Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters at Glens Falls Civic Center.
Falls Civic Center, Oct. 9
are a lot of things to dislike about “arena” rock concerts,
at least if you’re used to the more intimate environs of clubs
and theaters. In the smaller setting, the beer line may be
just as long but feels less like a cattle herd, and the acoustics
may not be great but still sound better than an airplane hangar.
Some bands can make an arena show seem fun, but special effects
are usually required. Remember the Kiss reunion show at the
Pepsi Arena some years ago? They had it all: firework explosions,
3D effects, flaming guitars, a levitating drum riser, and
the tongue wags of Gene Simmons—who could fly like Peter Pan.
Count the Foo Fighters among the minority of bands who can
turn an arena show into an all-around good time. They did
it at the Glens Falls Civic Center last Tuesday night, and
they didn’t need pyrotechnics, background videos, costumes
or special effects. Just a shaggy but ageless Dave Grohl in
black T-shirt and beat-up sneakers, with his band bringing
the rock. To work up the enthusiastic crowd, all Grohl needed
to do was unleash one of his tell-tale frenetic shrieks, a
nod to his grunge and punk roots that he used only sparingly
and with feeling, during songs like the Courtney-excoriating
hit “I’ll Stick Around.”
such a good screamer,” admired an audience member in the hockey
rink/civic center, which was only half-filled, reportedly
because this show was just a warm-up in preparation for an
upcoming tour to support the new Foo Fighters album Echoes,
Silence, Patience and Grace, and hence wasn’t promoted
much. “We need to get back in the game, know what I mean?
Been spending too much time in Europe,” Grohl announced to
a smattering of jeers from the Europhobes in attendance. “Yeah,
I know you think Europe sucks,” he added. “Europe’s kind of
kick-ass after a couple of big ol’ beers.” That’s Dave Grohl,
who onstage was still the same likeable beer-drinking, pot-smoking
dude he must have been back in Springfield, Va., where he
grew up, even though he lives in Los Angeles now and sits
on a post-Nirvana fortune.
Of course there were some nods to arena-rock theatrics, with
Grohl jumping off the stage during a sprawling version of
“Stacked Actors” to race a half-lap around the civic center
floor, chased by a couple of plainclothes bodyguards who ran
block. Standing on the soundboard, he riffed out a dueling
guitar solo with guitarist Chris Shiflett, who stayed on stage.
And, in an extended, but cool, episode during which each of
Grohl’s bandmates took turns soloing, Grohl and guitarist
Pat Smear quibbled over whether Smear, who doesn’t do guitar
solos, would demolish his guitar instead. To crowd chants
of “Smash it, smash it,” Smear demurred, so Grohl was forced
to beat his own guitar into submission. “That was a guitar
that I liked a lot. Pat, you owe me one,” Grohl complained.
A rehearsed scene, most likely, but still, with the ever-likeable
Dave Grohl, it was entertaining.
Leon Redbone, Loudon Wainwright III
Egg, Oct. 13
Two wildly different, cult-beloved singers played the Egg
last Saturday, both easily veering from poignant to hilarious
in their songs and patter. But where Leon Redbone’s repertory
centers around venerable vaudeville and minstrel songs, Loudon
Wainwright draws from a considerable catalogue of original
Stage settings emphasized the contrast. Redbone, sporting
his traditional sunglasses, stick and hat, sat with his guitar
upstage center, flanked by mute-laden cornetist Scott Black
and pianist Paul Azaro, both barely discernible in dim blue
light. All that was missing was a smoky haze.
Wainwright played much farther downstage, a presence that
invited a more vigorous volley of audience comments—and led,
surprisingly, to more requests fulfilled than in any earlier
performance I’ve seen.
The fans who filled the small Swyer Theater knew their artists
and repertory, and six songs into Redbone’s set, a request
for “At the Chocolate Bon Bon Ball” instantly provoked the
singer into his most garrulous moment, praising the work of
bandoneón virtuoso Alfredo Pedernera, who was featured on
Redbone’s recording of the song. “I don’t know where he is
now,” Redbone muttered, strumming the opening of the chords
of the song, then stopping to note, “This is where he’d come
in. It just doesn’t sound right without him.” And then going
on to the next number.
From “Sweet Mama,” which opened the set (and was the opening
song on his first album), through an encore of “Shine On,
Harvest Moon,” the selections were soulful (“Someday Sweetheart”)
and silly (“Polly Wolly Doodle”), interspersed with oddball
bits such as his balletic index finger accompaniment to Azaro’s
solo on Jelly Roll Morton’s “Creepy Feeling.”
Wainwright launched his set with the cynical “Road Ode,” soon
enough dipping into numbers from his most recent album, Strange
Weirdos, itself a collection of songs connected with the
movie Knocked Up.
After a rousing “So Damn Happy,” he sang far fewer of his
unhappy-in-love songs than usual, replaced, as he pointed
out, by newer numbers “about death and decay, my current obsessions.”
But even when fulfilling a request for the opposite-of-narcissistic
“Look Like Shit,” the 61-year-old Wainwright seemed impressively
hale, summoning some of his very early songs like “Be Careful,
There’s a Baby in the House” and, after a false start, “Dilated
to Meet You,” written to anticipate the birth of his first
He can be as cruelly self-reflective (“White Winos,” about
drinking with his mother) as cynically funny (“A Guilty Conscience
and a Broken Heart,” a new song in the vein of his earlier
“Unrequited to the Nth Degree”), and he’s a manically funny
performer, punctuating songs with a Jack Nicholson grin among
other oddball facial calisthenics.
He led a sing-along with another oldie, the delightfully sacrilegious
“I Am the Way,” to finish the program, and, like Loudon, the
audience was in great voice, spontaneously offering harmony.
We’re all aging, of course, but a visit with Wainwright reminds
us that we’re doing so in good company.
Dance, Fools, Dance
Hall, Oct. 10
Some people think that the Bravery have had their 15 minutes
of fame, whether they deserve it or not, and just a little
bit more. You can file a taste suit against me, but I sort
of dig ‘em. The onetime ska band earned buzz and next-big-thing-kudos
during 2005 for their debut, which fit right into the new-wave
revival/death-disco trend that brought bands such as the Killers,
Interpol and Franz Ferdinand into the spotlight.
A feud with the Killers and a Top 20 debut kept the band in
the press, but they shared a problem with some of their new-wave
forefathers: They had a killer single in “An Honest Mistake,”
but their album was a patchwork of filler, with vocoder-adjusted
vocals and stylistic clashes. For their follow-up it was clear
the band needed to make a Killers-style stylistic “maturation.”
What stinks is, my favorite part of the band is their disco
beats and New Order keyboard palette, and they felt that losing
that would show they had matured.
I could care less how much vocoder are on your vocals, as
long as you are making me simultaneously rock and dance. It
seems other critics agreed with me on some level, because
The Sun and the Moon has been almost universally panned
except by Entertainment Weekly: They gave the album
a B-plus. How do I know this? Don’t ask!
But on Wednesday the band proved that The Sun and the Moon,
which finds the band playing around more with more classic-rock
clichés than New Order’s recycle bin, actually lends the band
a needed sense of weight and urgency.
Tracks like “Split Me Wide Open” and “Every Word Is a Knife
in My Ear” recalled Public Image Ltd’s poppier moments, and—go
ahead, sue me—there was a definite snarling edge the band
had previously lacked.
Other newer material like “Believe” and “Time Won’t Let Me
Go” made me happy like listening to “On Top of Old Smokey”
on my “baby’s first record player” as a kid. And that is a
It was filler material from the band’s debut that made me
cringe, tracks like “Public Service Announcement” with lines
like “Stop, drop and roll, you’re on fire,” or “Fearless”
with the line “And I know that’s why you love me Chica”—and
yet I was dancing along to every stupid word. It was a dripping-wet
guilty pleasure that I won’t soon forget. So, again, please,
fucking sue me.
Not Afraid of Life
Walter Salas-Humara, Anders Parker
A founding member of alternative-country pioneers the Silos,
Walter Salas-Humara sings songs that pack a lot of life under
their belts. Last Thursday night on the downstairs stage at
Valentine’s, Salas-Humara ground out some great rock and roll
for grown-up punks, tunes about hearts “adrift between the
shores of heaven and hell” and getting bored and taking drugs
and driving around. Show opener Anders Parker joined Salas-Humara
for some beautiful guitar leads on set highlight “When the
Telephone Rings,” a gorgeous ode to New York City that spoke
of seeing “the truth of flowers blooming/in a concrete box.”
Like Richard Buckner and the Jayhawks at their best, Salas-Humara
has the poetic gift of capturing elusive emotions in a finely
tuned phrase. There’s a lot of hard-won wisdom in songs like
“Innocent” and “The Only Love,” and any guy who references
baseball in two separate songs knows a thing or two about
As noted, Anders Parker, best known for his work in the vastly
underrated Varnaline and last year’s collaboration with Jay
Farrar, Gob Iron, opened. Like troubadour Andrew Bird, Parker
is a master at using various delay and loop pedals to enrich
and thicken the texture of his solo sets. Opening with a lovely
“Still Dream,” Parker found his way to “Circle Same,” its
lines “The rain may come any day/and take it all away” coinciding
with a Seattle-worthy downpour audible from inside the club.
Parker spends a lot of time on the road, and many of his tunes
reflect loneliness and yearning. His voice sharing both the
gravitas of a Farrar and the flexibility of a Freedy Johnston,
Parker sang how “all the hotel rooms were fresh and clean/but
they’re not home and they’re not free,” while playing searing
Telecaster lines over a bed of strummed open tunings. Bracing
rockers like the catchy “Song” and “The Hammer Goes Down”
were perfect for midnight rides down the freeway, patches
of light between the long stretches where Parker’s guitars
took over, their soaring sonic expanse evoking the place where
he most likely feels at home, somewhere beneath America’s
wide northern skies, between exits, gazing at the stars.