Showing 23 posts tagged Live

Tori Amos - Live 8/16/96 Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, USA

Yesterday I spent a lot of time on the Tori Amos live experience, and I’m going to use that to segue today into talking about various facets of my favorite of her records/time periods, her hands-down (no, really, put your hands DOWN) greatest album, Boys For Pele.

Released in 1996, Boys For Pele is a weird, wonderful, absolutely messy heartbreaking shitstorm of a record. Recorded after splitting from her longtime boyfriend/engineer/producer Eric Rosse, Boys For Pele was a spiraling out (I’ll refrain from saying downward) of Tori’s emotional universe into a world much heavier and darker than anything she’d yet done. At times, it’s reminiscent of a very good black metal record in the way it’s unforgiving to both the creator and the listener, a mutually hellish voyage of intensity. That’s not to say Boys For Pele isn’t without lighter moments, with “ratatouille strychnine” being one of the finer moments of gallows humor in Tori’s catalogue, but on the whole it is. 


A lot.

To take in.

And we’re not talking one of the later versions of the album, edited to include the remix of “Talula” or the remix of “Professional Widow”, though I do want to talk about those album rejiggers. I’m talking about the originally, incredibly lengthy album, full of the sound of pianos settling several minutes after the songs ended, bleeding at the seams with artistic choices only a fiery, heartbroken creative spirit could have made after being left entirely to her own devices for the first time.

See, Tori produced Boys For Pele on her own, having never done such a thing before. And I’m quite sure that’s part of what creates such a fiercely unique, individualistic experience for this album. It’s one of my favorite records of all time, so let’s talk about it today.

Here, then, is my favorite live bootleg of Tori of all time—from BFP’s “Dew Drop Inn” tour stop in VA at Wolf Trap. I used to listen to this on a dirty, worn out third or fourth generation cassette I’d traded some 10,000 Maniacs bootlegs for to someone on the Really Deep Thoughts Usenet list. The show was legendary as soon as it happened, Tori in a raw, unhinged form hinting at both the emotional break that had just occurred (breakup) and what was coming/could have possibly just happened (the miscarriage chronicled on her next album). We find Tori at her lowest of lows but also at her most ferocious, a wounded lion out to take absolutely no shit from anyone ever at all.

This show is what I point to when people say that Tori has no part in the modern weird female music history. This is bloodletting as public performance.This is a punk show, this is a metal show, this is a lesser banishing ritual performed by a woman scorned yet in possession of all of her powers and then some. 

Pause. I gave you a documentary. Did you watch it? I hope so. I can’t stand just writing about individual recordings, I’m going to take a break for a moment.

We’ll touch upon this subject in great detail but: Lighting Bolt, live! There are few sweeter memories in my mind than seeing the duo destroy stages.

Here is a video from their show at Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church, a few blocks away from where I am now living. Filmed in ultra-nice-high-quality, the band blaze through new songs and old.

Take a moment from reading Pitchfork and updating Twitter and bask in the Chippendale pummel-drum glory.  

Spoon - “Who Makes Your Money?” (Live)

Here’s a clip from the Music Hall of Williamsburg show that night. I’d seen Spoon four times that year, plus twice the previous tour, in every kind of venue: outdoors (Prospect Park), fancypants theater (Radio City Music Hall), ballroom (Roseland), arena (MSG), very tiny club (Cake Shop), and slightly less tiny club (here). All these shows were amazing, but I think this one was the best. The crowd was just super into it (the tickets were announced last minute, so it seemed like it was only real fans there, unlike the show at the Roseland where a lot of people seemed to be there just for something to do), and so was the band. They rocked it out.

This song cracks me up: I mean, I love it, but one of the things I love about it is how much fun Britt seems to be having with the vocals, all the little “oohs” and “ahs.” That’s what I love about Transference: it just seems like the band is letting their hair down a bit, having fun with it. Still, though, total pros. Always.

Spoon - “Nobody Gets Me But You” (Live)

September 10, 2010 was the best day. We already had tickets to see Spoon in Williamsburg that evening, but then they announced a surprise free lunchtime show at the Cake Shop in the East Village. I had to teach a class in the morning out on Staten Island, so I was late getting there, but that turned out to be for the best: they had just finished turning a bunch of people away, but since there was no one else there when I got there they let me in. The purpose of the show was to make this video (Spoon only did live videos for this album: check out the other one), but they played a range of songs, including yesterday’s clip of “Car Radio.” I had to stand in the back, but they sounded awesome, and I hung around at the bar afterwards and got to meet the band. Britt is mad tall, and very friendly. It was a good day.

Spoon - “Mountain to Sound” (Live)

Here’s a more recent live clip; Spoon has been trotting this one out a bit more recently, including one show last year that I really wish I had been at where they played Soft Effects in its entirety. As an encore. Anyway, I picked this version (there are a bunch to choose from on YouTube) because it features Bradford Cox of Deerhunter on guitar: Deerhunter is a band Britt can’t seem to say enough good things about, and who toured with Spoon at one point. I saw them open at Radio City Music Hall last spring, and they played a very self-indulgently long set for an opening act: I was like “C’mon guys, we’re here for Spoon.” And then Spoon had to cut their encore short as a result. BOO. Still, Deerhunter is a pretty good band, I guess.

Spoon - “Waiting for the Kid to Come Out” (Live)

Sasha Frere-Jones, a critic whose opinion I often find myself respecting, says that “Waiting for the Kid to Come Out”, from the Soft Effects EP (1997), is the “first great Spoon song”:

The first great Spoon song, “Waiting for the Kid to Come Out,” was released in 1997, when Daniel was twenty-five. The strategies that made it work are central to Spoon’s most successful tracks: reduction, precision, and confusion. The song starts with two guitar chords and sticks with them. Daniel plays only the chords’ bottom notes and doesn’thit the strings very hard, providing enough notes to make the harmony clear, but no more. He begins the verse in a relaxed, conversational voice that is both clotted and grainy. “This is the electric lounge; no one’s afraid to laugh,” he mumbles, eliding the first “e” of “electric.” “They say, ‘C’mon, man, just let me break your back.’ ” The vowels in “laugh” and “back” are soft and long. (In an interview, Daniel attributed his vocal style to his experience in an elementary-school choir: “The way they taught us to sing was to sing like you’re British. Instead of ‘ar’ you say ‘ah.’ You don’t sing ‘car,’ you sing ‘cahhh.’ ”) Then the rest of the band—a bass player and a drummer—joins in; the drummer, Jim Eno, plays a two-bar solo that might be called a roll, if the word didn’t seem too extravagant for a maneuver consisting of so few hits. (It’s as if Eno were merely testing each drum in his kit.) The chorus introduces two new guitar chords, and Daniel shifts from talking to a more open-throated sound, though he doesn’t produce much in the way of melody until the end, when he sings the words “Let it bleed,” the title of a famous Rolling Stones album. The album has no obvious relevance to the song, which seems to describe a drug deal, except that Spoon shares the Stones’ affinity for both skeletal guitar rock and classic soul music.

The parsimony of this aesthetic isn’t as frustrating as it sounds: the song is a thrill. Daniel stages the addition of each sound the way Harold Pinter uses pauses to set off lines of dialogue; what eventually unfolds seems meaningful, though you’d be hard pressed to say much about it. Daniel alternates between phrases that don’t sound as if they belonged in a song—“in the tradition of your nationalized tracts”—and lyrics that seem so generic they could show up in any song: “This is like being alive.” Everyone in the band plays with a restraint that makes the track sound timeless, as though it could have appeared on any rock record of the past forty years.

I think anyone who listened to “Cvantez” earlier today might find his assertion of this being their first great song debatable, at least, but it is definitely a great song, and you can’t fault Sasha for a lack of analysis to back his claim up. One person who might agree with him is Britt Daniel, who is never shy about admitting when his own work is good (why should he be?), but who often seems a bit embarrassed by Telephono:

DM: Do you still like those old records?

Britt Daniel: Yeah. I like “Series of Sneaks” and “Soft Effects.” A lot.

Jim Eno: Not “Telephono,” though?

Britt Daniel: Hey, I didn’t say anything. (Laughs)

There’s definitely a growth, a refinement of sound that occurs from Telephono to Soft Effects, and from there into Sneaks; but it is more continuous, if you ask me, than that which occurs from Sneaks to Girls Can Tell. The Elektra debacle, and the turn of the millenium, seemingly left Spoon a different band. (Well, not really: there a lot of the early sound in last year’s Transference, as we will discuss tomorrow.)

Note: This live clip, which is awesome, is from 1997 and was filmed in Austin’s Electric Lounge, which you’ll note is also mentioned in the first line of the song.

Britt Daniel - “Advance Cassette” (Live, Solo)

I don’t know if Spoon has ever played “Advance Cassette” live (I hope so, but I haven’t found it); however, it’s a staple of Britt’s solo shows. And you can see why: stripped down to the bare guitar riff and hauntingly bittersweet vocals, it is incredibly affecting. It is one of Spoon’s prettiest and saddest songs, I think. The lyrics suggest a loss of some kind, perhaps a relationship; but keeping my meta reading of the album in mind, and looking at the song’s title, you have to think the loss he’s lamenting is actually of A Series of Sneaks itself. And how incredibly prescient! I mean really:the album was released, and then basically disappeared. Reviewers (those who might have received an advance cassette, say?) remarked the loss, and called it an indicator about the state of the music business.

They say all great art arises from suffering, but it’s pretty crazy to create art about suffering you haven’t even been through yet. Still, what a great song! Next we’ll look at what Britt did with the actual breakup of Spoon and Elektra/Laffitte.