Upper Darby, PA
May 22, 1995
Review by Alan Sheckter
The Allman Brothers Band, the legendary outfit of Southern rock and blues players set up camp at the 3000-seat Philly theater for an extended five-night stand. This was opening night. I was impressed by their determination to produce an intimate, quality show by playing five shows in a theater rather than one in an arena. Last year's Philadelphia visit was confined to one show, with the Allman Brothers closing out the evening at the HORDE show. Several audio mikes were sprinkled around the theater as fans (in a quickly-growing trend) were permitted to tape the show.
Once upon a time, Keyboardist Gregg and top Muscle Shoals Studio session guitarist Duane Allman formed the Hour Glass and the Allman Joys in the mid-60s. In 1969, the brothers would make Macon, Georgia a household name. Along with drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johnny Johanson, guitarist Dickey Betts and bassist Berry Oakley, the Allman Brothers Band was formed. A generation ago, in the early-70s, this talented band found major success with all rock fans, from pick-up truck beer-drinkers to psychedelic-ranger LSD-eaters. Their songwriting and mostly, their extended blues and boogie jams were some of the finest of the day. Berry Oakley and Duane Allman have been gone for over 20 years, keyboardist Chuck Leavell (and Cher) have come and gone. But in 1984, one man arrived. He gave this band a new resurgence that is still fresh and nasty after ten years. It's lead guitar/slide guitar player Warren Haynes. The man is gifted and puts lotsa effort into every jam. He dances off of Betts' high-pitched guitar melodies, and the two trade guitar riffs like two tigers playfully sparring with their paws.
Allen Woody's booming bass, Gregg's cool, bluesy organ and a trio of drummers complete the modern-day touring unit. Warren Haynes sang two songs, "The Same Thing" and the Muddy Water's classic "Hoochie Coochie Man." Seasoned patriarch Gregg Allman sang plenty too, on numbers like opener "Ain't Wastin' Time No More," "Good, Clean Fun," "One Way Out" and a bit of an anti-climax, final encore "Whipping Post." Dickey Betts was definitely the biggest diamond in the cluster, singing the majority of the offerings ("Ramblin' Man," first encore "Southbound," "Where It All Begins," etc.), and acting as frontman during the two-set show. Betts especially shined during extended jams in the timeless instrumental, "Jessica." He sported a cool Southwestern-style sweater and guitar strap, wore an ABB bandanna, and frequently threw guitar picks, wristbands, headbands etc. into the appreciative crowd. He also is in great shape, and looks as if a fan were to happen to throw a football onto the stage Dickey would catch it and fire it back without missing a beat, while Gregg might, well, have trouble handling the pass. That's not to say Gregg is a hindrance. He is still is a central musical figure and helps maintain the undeniable credibility of this band. The Allman Brothers Band live is certainly greater than simply the sum of its parts. And that's one of the magical powers of rock 'n roll.
Set 1: It's Not My Cross To Bear / Ain't Wastin' Time No More / Ramblin' Man / Nowhere To Run / Good Clean Fun / The Same Thing / Soulshine / Can't Get To Heaven / End Of The Line
Set 2: Hoochie Coochie Man / Heart Of Stone / Where It All Begins / Stormy Monday / Trouble No More / Jessica. E: Southbound / One Way Out / Whipping Post
August 9, 1995
Review by Alan Sheckter
Björk Gudmundsdottir, former leader of the Sugarcubes of the 80s, is one of the most innovative musicians of today. The Icelandic pixie wonderfully combines ambient techno beats, a clear sweet charismatic voice, and thought-provoking lyrics. In what can broadly be described as post-modern-alternative dance music, one feels as if they are living in a musical fairy tale. In concert, it turns out, the added visual aspects of set design, fashion and stage presence also become positive factors.
It was a steamy summer night in downtown Philadelphia (one of about 100 steamy nights in a row it seemed). The Troc, the two-tiered 1250-capacity rock club was completely sold-out. Opening act, Aphex Twins was simply 45 minutes of a DJ-choreographed danceable party mix. It came and went almost unnoticed, prompting some in the audience to think out loud, "When the hell are the openers coming out? Oh, they're on now? Never mind."
The stage setup was as wondrous and complex as Björk's music. A maelstrom of thick wires and pipes wound around a platform accompanied by two large and mysterious blue-green trees. There were unconventional percussion instruments on-stage also, and giant towers on either side of the stage with mock satellite dishes on top. The heavy rhythm of opening number "Headphones" beat into our souls and when Björk sidled out on-stage accompanied by rapid-fire purple strobes, the crowd went into overdrive. Dressed in a half-sleeved, short white skirt, and the coolest thick, red high heels, Björk stayed in constant motion. She kept the energy level at a peak by segueing into "Army Of Me," a modern rock hit from her current Post. The petite diva exercised great stage presence and complete control of the fanatical crowd. The floor in front of her was a surging mass, sent into orbit by the slightest dancestep or even by the sight of Björk holding her hands up near her face and wiggling her fingers like she does in her videos.
The "band" consisted of two drummers, one who played some keyboards, a female electronic technician and some accordion from time to time. The unusual keyboard sounds were 1/3 harpsichord, 1/3 piano and 1/3 pipe organ. All bass was done by machine. Songs ranged from ballads like "Possibly Maybe," in which the crowd rose up to the whispered lyrics "As much as I definitely enjoy solitude, I wouldn't mind perhaps spending a little time with you," to electronic dance songs of wild abandon, like the popular "Human Behavior." The completely captivating set ended with two songs that hit home with the audience. First was the menacing "Enjoy," which had the crowd (especially the guys) mesmerized with lines like "How can I ignore? This is sex without touching." In the other, "I Miss You," Björk sang "I miss you, but I haven't met you yet." She may haven't met us, but she sure had won us over. After a preliminary encore, Björk came out a second time for a perfect final encore. She calmed the overly-excited crowd with soothing cries of "Ssssshhhhh," before easing into "It's Oh So Quiet." The song, half ballad, half Liza Minelli-like show tune (with some Diamanda Galas-like screams thrown in) came right from the album, but couldn't have fit better into her show. The end of that escalated into a crowd-pleasing "Big Time Sensuality," that rocked the house. A true gem in today's luke-warm world of "alternative" costume jewelry, Björk is uniquely awesome.
Björk's set: Headphones / Army Of Me / Human Behavior / Isobel / Venus / Possibly Maybe / I Go Humble / Anchor Song / Hyperballad / Enjoy / I Miss You E: Crying Violently E2: It's Oh So Quiet / Big Time Sensuality (thanks to Kevin, Björk's soundman for the list)
Upper Darby, PA
March 31, 1995
Review by Alan Sheckter
This was a sold-out opening night show af a two-night stand. The grand old Tower has adapted with the times. Its new "room to move" area in the orchestra that has replaced the first 20 rows of permanent seats was designed to compete with other venues where open floor, mosh-pit/crowd surfing activities take place. On this night, the "room to move" area was great for the welcome tapers. While most of the folks in the general admission area gravitated toward the stage, there was plenty of room in the back for mike-stands, decks, backpacks, everything. And you were still in front of the front row of reserved seating.
After the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's captivating opening 30 minutes and a set break, Chris and Rich Robinson, as well as the rest of the Crowes jumped on-stage to raging applause. With every bit of energy as a Phish or a Dave Mathews Band, The Black Crowes jump off into experimental musical encounters from a diving board of straightforward Southern-rock. The already bold and freewheeling songs are stretched into extended jamming exercises, each performed with skill and precision. Couple that with the old-fashioned hippie approach that comes off as sincere and not cynical, and you have an appealing as well as talented product. Marijuana references were apparent from the Mary Jane candy bar character proclaiming "PLANT YOUR SEEDS" on the drums. Don't for a second however, think that the band operates out of some "teenage wasteland." The long-haired boys from Atlanta rant and rage through the verses and explore new electric guitar heights with a heavy-bottomed fierceness during the instrumental passages of each song. Chris Robinson was constantly in swirling, dancing motion while the Crowes jammed around him.
The whole Dirty Dozen Brass Band came out with their tuba, saxes and trumpets to blow the roof off The Tower for the final three songs. One was a "moment to capture" version of old boogie number "Hard To Handle." There were about 15 people on-stage, hippies-meeting-soul-brothers. And music was the focus.
Encore time started decidedly different than the end of the set. Two ballads ("Ballad In Urgency" and "Wiser Time"), both from Amorica, were performed back to back as they are on the record. "Hot Burrito #2" and what Billboard put into the Top 5 of their Greatest Album Rock Tracks, "Remedy" were the final encores An excellent rock show awaits you when The Black Crowes are in town. They are an excellent band to follow in the footsteps of The Allman Brothers Band to headline this years HORDE festival.
Black Crowes set: Cursed Diamond/ Hotel Illness/ Twice As Hard/ Chevrolet/ S. Salvation/ Thorn In My Pride/ Descending/ P.25 London/ Jealous/ Stare It Cold/ Woke Up In The Morning/ Hard To Handle/ No Speak, No Slave. E: Ballad In Urgency/ Wiser Time/ Hot Burrito #2/ Remedy (thanks to the Black Crowes soundman for the list)
North Star Bar
May 17, 1995
Review by Alan Sheckter
Mary Karlzen is irresistible! She's a super songwriter, a fine singer and fronts a quite capable backing band. She rides the country-rock / alternative-pop fence, and on this night, regaled us with a bunch of tunes, most of which are featured on her major label debut (Atlantic) Yelling At Mary. Mary showcased many talents. In the opening number "Stronger," for instance, she used a voice of vulnerability but words of strength while singing about the age-old challenge for women to be strong under the pressures of "the body standards in the eyes of man." The next two songs, "Another Town, Another Place" and soft ballad "Dimestore Life," offered melancholy thoughts that Mary transformed into a positive light through her inner-strength, clear voice and rocked-out arrangements. Mary exhibited lots of charisma, and the whole club was foot-tappin' to the foursome's no-frills approach. Even when she made the misguided comment that it was "good to be back in Pittsburgh," she was truly embarrassed and we all forgave her as she shyly apologized. My favorite, "Everybody's Sleeping," was delivered as a gutsy countrified rocker. The kicker was Mary's final song, "I'd Be Lying." Featured on her 1993 EP Hide, the video for this song has been featured on VH1 and TNN. While Mary smiled and strummed on acoustic, the rest of the electric band rocked out passionately, and we all cheered her on.
She's been compared to Etheridge, Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Rickie Lee Jones, etc. But with any artist who stands on their own, she really isn't like any of these. She's her own entity. And Mary Karlzen has the guts, determination and talent to continue on her own terms...
Mary Karlzen's set: Stronger/ Another Town Another Place/ Dimestore Life/ Wooden Man/ Wonderland/ One Thing/ Everybody's Sleeping. E: I'd Be Lying (thanks to Richard Ulloa, Mary's tour manager for the list)
July 19, 1995
Review by Alan Sheckter
Live has certainly seen their success curve turn sharply upward. The York, PA (20 miles from Lancaster) quartet has come a long way since it's Public Affection days. Growing in the local club date circuit both before and after October 6, 1991, when they first played as Live, they now sellout 10,000+ set venues. Their second album, Throwing Copper, had a modest spot on the charts, but their appearance at Woodstock '94 which coincided with major success of then-current single "Selling the Drama" changed all that. Throwing Copper has so far gone triple platinum.
Something, other than hype has to spark the popularity though, and in this case, sensibly enough, it's the music. Live offers a mix of alternative rockers, some fierce, some jangly, as well as introspective slower tunes that. is genuinely passionate and satisfying.
This "Homecoming Concert" was an unscheduled warm-up club date for their national tour. A day later they were to embark on a 40-plus show tour, where they'd be headlining a lineup that would include PJ Harvey, Buffalo Tom and Green Apple Quickstep. They'd be playing large amphitheaters in 24 states and Canada. This show would be for 700 at their old stomping ground, ,The Chameleon Club. It's a small charming hole-in-the-wall that's great for live acts. It's pretty much the only game in town in an Amish area where horse and buggies are quite a bit more numerous than rock concerts.
There was a lot of press there, including the local TV news and even MTV, who came to witness special event. The ticket said 8:00 PM, but the well-bred modern rock crowd remained outside in our clean, stylish, summer best until after nine. We finally made our way into the bar, where the employees were as proud to present Live as we were to have the chance to attend. Once inside, we were, y'know, in a club. They had beer (22oz. Rolling Rock bottles for $2.50 were most popular)and TVs, and dingy toilets and stuff you' expect in a club. For awhile we chatted with friends, and had a brew Looking around in the steamy club, it was easy to forget that this was a special show.
About 25% of the crowd had been let in when, "boom," the lights went out, the stage lights came up, and Live broke into "Sh-- Towne," a song written about Lancaster. We all stopped talkin, looked up, and looked at each other for a second. Then, appreciative of seeing a big media-hyped band in the small club sank in as we began to rock. I had a stool at the bar at a distance that would translate to a tenth row seat at an arena. And you could drink, smoke, roam around all over the two-floor club, luxuries you don't have at a reserved seating venue.
For the next half-hour (the set was only about 50 minutes), people kept filing in, asking "how long has the band been on?" Ed Kowalczyk (vocals, guitar), Chad Taylor (guitar, vocals), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass) and Chad Gracey (drums) chatted a bit with the crowd, were very humble in their hometown environs, and stuck to business. They banged, twisted and rocked out ten songs and a triple encore with passionate vocals and a grinding, full-rock band sound. They stuck to the two albums, Throwing Copper and 1992's Mental Jewelry, with the exception of the fifth song, which Ed announced was new. Ditties from the first LP included "Take My Anthem," "10,,000 Years (Peace Is Now)," and their first hit "The Beauty Of Gray." By the time "Selling The Drama" was done for us, the club was packed and we all were sweating together as one. The set was over rather quickly, with Live wasting little time between numbers like "Horse" and "All Over You."
Here's a classic situation for ya: Even though Live is one of the hottest acts in the country, contracts will be contracts. This was Wednesday, and every Wednesday night, The Chameleon Club offered a $2 "Alternative Dance Party." So, you guessed it, we had to be oughta there. A super encore, which we had hoped would be a second set, was worth the trip alone. Monster single "Lightning Crashes" was first, a few in the assemblage bowing to the band in a "we are not worthy" style. Another radio-friendly song from Throwing Copper, "I Alone" was next, ,and quite appropriate for a club, "Waitress" was the final encore. Live waved and thanked us. It was 10:55. We all had to clear the room. Kind of strange, and an abrupt ending to the special show. But for awhile there, we had Live in our livingrooms, playing just for us.
Live's set: Sh-- Towne / Stage / Take My Anthem / Selling The Drama / Breakin' / The Beauty Of Gray / Horse / All Over You / White Discussion / 10,000 (Peace Is Now). E: Lightning Crashes / I Alone / Waitress (thanks to Lu Gailbraith and the soundboard operator for the list)
Theater of Living Arts
August 17, 1995
Review by Alan Sheckter
At the ripe old age of 21, Alanis Morissette set this country on fire with a vengeance this summer. Radio stations of all pop formats scrambled to play angry single "You Oughta Know" as much as possible, to appease the hordes of requests it was getting. Her U.S. debut album Jagged Little Pill went platinum and spent a lot of time in the Top 10. Though Morissette released two previous albums in her native Canada, until she signed to Madonna's Maverick label, she was relatively unknown in the U.S. That is, unless you were a kid watching the Nickelodeon network ten years ago where the pre-teen was a semi-regular on You Can't Do That On Television.
Alanis displayed such an aggressive honest singing style, and her band was so outrageously solid on "You Oughta Know," that led some skeptics to smirk and wonder, "Yeh, but what will her act be like live?" Alanis and her band were quick to answer that question. Beginning June 30 in Chicago and stretching into the fall, Morissette filled clubs everywhere as she criss-crossed America.
Her stop in Philadelphia was at the 800-capacity Theater of Living Arts. Tickets were on $7.75, and sold out in ten minutes. Openers Loud Lucy were not too loud, and had no female members. They reminded me of Pavement, but not as quirky.
Alanis and her band came on a full hour late, accomplishing the logistically impossible by taping Letterman at dinner time, then hustling down the NJ Turnpike for the evening's Philly gig. The audience's nervous anticipation immediately turned into blissful rocking as Alanis took the stage. Wasting no time, she grabbed the mike off of the stand, and began the way she began her album with the lyrics "Do I stress you out?" from "All I Really Want." The teen-to-forties crowd didn't mosh, but shall we say, boogied enthusiastically. Her band is tight, talented and commanding. Lead guitarist Glen Ballard was particularly energetic, playing bare-chested but full-souled.
Alanis was just as exciting and dynamic live as she is on record, pacing back and forth across the stage. While she did play acoustic guitar on rowdy set-ender "Wake Up," and a bit of harmonica on "Hand In My Pocket," she mostly stuck to vocalizing, her body and long, thick hair swaying and twisting. Her unusual, etended button-down smock-type shirt gave Alanis a bohemian appearance, rather than the sexual one she surely could have potrayed. They stuck exclusively to the album, performing 11 cuts out of the 12, (12th song "Head Over Feet" was planned, but they didn't get to it) with no extraneous early works or cover songs.
Alanis was vary charismatic. After she told us the band's names, she held the mike out to the house, and asked us "What's yours?". During the happy-go-lucky "Hand In My Pocket" Alanis gave hand signals (that the audience mimicked back) to illustrate such lyrics as "giving a high five," "flicking a cigarette," "giving the peace sign" and "playing the piano". The place went electric for "You Oughta Know," everyone movin' and groovin' in the sweltering room. Candles were lit for her, upon returning to the stage for a mellow encore of "Perfect."
Alanis Morissette's brutally honest lyrics, devilish Martian-like voice and fine backing combined to make a great show.
Alanis Morissette's set: All I Really Want / Right Through You / Not The Doctor / Hand In My Pocket / Mary Jane / Ironic / You Learn / Forgiven / You Oughta Know / Wake Up E: Perfect
April 3, 1995
Review by Alan Sheckter
The last time Led Zeppelin had played The Spectrum was 1977. "It's been a long time since they rock 'n rolled" here. These two sellouts, April 3rd and 4th were a testament to the duo's legendary status. All sections of the building were filled, even behind the stage. Speakers were hung from the rafters, not stacked on the ground. That allowed no obstructed views. Four giant screens also provided close-ups for all, courtesy of a roving videocam at the front of the stage. There was a taping section at the back of the floor (for non-commercial home use) for those who wanted to savor the night on tape.
Zeppelin's first album was released in 1968. Their first single, "Good Times, Bad Times" followed in 1969. Robert Plant (as well as the deceased John Bonham were actually in an earlier group called Band Of Joy. Jimmy Page was with a major link in the rock 'n roll chain, The Yardbirds. Actually, Zeppelin was first known as The New Yardbirds. They blazed a trail of experimental hard rock mixed with classic blues to become one of the greatest rock and roll acts of all times. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past January. This was not Led Zeppelin though.
Or was it? At times during this show ("Four Sticks," "When The Levee Breaks," "Gallows Pole," etc..). one was absolutely listening to live Led Zeppelin, with all the unbridled Plant vocal wails, impossibly intricate, improvisational and powerful one and two-neck Page guitar passages (some of his best solos were performed sitting down!), along with an oh-so-capable backing band. One could get sentimental that there was no Bonham or Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, but Page and Plant had enough of an entourage around them to more than make up for it. Michael Lee was a very impressive drummer, who had the hard job of knowing he is constantly under a comparison-to-Bonham-scrutiny. He was excellent. Bassist Charlie Jones was impressive as was Porl Thompson, the ex-Cure guitarist. Nigel Eaton was the man on the "hurdy-gurdy," a part electric harp, part keyboard played by plucking strings and cranking a handle on the end. He did a stupendous solo after which Page and Plant participated in a standing ovation with the rest of the crowd. There was a keyboardist and some mandolin. Augmenting all of that were The Egyptian Pharoes, an eight-piece rhythm and string ensemble as well as 15-20 members of a local symphony orchestra.
Both men looked fit and trim, though certainly quite matured. Unlike Daltrey, however, Plant was sensible and kept his shirt on and mostly buttoned.
The songs ran from flat-out Led Zeppelin classics, to a couple of new songs. Many are offered on the 1994 album No Quarter, Page and Plants first duel project in 14 years, as well as MTV's UnLedded. The classic-rock fans in attendance, both young and old were primed for the opening recognizable riffs of each song, and gave huge ovations for "Ramble On," "Thank You," "The Song Remains The Same" and final song of the set "In The Evening."
The encores brought the house down. First was that old FM-ditty "Black Dog," in which Page did several searing guitar riffs and that Plant had previously said they wouldn't play. Next was "Kashmir." This was quite a piece of work. For fifteen minutes, the Moroccan sounds, the traditional Zeppelin sounds, the orchestral sounds of the musical assemblage meshed in a perfect farewell musical piece.
Pittsburgh's Rusted Root opened the show. Their appeal was lost on the vast arena crowd. They have subtle flute and percussion instruments and are better appreciated in small theaters - for now. A small core of fans danced to their tribal celebratory sounds and won over a few new fans, but most folks simply wanted to brush them aside to get to the main course. In two or three years, they may wish they had paid better attention.
Page and Plant's set: Wanton Song / Bring It On Home / Ramble On / Thank You / Shake My Tree / Lullaby / No Quarter / Gallows Pole / When The Levee Breaks / Hey Hey What Can I Do / The Song Remains The Same / Since I've Been Loving You / Friends (with bits of "Dazed & Confused" and The Doors' "Break On Through" thrown in) / Calling To You / Four Sticks / In The Evening E: Black Dog / Kashmir (thanks to the stage videocam operator for the list)
Mann Music Center
June 24, 1995
Review by Alan Sheckter
To see just one Phish show, and consequently to critique it, is like a book review that covers one chapter out of 30. That is to say, every show is completely different. Several things go into the concert recipe during each gig that make that particular stop on the tour into a unique entree. One had to skidaddle cross-country (from Boise, ID to Sugarbush, VT by way of Atlanta) to catch the "whole meal."
So hey, my time is spread too thin to spend a month going from Boise to Sugarbush, by way of Atlanta. But it could be tempting. X-country touring and sightseeing by day complemented by Phish shows at night wouldn't be a bad way to spend a vacation.
But I digress. Afternoon rain turned into hazy, humid sun that turned into twilight by showtime. The college-aged crowd was in their tye-dyed, Birkenstock, hair-wrap, baseball-cap-on-backward, summery best for this outdoor show. A nice-sized audio taping section recorded the show for posterity. Others used a pad and pencil to write down the song titles. Others danced and twirled in their seat. Someone like me - in my mid-30s who tended to stand pretty still while watching the show were in the minority. I was called "sir" twice by Phish Heads.
The show opened with "Fee," (not to be confused with "Free," also in their current live repertoire). Lead guitarist and prankster Trey, bellowed the vocals from a cheerleader-type megaphone for effect. The band stretched out a bit for an opening number as Trey, Mike Gordon (bass), Page McConnell (keys), and Jon Fishman (drums) intertwined jazzily for a few minutes. The jamming diminished, then changed gears as "Rift" was brought in. Each song is a complete entity with attention and care paid to every musical syllable, be it the intro, verses, chorus or incredible stretches of open-ended jamming. A new addition to Phish's songbook, "Spock's Brain" was showcased next, followed by Hoist's FM-friendly "Julius." Here, the foursome really let loose with impossibly complex, yet seamless rock-jazz-fusion jamming. The musical prowess of each member of the band is undeniable. Trey, though sounding a bit unfocused from time to time, is the fastest guitar player I've ever seen. Page, Mike and Jon never let each other stray too far, as each works madly to keep up the breakneck pace. "Stash" was a monster of a song that had me exhausted by the end, and I wasn't even doing the work. The band's timing (as well as the light crew's timing) is phenomenal. The set also contained "Mound," where a fan participation "clap" coaxed the song to begin. It ended with a "The Squirming Coil," whose jamming ended with band-members leaving one by one, until only Page was left, respectfully bringing the song to a close with an almost classical-style piano interlude.
Speaking of classical, the second set began with Phish's rock rendition of "Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)." Trey and company performed it with a respect that was quite moving. After "Halley's Comet," a completely-out-of-hand (I mean that in a good way) "David Bowie," jammed in our faces for almost a half-hour. As thin as the songs lyrics are, that's how fat the swinging jams were. Other second set inclusions were another lyrically thin tune that's a force to reckon with live, "Suzie Greenberg," "Harry Hood," a barber- shop quartet-like "Sweet Adeline" and an oldie that dates back to their first official album Junta, "Golgi Apparatus." The encore was Jimi Hendrix's old anthem "Axis: Bold As Love." Phish do a version that respects the original, while weaving their own musical web. It was a suitable ending for the night. It could of just as easily been a Zeppelin song or even one from Abba. Phish can tackle 'em all.
With no opening act, Phish gives you value for your concert dollar with ingenuity, tirelessness and fun (playing guitar while trampolining, Trey playing drums so Jon can take the mike and get looney). They're so good, they are getting more and more in demand. Overcrowded concerts and overzealous fans may be becoming a concern. Say it ain't so.
Set 1: Fee / Rift / Spock's Brain / Julius / Glide / Mound / Stash / The Horse / Silent In The Morning / The Squirming Coil
Set 2: Theme From 2001 / Halley's Comet / David Bowie / Life Boy / Suzie Greenberg / Harry Hood / Acoustic Army / Sweet Adeline / Golgi Apparatus. E: Axis: Bold As Love (thanks to Greg Reitman, Cranford, NJ for the list - and the tapes!)
Forum de Montreal
June 14, 1995
Review by Alan Sheckter
REM has been in my psyche since my 45-collecting friend Mike came home with a picture sleeve single from this group, "Rapid Eye Movement," a song called "Radio Free Europe." It had a unique twangy and jangly soft-rock sound. Twelve years later, REM is one of the world's most popular supergroups. Sure they were coming to my neighborhood in October, but I didn't want to wait that long.
Of course, REM has made headlines this year not only from their album Monster, but from health problems on tour. Drummer Bill Berry took ill in Switzerland, and on March 3rd underwent successful surgery for a brain aneurysm. In July, more shows were canceled due to bassist Mike Mills health.
So here I was in Montreal for Flag Day. Well, it wasn't Flag Day, 'cause I wasn't in the U.S. Anyway, it was a delightful day in a delightful city. The band was only here for one night, and though the famed home of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club was mostly full, tickets were still available at the box office. Molson Export was sold on tap.
I was happily surprised that the opening act was Luscious Jackson, who I've raved about in these pages before. This time, the four girls seemed to be relatively unknown, as some of their biggest and best stuff, ("Superman," "City Song") were met by polite silence from the French-Canadian crowd.
REM came out to screams of adoration from the crowd. As has been well publicized, the band has shown their versatility recently, by not only playing ballads and soft, jangly numbers, but rocking out quite often. They'd set that mood immediately, with a stinging version of "What's The Frequency Kenneth" followed by "Crush With Eyeliner" from Monster. Berry banged the drums with energetic authority, Mills, lead guitarist Peter Buck and main attraction Michael Stipe jumped around the stage as they played and sang. Berry and Buck were dressed quite unassumingly. Mike Mills sported a red cowboy suit adorned with gold sequins.
The eccentric Mr. Stipe wore dark pants, a casual sportjacket, dark sunglasses, and at times, a black baseball cap. Nail polish of alternating blue and red completed his ensemble. Next to Stipe on-stage was a baton stand, where he had lyric sheets to each song. After the song was over, he'd rip them from the stand and throw them. Some landed on-stage, some to the happy recipients in the front rows.
Although Stipe plays no instrument, his great voice and personality are the center of the show, with the undeniably talented Mills, Buck and Berry coming together superbly as one entity. Mills would drop back and play keyboards at times. Stipe, while totally engrossed in emotion and concentration, must've been looking around a bit. After a few songs, he took the mike off the stand and wheeled around to the folks sitting high up behind the stage. After the cheers died down, he pointed out that since the sound-system was completely elevated, the sections immediately next to the stage hadn't been sold, but offered a wonderful view. With a sweeping motion he welcomed the folks with the worst seats to move on down. The security guards shrugged and let the kids move. It was a nice gesture.
There were huge ovations at the start of almost every song, be it the rockers, ("Bang And Blame"), medium tempo numbers ("Losing My Religion") and ballads ("Strange Currencies"). That one was met with a beautiful show of lighters and matches that filled the Forum. REM didn't perform every song you could think of ("Stand," "The One I Love"), but they did a lot of material. And they did a wonderful job with all of it. Many sounds, many moods. They touched on all albums, from all periods of their career, as well as a couple of brand new ones ("Revolution," "Departure," and one that tour-head M.J. says Stipe has called "Undertow"). After a huge 20-song set, REM gave us an five-song encore, a set by itself. They rocked us out the door with a screaming version of "It's The End Of The World As We Know It." Quite appropriate.
REM's setlist: What's The Frequency, Kenneth? / Crush With Eyeliner / Drive / Try Not To Breathe / Bang And Blame / I Took Your Name / Fall On Me / Turn You Inside-Out / Undertow (written in May, '95) / Strange Currencies / I Don't Sleep, I Dream / Revolution (written in '94) / Tongue / Man On The Moon / Country Feedback / Half A World Away / Losing My Religion / Pop Song 89 / Get Up / Star 69. E: Let Me In / Everybody Hurts / Finest Worksong / Departure (written in February, '95) / It's The End Of The World As We Know It. (thanks a bunch to a sweet young lady, MJ Fine from Willow Grove, PA for the list and extra insight!)
Theater of Living Arts
March 26, 1995
Review by Alan Sheckter
A rare gem of a performer with no overblown ego and no concern for the bottom line, Victoria Williams is a class act. Her little-girl honesty, storytelling and wonderment come through in her recent CD Loose, but even more so in concert. On this night, we at the crowded TLA felt like a big circle of friends. Williams tends to do that to people; make them comfortable; tear down egotistic walls. Rarely does a major-label recording artist display such modest behavior. Victoria, still looking a bit gaunt and obviously not a tower of physical strength after her famous bout with MS, played guitar and sang while seated. Around her, table lamps lit the stage for a real "homey" effect. She had a couple of supporting musicians with her, including a stand-up bassist, and at times, opening act The Williams Brothers (no relation) pitched in. And so did Mollie. Who? Why her big ol' dog - that's who! She would come and go, come out to the front of the stage, check out the audience who were all looking back at her, and she finally found comfort curling up by the drumset and going to sleep.
The folky songs were a-plenty. Victoria performed many songs from Sweet Relief, the 1993 benefit album for her and her medical bills. They included "Crazy Mary," which Pearl Jam had covered, "Why Look At The Moon," which The Waterboys had covered, and the gorgeous "Opelousas (Sweet Relief)" that Maria McKee had covered. From Loose, Victoria delighted us with her hit (well, as big a hit as she's had) "You R Loved" as well as "When We Sing Together," "Harry Went To Heaven" and "Sunshine Country." Also thrown in were her tender renditions of classics "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and encore "What A Wonderful World."
At every turn Victoria would tell a story, like about the decline of the railroad in America, and how an elderly illiterate woman who doesn't drive a car used to get joy from looking at the world pass by from a train window, and how that's been taken away. That segued into the heartfelt song "Ain't No Use For The Caboose." We were all captivated and delighted with Victoria Williams, and I'll always carry a little bit of her warmth and charm with me in my soul. And that's something I can't say about Green Day.