Category Archives: rock

Having a wild weekend: Dylan, Gangstagrass, Ian Anderson & more

By Barry Gilbert

We endured nine hours of traffic hell on our way to Chicago on Friday, a trip that should have taken six hours tops. Every time I was tempted to bail from the 5 mph-lanes of misery, I kept myself on track by repeating: “But we’re going to see Bob … we’re going to see Bob … we’re …”

Dylan’s unfortunately named AmericanaramA tour stopped at Toyota Park – and really, what more can be added irony-wise to a celebration of American roots music held in a suburban Chicago soccer stadium on a stage flanked by two giant pedestals topped by full-size vehicles made by a Japanese car company?

What we thought were great seats – field level, first section, stage right – weren’t so much, thanks to acres of standing room between us and the stage. That made it tough to see anything – and we were “close.” And there were no video screens.

Because we were two hours late, we missed the great Richard Thompson and My Morning Jacket, arriving during setup time for Wilco.

But Dylan was worth all the torture. Some people began to walk out after the third song, offended by the artist’s gravel-ravaged voice or not recognizing rearranged classics as well as the new songs – but, well, at this point what did they expect? The funny thing is, Dylan had more than a few moments when his voice veered toward the gentle – if not “Nashville Skyline” Dylan, then the expressive instrument displayed on “Tempest,” his newest album.

And keeping with Dylan’s penchant for expending no effort whatsoever to overtly please anybody, the majority of the songs in his 15-tune set were from the relatively recent past, leaning heavily on last year’s “Tempest” for gems such as “Duquesne Whistle” and “Early Roman Kings.” “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” from 2009’s “Together Through Life,” was a highlight, delivered with some edge and anger.

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Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson continues his story in Peabody Opera House show

Ian Anderson
Ian Anderson

July 15, 2013 12:10 pm

By Barry Gilbert
Special to the Post-Dispatch

Gerald Bostock, the fictional 8-year-old protagonist of Jethro Tull’s 1972 epic “Thick as a Brick,” is alive and — perhaps? — as well as can be expected 40 years later. Gerald’s creator, British rock flutist Ian Anderson, is doing splendidly, as he proved before ardent fans in a packed Peabody Opera House on Sunday night.

Anderson is touring behind the 40th anniversary of “Thick as a Brick,” a tour begun late last year after Anderson’s solo release of “Thick as a Brick 2.” The sequel imagines what might have happened to young Gerald after a scandal that befell him in Part 1. The rock opera is well-suited to the acoustics of the opera house, and praise goes to Anderson’s sound engineer, Mike Downs, and the Peabody tech staff for one of the best-sounding rock shows this concertgoer has ever heard.

Every nuance of the dynamic music was exquisitely presented, showcasing the virtuoso talents of Anderson, drummer Scott Hammond, guitarist Florian Ophale, bassist David Goodier and keyboardist John O’Hara (the latter two also members of recent Jethro Tull incarnations).

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Sidesaddle pianist Marcia Ball still loves those roadside attractions

Marcia Ball

(This interview was conducted in advance of a Marcia Ball show scheduled for July 7, 2013, at the Old Rock House in St. Louis. Alas, the show was cancelled by the venue.)

By Barry Gilbert

Over almost four decades, a lot of amazing, funny and just plain weird stuff has floated by the windows of Marcia Ball’s tour vehicles. And the Texas-born and Lousiana-reared roadhouse R&B singer and pianist has stopped and gawked at most of them.

Among them, as chronicled in her song “Roadside Attractions,” are a concrete dinosaur, Jesus in a screen door, a blue ox, chimney rocks, two-headed livestock, “Alligator Jumparoo,” the corn palace, the fair in Dallas, redwood trees, a giant strawberry, a 2-ton ball of string, snake farms, longhorns and rock star millionaires.

And, Ball says, a telephone booth.

A telephone booth?

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Q&A: James McCartney ventures out from father Paul McCartney’s shadow

mccartney1

Photo By Barry Gilbert

By Barry Gilbert

James McCartney, son of former Beatle Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney, carts around a daunting amount of baggage.

At 35, he is just now beginning a music career, with help from Sir Dad. What was unclear to me after a face-to-face interview recently is how much he really wants it.

As I wrote in a story for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch based on that interview and a performance later the same day, McCartney “is understandably reticent, and seems a bit uncomfortable on stage, as he was earlier that afternoon during a conversation at one of the empty venue’s bistro tables. He talked about his music and his megafamous father, his career goals and his struggle with maintaining his privacy.”

To that point, McCartney had not done much press in the United States, but I was lucky enough to be on vacation in the Boston area May 20, when McCartney was to perform at the legendary Club Passim in Cambridge, Mass. The stars aligned, and I was granted an interview.

The following Q&A has been edited only for length and clarity.

BG: Are you tired of all of the questions about the Beatles, and the comparisons?

McCartney: No I don’t mind, but it depends on how far we go into it. It’s me, it’s comparisons, it’s all of that, but then it just becomes … like talking on behalf of someone else, which is not what I’m here to do, for my dad.

BG: Audiences in the States are less familiar with your work, I’d imagine, than people back home, so those are the kinds of first questions –

McCartney: That’s fair enough, just as long as it’s not like a kiss and tell.

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Crenshaw, Bottle Rockets close a packed Twangfest

THIS STORY WAS PUBLISHED IN THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH ON JUNE 10, 2013, BUT WAS SEVERELY TRIMMED. THIS IS THE UNTRIMMED VERSION.

By Barry Gilbert

Singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw, backed by the muscle of St. Louis’ Bottle Rockets, on Saturday night (June 8, 2013) brought a sweat-drenched end to Twangfest, one of the most successful editions in the festival’s 17-year run.

Among the 13 acts that performed last week, three – Crenshaw, Asleep at the Wheel and Ray Wylie Hubbard – are bonafide music legends, and two more – Joe Pug and Todd Snider – may earn that status someday.

In addition, the four-night celebration of American roots music sold out three of the four shows (one at Plush and two at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room), and set a record with fans buying 70 four-night passes. The festival ran smoothly, and even the technical gremlins took a year off.

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Despite famous name, James McCartney tries to stay private

James McCartney
James McCartney

June 04, 2013 6:00 am

By Barry Gilbert
Special to the Post-Dispatch

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. • James McCartney sat behind a piano on the cramped stage of the legendary Club Passim last month and introduced the song “Bluebell.”

“It’s about my Mum, it’s about different things,” he said. He then misplayed the opening chords, smiled, apologized, and started again as the half-full room of about 75 people murmured and chuckled in support, seemingly trying to will McCartney to succeed.

It was a telling moment during the late show May 20 (an early show was sold out), because it was one of the few times he revealed just a sliver of himself: the only son of Sir Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney, out front, solo and vulnerable, in support of “Me,” his first full-length CD.

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Guitarist Dick Dale created surfing sound

Dick Dale in performance at the Viva Las Vegas Extravaganza on March 29, 2013. Photo by Daniel Hernandez
Dick Dale in performance at the Viva Las Vegas Extravaganza on March 29, 2013. Photo by Daniel Hernandez

April 25, 2013 12:00 pm

By Barry Gilbert
Special to Go! magazine

In 1954, a young surfer-musician walked up to guitar maker Leo Fender and said, “Hello, my name is Dick Dale, I got no money, can you help me out?”

Simple question, and one that Fender answered by allowing Dale to play one of the first Fender Stratocasters.

“I picked it up and I held it upside-down and backwards and I was playing it, and Leo fell off the chair laughing,” Dale says. “He says, ‘How come you’re playing it that way?’ And I say, ‘When I got my first ukulele, I held it that way because I was strumming with my left hand, and the book didn’t say, ‘Turn it the other way, stupid,’ and it’s been that way ever since.”

That encounter began an association that arguably led to hard rock, heavy metal and amps turned up to 11. Dale pushed Fender to create the amplifier electronics and heavy-duty speakers that would let Dale play louder and louder, chasing the swing-era sound of Gene Krupa’s drums that Dale wanted to hear coming from his guitar. There’s a reason why one of Dale’s compilation albums is titled “Better Shred Than Dead.”

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