage presence of Chris absolutely touched the audience especially when he reached into the vocal stratosphere during a well positioned bar.  The drummer and bassist obviously carried the back drop but will have come to understand (on bass for 20 years) that in this production when the lead man plays rhythm, lead and sings, they’ll be a subtext in the Chris Stapleton story.

Mid show I’m thinking to myself that it’s like I came from another planet having never having heard of this guy while witnessing the crowd sing and stir upon sensing the opening to one of their favourites from his old LP “The Traveler”.  Definitely part of my thrill for the evening was the discovery amidst naivety.

 

Melissa Etheridge Concert Review Calgary September 2 2014

Who knew she was playing at the Jube? Thanks Tanika for the picture and apres bus ride banter contributing to this Melissa Etheridge concert review! I came to learn of Melissa Etheridge’s solo gig on the same day through lucky happenstance over at Kijiji.  My spontaneous side said let’s go and moved to the kitchen to prepare a late afternoon office snack for later hitching a ride on transit to the show.

I expected a couple hours of Melissa sitting idly playing unplugged given no accompaniment.  However; instead she brought along two banks of guitars, a piano and a metronome like percussion and rhythm aid which enabled her to bring a big band feel to her vibrant hits of yesteryear.  That raspy rock voice was unmistaken as she took to the stage playing feverishly to a hard core Calgary following.  Her supreme stage presence and signature high key were on display early.  Softness and subtlety was also demonstrated in her piano cover of Joan Armatrading.   Harmonica and slide guitar added breadth and intricacy to melodies inspired by rich lyrics sometimes laden with social innuendo.  A Melissa Etheridge concert review would be incomplete without acknowledging her charming persona obviously enriched through life experience and motherhood.

Two new songs, “Take My Number” and “Monster” were showcased from her soon to be released album “This is MMelissa Etheridge Concert Review.E.”  Look to see the former hitting charts.   Other big hits included, I Want to Come Over, and Chrome Plated Heart.

Bring Me Some Water closed out the show prior to a most fitting encore.  Lead guitar skills were on extreme display with “Like The Way I Do”.  The ballet theatre turned absolute rock house for this ten minute tirade!  Particular explosive moments had her hitting high vocal notes with purity to the delight of an audience either stymied by her brilliance or lost in the uninhibited ecstasy of this masterful musical performance.

For upcoming tour dates:

http://www.melissaetheridge.com/tour/

 

September 2nd, 2013, Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary, Alberta Canada

On A Whim At Fleetwood Mac

On a whim, day of concert – found Ticket Master on the web and did a search for Fleetwood Mac.  Figured there may just be one solo seat somewhere in Calgary’s Saddledome.  Voila.  Second row of first balcony next to the aisle with a clear stage view.  Click.

Ambience was quiet and friendly in eager anticipation.  Folks next to me found tickets, same way.  We all beamed in delight over our luck.  Wouldn’t you know it – new friend in next seat has a mutual acquaintance and we share a passion for squash.

Lights go down and up comes Second Hand News.  Good opening number that immediately had me feeling that these guys are still hitting their notes.  Looked to my new friend and exclaimed, it’s like a time warp.  Stevie’s long blond locks still flowing softly with features that defy her age.  Yes, monitors gave us the close ups while a digital backdrop added color and imagery.

Next comes The Chain which has always been a favorite.  The moment seems surreal.  I can’t believe I’m sitting listening to these songs that I spun over and over again on my turn table in my bedroom as a teenager listening attentively distracted from homework.  Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be listening to a favorite rock group going hard and strong 34 years later.

Stevie takes the wheel and demonstrates her unique vocal prowess with Dreams. This sentimental favorite has everyone settling in now.  It’s becoming apparent that we’re going to get all the big hits and there’s going to be no holding back.  Incidentally, Stand Back was featured later on in the evening.

Lindsey speaks about Tusk and this creative foray in which he bemuses that Warner Brothers may not have actually expected this tangent on the heels of such a string of classic rock hits.  In the spirit of Tusk’s place in FM’s ensemble, Lindsey offers up Not That Funny and only he with his guitar greatness could pull something off with this song lacking in melody.

Lindsey referenced creative forces still at work at this late stage in their career with a couple of tracks for EP release.  Sad Angel was profiled along with Without You.  Not gripping but an admiral effort.

The biggest surprises of the night were Lindsey’s Big Love  and I’m So Afraid guitar solos.  Simply stellar performances.  Lindsey Buckingham at 64 showcased lead guitar in such fashion that rivaled anything ever produced in a studio.

No Fleetwood Mac performance would be complete without Landslide.  Stevie and Lindsey teased us with their chemistry with their glance and thought of one more chorus line on wrap.

A particular pleasure was the intros.  They kept us guessing as to what was being led.  Support musicians chimed in with rhythm and chord work whenever Lindsay wasn’t standing alone.  It would have taken the hundred plus plays of the classics from the past to appreciate the play on the rudiment riffs.   Gold Dust Woman exemplified simplicity flavored with timely marks of musical magic in a calmness that the audience felt as Stevie’s aura faded from the backdrop in a golden haze.

The climactic pulse of the event unfolded with and exhilarating version of Go Your Own Way.  This enchanting rhythmic delight abounded in fun and fervor.  The whole band came together and unleashed an energy only achieved by the harmonious inputs of a musical force aged to perfection.

Admittedly, Mick Fleetwood has lost some acumen with the drumsticks but with a boyish enthusiasm in his 65 year old body –he gave us his best drum solo with World Turning.  Everyone was pulling for him and he came through in style.

I gave my new friend to the right a tap in my gesture of departure and walked the corridors alone.  I discovered the back stage along concourse and caught a glimpse of Stevie Nicks and gave her a wave.  Don’t Stop has lyrics of positivity making for a fitting close.