Tag Archives: barry gilbert

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.

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

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).

Continue reading at stltoday.com

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?

Continue reading Sidesaddle pianist Marcia Ball still loves those roadside attractions

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.

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

Ha Ha Tonka teaches new “Lessons” in St. Louis house concert

From left: Brian Roberts, Brett Anderson, Lennon Bone and Lucas Long perform "Hangman" at a Wood House Concerts show. (Photos by Barry Gilbert)
From left: Brian Roberts, Brett Anderson, Lennon Bone and Lucas Long perform "Hangman" at a Wood House Concerts show. (Photos by Barry Gilbert)

By Barry Gilbert

I will stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table — or Steve Earle’s — and tell the world that Ha Ha Tonka is a great band. I can’t think of another band that simultaneously rocks as hard, writes as well and sings four-part harmonies as exquisitely as does this Ozarks-based quartet.

Brian Roberts, Brett Anderson, Lucas Long and Lennon Bone pulled into Clayton, Mo., last night (June 19, 2013) for their second house-concert date ever and wowed the 70 or so folks in Wood House Concerts’ kitchen/family room.

Lead-vocalist Roberts admitted it was terrifying playing within arm’s reach of an audience. Then he doubled down on the terror by devoting the first of two sets to new material: 10 songs from the band’s upcoming fourth album, Lessons, due for release on Bloodshot Records on Sept. 24. Most of the tunes had not been played previously in public, and some not since they were recorded.

But that was the second surprise. The first was the unusual move of beginning the show by playing an interview with the late children’s book author Maurice Sendak. The interview was conducted by NPR’s Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” in December 2011, less than five months before Sendak’s death at age 83. In the interview, Sendak talks about his then-just-published “Bumble-Ardy,” the story of a 9-year-old boy — well, a pig — who has never had a birthday party.

Continue reading Ha Ha Tonka teaches new “Lessons” in St. Louis house concert

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.

Continue reading Crenshaw, Bottle Rockets close a packed Twangfest

Bottle Rockets power Marshall Crenshaw’s Twangfest pop

Marshall Crenshaw and the Bottle Rockets at Twangfest 17
Marshall Crenshaw and the Bottle Rockets at Twangfest 17. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT

By Barry Gilbert

St. Louis’ Bottle Rockets put the power into Marshall Crenshaw’s legendary power-pop Saturday night to close the most successful edition of Twangfest in the 17-year run of the roots-rock festival.

Night 4 of the KDHX-sponsored festival featured a generous portion of accessible alt-country, rock and power pop, first from opening act Dolly Varden, then for an hourlong set by the Bottle Rockets and finally a 90-minute set by Crenshaw, backed by the Bottle Rockets.

The show at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room was sold out, the third sell-out of the four night festival and the first three-night sell-out in its history.

Continue reading Bottle Rockets power Marshall Crenshaw’s Twangfest pop

Asleep at the Wheel and Eilen Jewell sparkle on Twangfest’s Night 3

Principal Asleep at the Wheel singers Ray Benson, Jason Roberts and Elizabeth McQueen at Twangfest 17. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT
Asleep at the Wheel singers Ray Benson, Jason Roberts and Elizabeth McQueen at Twangfest 17. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT

By Barry Gilbert

It’s a rare night when a music fan can see Texas-swing legends Asleep at the Wheel in an intimate venue, but that happened Friday at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room on the third night of Twangfest 17.

And the Wheel found a well primed crowd, taking the stage after a knockout set by singer Eilen Jewell and her fine band, featuring guitarist Jerry Miller.

The seven-member Asleep at the Wheel, founded in 1970 and still led by singer-guitarist Ray Benson, has always been a force onstage, and the latest incarnation continues the tradition. Blasting through 23 songs in nearly 90 minutes, the band crossed genres from Western swing and boogie woogie to blues, rockabilly and country.

Continue reading Asleep at the Wheel and Eilen Jewell sparkle on Twangfest’s Night 3

Joe Pug, tiny piano player spark Twangfest Day 2

By Barry Gilbert

If Joe Pug had started out in the ’70s, some mainstream record company or fired-up rock critic surely would have hung a “new Dylan” tag around his neck. Unfair as such a label might be in any era – check back with us in 50 years, or even 25, Joe – his songs are worthy of such hyperbole. And live on a stage is the place to hear them.

Joe Pug headlines Day 2 of Twangfest 17 at the Duck Room in St. Louis. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT
Joe Pug headlines Day 2 of Twangfest 17 at the Duck Room in St. Louis. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT

Pug headlined the second night of the KDHX-sponsored Twangfest 17 on Thursday, capping a four-act bill that sadly drew only half a house to Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room after a sold-out opening night Wednesday at Plush (Friday and Saturday night at the Duck Room are sold out, too).

Continue reading Joe Pug, tiny piano player spark Twangfest Day 2

Todd Snider, Ray Wylie Hubbard deliver at Twangfest 17

hubbard

Ray Wylie Hubbard performs at Plush on Twangfest 17 opening night. PHOTOS BY BARRY GILBERT

By Barry Gilbert

“I’m gonna share some of my opinions with you tonight,” singer-songwriter Todd Snider warned the Twangfest 17 opening night crowd, “not because I think you should hear them … but because they rhyme.”

The wisecrack, offered with the same stoner drawl and twinkling eye as Snider uses in his songs, also applied to Ray Wylie Hubbard, the Texas troubadour who preceded Snider on the bill Monday night at Plush in midtown St. Louis. But where Snider is laid back and nuanced under a funky hat adorned by a flower, a folk singer at his core, the scruffy Hubbard is an in-your-face chronicler of life in the margins, all snarling rock ‘n’ roll and country blues.

Twangfest’s move to Plush from its traditional opening night venue, Schlafly’s Tap Room, was a success by any measure. The festival, supported by primary sponsor KDHX (881. FM), sold out the room with fans of each artist – the billing order easily could have been reversed – and sing-alongs were happening even when not requested by the artist.

Continue reading Todd Snider, Ray Wylie Hubbard deliver at Twangfest 17