Wednesday, April 9
home past pirates in the courtyard psyching up for a gig that should have (or could have, or anyway would have) been mine - a reminder of another not-quite-so-recent heartbreak, which i still don't know how to deal with. not that there's much left to be dealt with. when i posted last i was resigned to venturing in by myself, apprehensive about but also comforted by the prospect of the more defined solitude of the city. but thanks to a last-minute phone call (i've almost forgotten how to use the phone), i had a companion. and companionship can't but be comforting.
south street was chilly and felt empty even for a weeknight, but the blossoming cherries towering above (several of them lit, bringing to mind one of my most beautiful nights ever [pre-blog, so no link]) were truly a heavenly sight - and almost easy to miss too. after a quick errand for a friend, and the still novel pleasure of winking my way into an overpriced and sold out show, we wormed about two-thirds of the way through a crowd of forty- and fifty-somethings (i'd believe that we were the only people there under 35, even.) and eventually another one (plus three) took the stage, positively foppish in a mid-thigh-length sport jacket and his preposterous scruffs of white hair.
as the chatty fellow in front of me predicted, joe jackson opened the set with "one more time," the first tune on his first album. later on he closed it with the last song in that album. it don't mean to suggest that he's not still "vital," whatever that means - and this is very explicitly a reunion tour (though couched too as a continuation, and we're supposed to play along with the bit about the "first three albums") - but he does seem like he's been relying a lot on his past: before this tour/album, there was a "sequel" album to his first ('86) comeback, a (fantastic) live album full of chestnuts, and a memoir, which is hardly a sign of life (but i want to read it anyway.)
of course lots of people are doing this now, but it's hard for me not to compare this to the recent elvis "resurgence." their careers have always been roughly parallel, albeit with joe operating at an undeniably lower artistic and commercial level. they've occasionally reattained, but never reduplicated, the brilliance of their debuts (my bias starts already - e's is easily one of my three favorite albums, joe's lucky to make the top fifty). it only took them two albums to abandon "punk" and not much longer to go "experimental" (joe: reggae, jump-blues/proto-neo-swing, world music, "jazz," a "symphony"; el: country, r&b, "americana," a brilliant song cycle.) and now they want to rock again. apart from flukey (and somewhat inexplicable) mid-eighties singles, neither has really regained the breadth of audience of the late seventies.
so why, next to the flame-throwing rock concert i saw in cleveland this summer, did this feel like such a nostalgia act? well. for one thing, though both are songwriters foremost, joe i think has maybe never got the part of being a musician too so well as the little hands of concrete. anyway, the band was a bit stiff at first, and i started to get worried, but after five or six songs they started to loosen up and rock out more. it was fun to see them (esp. graham maby, who i once saw with tmbg, is an awesome bassist), but i think my rock-out standards are higher than usual after seeing hot hot heat and spoon. one thing that those bands did (also supergrass) which is always exciting and impressive when done convincingly, but which joe didn't even attempt: not only do they play the tunes faster than on the record, but they speed up rather recklessly while playing.
the highlight of the show for me was a solo piano set in the middle, even though it started with the cringe-inducing sappy ballad from the new record (joe has written plenty of great songs, but, unlike elvis, he's also written some pretty dumb ones, including a number of his hits - like "i'm the man," which turned up as the encore - and there are plenty of those on the new album, though i do rather like a couple) which was made worse when joe said how much he liked it and the audience enthusiastically concurred. then: a cover of "any major dude," (a totally weird choice but shows off his chops and was fun), the truly lovely "real men" (dedicated to rumsfeld, and with a nod to tori amos, who unlike anthrax and chubby checker knows how to cover his tunes with out "fucking them up"), a neat arrangement of "stepping out," and "it's different for girls" as a segue back to the band. in all, a very enjoyable show and better than it could have been (e.g. if i'd paid for it), if about what i expected. that's good though.
really it was just good to get out. the whole thing went a long way to making me feel better. and so did mos' sermonizing on the way back home:
me, you, everybody: we are hip-hop.
so hip-hop is going where we going
so the next time you ask yourself where hip-hop is going
ask yourself: "where am I going? how am I doing?"
ps. this wsrn shirt business is ridiculous. (for once, my sympathies are with spiegel, although mostly i feel like there must be more to the story on all sides.)