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pink, the beautiful trauma tour

When Beautiful Trauma came out, I offered the opinion that I wouldn't really know how much I liked the new songs until I'd heard them in concert. Her albums are always top-heavy with great material, but I don't think she's ever had a perfect album. The title track hit me from the start, and a few others gradually inched their way into my consciousness, but much of the latter half seemed a bit like filler. It didn't help that the big hit, "What About Us", struck me as heartfelt but far from great.

Last night, she sang 7 songs from Beautiful Trauma, and besides the title track, which I already loved, a few that were improved in the live setting, like "Revenge", which features Eminem ... it's OK on record, but the live version was also clever, as an enormous inflated doll that looked like Eminem came on stage to do his part, with Pink flying in the air and punching him out. "I Am Here", the gospel-sounding track, was excellent, thanks in part to backup singers Stacy Campbell and Jenny Douglas. And "What About Us" works perfectly before a crowd of people who sing along with the chorus of their anthem.

She always does covers ... this time, she attached No Doubt's "Just a Girl" to "Funhouse", which worked well enough, and performed a straightforward version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Perhaps not as adventurous as The Funhouse Tour, where she took on The Divinyls, Led Zeppelin, Queen, and Gnarls Barkley, but this year's song fit in perfectly.

There's not much left to say about the aerial acrobatics. It's harder now to be surprised by the stuff she does, although we took our daughter for her first Pink show and it was fun watching everything through her eyes. Tellingly, one of the show's highlights was its final song, "Glitter in the Air", which in its earlier live performances had been so wonderful that the version at the Grammys is imprinted on the minds of everyone who saw it. This time, she just sang it, and it was lovely.

As for the band, it must matter that the same people have been in her band for ... I don't know, at least a decade. They aren't "A Band", they are "The Band" ... they don't go on tour as themselves when Pink isn't around. They are working musicians who play with many other artists. If you think about singers you've watched for a long time, I don't think you'd find many examples where the backup group is mostly unchanged. But these folks have back Pink on tour long enough that they sound just like a "real" band.

Special mention to the opening act, KidCutUp, a DJ who did about 40 minutes and had the Arena dancing and bopping ... odd, but the DJ was one of the best opening acts I've seen.

My second Pink concert was at The Fillmore, and was the last time I saw her just play, without a Show. Later, she brought on dancers, and eventually her aerial skills, but that show at The Fillmore established for me that Pink can do great shows, even if all she does is sing. Each year, that show at The Fillmore seems farther away. She retains her remarkable rapport with her audience. And we're going again next April, which is about the right space between shows.

Here she is in Seattle, a week or so before we saw her:

 

 


music friday: 1986

The Smiths, "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out". Two weeks ago, I congratulated myself on knowing a Smiths song. I don't know this one, and listening to it, I don't care that I don't know it. I appear to have zero interest in The Smiths.

Run-D.M.C., "Walk This Way". Aerosmith owes Run-D.M.C. big time.

Madonna, "Papa Don't Preach". Sometimes when I vote, I look to see who supports an issue or candidate, or who is against it, to get a sense of where the matter lies. Tipper Gore liked this song.

The The, "Infected". This list contains a lot of music I don't care about. It also includes a lot of artists I've never seen live. This may say something about my music tastes in 1986, when I turned 33 years old.

Robert Cray, "Smoking Gun". Christgau gave this album an A+, and I like Cray enough ... nice that someone was still playing blues in 1986. But Last.fm tells me that listening to this track for this blog post was the first time in ten years I'd listened to a Robert Cray song.

The Bangles, "Walk Like an Egyptian". Guaranteed to put you back in 1986, if you happened to be alive then.

Elvis Costello and The Attractions, "I Want You". Should be played by depressives on Valentine's Day.

Eric B. & Rakim, "Eric B. Is President". The first single from these Hip Hop icons.

Janet Jackson, "What Have You Done for Me Lately". Still a few years away from making better albums than her brother.

Bruce Springsteen, "Because the Night". The video is a cheat, taken not from 1986 but from a 1978 concert when Bruce used to play yet-to-be-released songs. Patti Smith's version was the hit in 1978, and it was a great track. But we loved hearing this in concert, and it turned up on Bruce's 1986 live box set, so it belongs here, right? That version came from 1980. We saw Bruce three times on the Darkness Tour in '78, probably marking the moment when he became our favorite for good. It remains the best tour I've ever seen.

Here's one more song, since I feel like I had too many on this week's list that didn't speak to me.


20 faves #20: pink, greatest hits ... so far

20th of 20, roughly by chronology.

Stepping outside of chronology (which explains the first sentence in the next paragraph), because we're going to see Pink tomorrow night.

This was more fun than I expected. And as I choose my 20th, I'm uncertain, for this is an artist who has never made a bad album, but also never made a great one. There are usually several hits, along with songs that are forgotten when a new album and tour arrives. For this reason, I am very tempted to choose her Greatest Hits package, which eliminates much of the lesser material (and even adds two tracks that aren't just filler but actually good). But she has made two more albums since then, with plenty of songs I'd hate to leave out here. So do I go with the Hits, or do I let the "real" albums represent her. There is also the "problem" that she is such a dynamic live performer that with many of her songs, I'm attached to the live versions rather than the ones on the albums.

Well, I guess I'll go with the hits, with apologies to M!ssundaztood and Funhouse and The Truth About Love, and "Blow Me" and "Beautiful Trauma". And I'll tip my hat to the kind of optimistic title we see so often, but which rarely turns out to be true. For these were her Greatest Hits ... So Far.

Pink greatest hits

 


man on the moon (miloš forman, 1999)

I wouldn't say I'm an expert on Miloš Forman, the Czech filmmaker who died last month. I can remember seeing Taking Off a long time ago and liking it, found Amadeus to be better than I expected, and loved One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. But that's only three movies out of an entire career, so I thought to watch another of his movies, Man on the Moon.

I came to this without any real opinion of Jim Carrey, or rather, I found him to be a fine actor at times but was not a fan of many/most/all of his comedies. I looked forward to seeing him here. As for Andy Kaufman, I experienced him the way many in the audience did, as a delightful oddball with an often-cerebral notion of what comedy could be. Also like most of us, I remembered him mainly for his Elvis impersonation and his Mighty Mouse routine, along with his rassling career. The video I've attached to this post offers an interesting comparison of Kaufman and Carrey-as-Kaufman, one that I don't think does Carrey any favors. Carrey is clearly trying to submerge himself in the character of Kaufman, and he gets credit for an energetic attempt. But watch the real Kaufman in the video ... what he is doing is often outrageous, always odd, but many times Kaufman himself is far from frantic. Carrey overdoes the bug eyes, which has the effect of making Kaufman seem a bit crazy. The real Kaufman comes across more as a thoughtful eccentric, and I don't think crazy is necessarily the best way to play him.

On the other hand, there's Courtney Love. Whenever she was on the screen, I couldn't keep my eyes off of her. For all of her overstated persona as a rock star, Love can be a subtle actress, which stands out in Man on the Moon in comparison with Carrey's near-mugging. For me, she walks off with the picture.

As biopics go, Man on the Moon is OK. I'm just not a big fan of biopics. 

 


20 faves #7: the rolling stones, beggars banquet

7th of 20, roughly by chronology.

I just finished reading Keith Richards' autobiography, and there are some good passages where he describes how particular songs and albums were created. Too often, stories about The Stones are so filled with sex and drugs that you can't figure out how or when the rock and roll was made. His book certainly has lots of drugs (and less sex than you'd think), but when he stops to detail the making of music, the book takes a step up. I could pick many albums here ... Exile on Main Street is probably the consensus choice, and I spent a lot of time in my youth listening to Aftermath and Between the Buttons. But Beggars Banquet is probably the one I've liked best over the years. As I have often said, it still amazes me that there was a time when "Sympathy for the Devil" felt real. I've chosen the mostly-forgotten "clean" album cover, since that's what I had back in the day.

Beggars banquet

I'll add a bit from the comment section for this one. I wrote:

What interests me about the Rock and Roll Circus version of this song, which is just Mick and Keith's live vocals stuck on top of the album's music, is when Mick changes the words to include himself with the "faceless crowd". There's irony in the original ... Mick Jagger praising the common foot soldier? I'm reminded of Christgau's words about A Bigger Bang: Mick "once again proves capable of relating on what we humans pathetically call a human scale. Not that I credit his 'vulnerability,' but I'm touched that he cares enough to lie about it."


on this day: the readymades and me

On this day two years ago, I wrote a post ... it was an On This Day before I started using that idea. The post was about seeing Patti Smith at Winterland on May 13, 1978 (40 years ago today!). One of the opening acts was The Readymades, and I mentioned them in that post from two years ago, as follows:

The Readymades seemed to open every show we went to in those days, at least when it wasn’t Pearl Harbor and the Explosions. Their singer was Jonathan Postal, who has had an interesting career as a photographer. It was The Readymades who headlined a show around 1980, maybe at the Longbranch, can’t remember ... I was going to see a shrink at the time, paying, I don’t know, $25/session or something like that. I went to see The Readymades for $5, slammed around in the pit, and walked out feeling great. The next time I visited the shrink was my last ... I told him I got more of my money’s worth at The Readymades show.

Hope had a hold on me ... the timeline in the above anecdote doesn't match my recollections (of course). but whenever it was, I clearly thought I'd figured out the key to happiness, therapist be damned. Hope didn't last ... not long after this, I ended up in therapy again after freaking out at my house one night. And 20+ years later, I finally went on meds, after hearing the magic words, "Bipolar II".

 


20 faves #6: aretha franklin, 30 greatest hits

6th of 20, roughly by chronology.

The second time I've cheated with a greatest hits package, although this might be the last time. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You would be the top "real" album, and I've always loved Live at Fillmore West. But this has the early greatest hits of the best woman singer in the history of popular music in my lifetime.

Aretha 30 greatest

 


music friday: 1985

Madonna, "Into the Groove". Billboard called this the "Dance Single of the Decade".

Kate Bush, "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)". A different kind of dancing in this video.

Prince and the Revolution, "Raspberry Beret". I started paying less attention to Prince around this time, although in retrospect, I see this album as just another example of how many genres he felt comfortable with.

The Velvet Underground, "Foggy Notion". I can't begin to describe how wonderful it was, in 1985, to get a "new" album from my favorite, long-defunct, band. Christgau called it "A Basement Tapes for the '80s".

Suzanne Vega, "Marlene on the Wall". This was the first time Vega came to our attention. It's up to you to decide whether that was an important moment or not.

Whitney Houston, "How Will I Know". The video is a cheat: Filthy Friends doing a cover of Whitney's hit, because I was intrigued by what Corin Tucker would do with the song. I love Corin, not a fan of Whitney, but stripping the song of its hooks doesn't do it any favors, IMO. Also, the line above about Suzanne Vega kinda holds for Whitney and this song.

New Order, "The Perfect Kiss". New Order cranked out great stuff like this almost at will for a while there. I loved them. Bernard Sumner got at one reason I love them when he said, regarding this song, "I haven't a clue what this is about".

Schoolly D, "P.S.K. (What Does It Mean?)". Massively influential. It's up to you to decide whether that was an important moment or not. My vote goes for "important".

Siouxsie and The Banshees, "Cities in Dust". Back in 1977, when "Hong Kong Garden" was released, I assumed the band would be lost to history, with Siouxsie getting a footnote for her fashion sense. In fairness, I don't think I knew what post-punk was in 1977 ... I'm not sure it existed yet. Anyway, like Schoolly D, this band became very influential, and were still at it in 1985 ... hell, they were still at it in 1995.

Hüsker Dü, "I Apologize". Arguably my favorite song by my favorite hardcore punk band from my favorite of their albums. Battles it out with "Foggy Notion" and "The Perfect Kiss" for my favorite track from this list. Aw, let's face it, this is my favorite song on this list.

Bonus 1985 cut: Faith No More, "We Care a Lot":


revisiting five easy pieces (bob rafelson, 1970)

My ability to evaluate Five Easy Pieces is complicated by the fact that for ten years, I worked in a factory, a job that was a bit at odds with my upbringing (and my life after the factory). I didn't grow up in an upper-class family of classical musicians, although my mother was a musician who might have aspired to a higher class of living than we had. And in 1970, I didn't know this ... I became a steelworker in 1974, and it was after that when I really identified with Bobby Dupea. And once you start identifying with a character, your reaction to a movie is suspect.

Easy Rider got everyone's attention, but it was here that Jack Nicholson announced himself as a star. It's his movie ... I'm trying to remember if there's even one scene he is not in. His charisma makes Bobby seems much more likable than he should be. We root for Bobby, we see where his inner traumas come from, we understand his frustrations with the world. The question is, do Rafelson and screenwriter Carole Eastman offer us a dispassionate look at Bobby's world, or do they adopt his attitudes?

Bobby is better than the people he works with on the oil rig ... at least, that's how it's presented. He's better than his girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black). He's better than the family from which he tries to escape. The one balance to all of this is that Bobby is a rotten person, even with Nicholson's charisma, so presenting him as "better" only goes so far. It's hard to find anyone worthwhile in Five Easy Pieces ... Rayette, maybe Bobby's sister Partita (Lois Smith).

The key is the famous diner scene, when Bobby tries to get wheat toast with his breakfast. It's hilarious, it's memorable, it's iconic. And the reasons the scene sticks with us to this day are twofold: we get to see Bobby at his best/worst, and the waitress gets the abuse she so clearly deserves. Except she doesn't deserve it. She's just a poor schlub with a bad job, someone who has to take shit from customers every single work day of her life.

The scene is remembered fondly, but to give credit to Rafelson and Eastman, once you get past the delight of watching Nicholson is action, you notice ... well, as Bobby says to the hitchhiker who thinks he was fantastic in the diner, he didn't get his toast.

Maybe it's the sign of a great work that multiple possibilities present themselves. Or, more likely, I mistrust my own reaction to the movie too much. By the movie's end, if not already, Bobby is shown to be the prick he knows himself to be.

Meanwhile, there is great dialogue, the film looks wonderful, and there are several noteworthy performances, none better in my mind than Karen Black's. Her character is a stereotype, but she runs with it and turns Rayette into a living, breathing human being. And the anti-snob in me always loves the scene during the conversation among the intellectuals where she asks, "Is there a TV in the house?" Bobby's response is too on-the-mark ("Where do you get the ass to tell anybody anything about class, or who the hell's got it, or what she typifies? You shouldn't even be in the same room with her, you pompous celibate."). And the intellectuals are set up to be too easy of a target. But Black's reading of the line about TV cuts through all of that ... every time I've seen this movie, when she pipes up, I think I'd love to watch TV with her.

Of course, if I'm talking memorable performances, I can't forget Helena Kallianiotes as the ever-irritated hitchhiker, Palm Apodaca. You could make a Greatest Hits page of nothing but Quotations from Palm, although really you need Kallianiotes to get it right. Pretty much everything she says is hilarious.

I don't think I'll ever come to a final conclusion about Five Easy Pieces. But I'm guessing I'll always like to watch it. You keep on talking about the good life, Elton, 'cause it makes me puke.

When I feel worst about myself, I often think of this scene ... yes, I identify with it.