Postponed tour kicks off in Denver to fans' delight
Contrary to what the mainstream media would have you believe, the rapture did arrive as scheduled on Saturday – just in a different form than the nutcases had predicted.
At precisely 6 p.m. in Denver, the moment the world was due to end, a black SUV pulled up outside the stadium where U2 was to perform. Bono and the Edge jumped out and started shaking stunned fans’ hands, signing autographs, and yes, even kissing a baby (well, a little kid) on their way in to the first show of their long-postponed U.S. tour. “Rapture” doesn’t begin to describe the reaction of the disbelieving fans that were suddenly face-to-face with the musicians they’d waited so long to see.
Saturday kicked off the last U.S. and Canada dates of the U2 360 tour, a leg postponed for nearly a year after Bono had emergency back surgery in 2010.
“We were two years younger when you bought those tickets,” Bono told the crowd. He went on to explain that the surgery was quite serious yet a complete success, and that he was a much-improved “Bono 2.0.”
It was well worth the wait (even if it was unpleasant for U2’s road crew, which started building the “claw” stage six days before in weather than ranged from hail to pouring rain). The 24-song setlist ranged from some must-play anthems to tender acoustic moments. Personally, I didn’t think it was possible for U2 to rage through “Sunday Bloody Sunday” more fiercely than they did down the road at Red Rocks 28 years ago, but Saturday’s version was brutal and sadly still relevant.
New leg of tour will bring legendary jazz-fusion band across the states.
In 2008, fans got to see a show they thought they'd never see -- a return of the "classic" lineup of Return to Forever, with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and Al Di Meola, performing their groundbreaking songs from the '70s.
But it didn't end there. Ever since, the bands founders, Corea and Clarke, have been playing with an evolving cast of support musicians as Di Meola went off to do his own thing. Augmented by Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Gambale, the quintet is now touring the world, with a bunch of new dates announced across the U.S. The icing on the cake? The band opening most of the shows is Zappa Plays Zappa, fronted by Dweezil and working through Frank's catalog.
Corea took a few minutes from his Florida home to talk about the latest lineup and tour.
MSN: You retired the name "Return to Forever" for years before bringing it back three years ago. Why was that?
Corea: “The name was always just a label for all the stuff we went through. We just all kind of went off intentionally into all of our solo stuff. Sometimes you say the hours went by, but in this case the decades went by. Unnoticed, sort of. So then Stanley and I began to talk again about how nice it would be to in a way not play together but to play music together but bring that image back. Because we knew a lot of fans of Return to Forever still existed. Each of us when we go on our solo tours and do our things, Return to Forever is mentioned occasionally, sometimes a lot. When we talk it’s ‘Gee. People still remember the band.’ How about that? So that’s the way Stanley and I rolled into the idea of a Return to Forever kind of thing. It’s based on Stanley and I’s strong relationship in putting this music together from the ‘70s.”
Stanley told me in ’08 that he realized over the years how few fans actually got to see Return to Forever live, and that was a motive in reviving the band.
“That was part of it too. I was a little more self-centered about it. I was personally excited about playing with Stanley and Lenny again.”
You've labeled the latest incarnation Return to Forever IV. Why?
(Laughs). “We had to invoke numbers to keep the history of the band straight in our own minds, because we went through so many incarnations with the group. One of the projects we did in the summer of ’09 we were offered an engagement at the Hollywood Bowl to put together “Return to Forever and guests.” We put together the repertoire and invited some friends who meant a lot to us, one of which was Chaka Kahn, who wasn’t in Return to Forever but who’s a good friend through the years. She was a fan of Return to Forever. Then we thought about how fun it would be to play with Billy Connors again. He was the origininal guitarist. When we started to pore through the old recordings Billy’s singing voice on the first album really touched us again. As a capper to it, we were discussing how much a part of the ‘70s fusion development that Jean-Luc Ponty was….Stanley has a long association with Jean-Luc, and I haven’t played with him that much. So that’s how the whole idea started.”
How did Frank fit in?
"Frank’s an old associate of mine from the electric band. He’s an amazing guitarist. He worked in Jean-Luc Ponty’s band as well, so they had a nice connection there.”
See tour rehearsals here.
You play with so many different people. Are there collaborations you tried that just didn't work?
"You kinda find that out before you get into a long tour. It’s more getting attracted to the chemistry that seems to be working. There’ll be old friends of mine … I hadn’t gotten together with Hubert Laws for years. Again the decades flipping by. When I asked him to come sub for a flute player in my Spanish band, the old spark came out. The chemistry was so fully there we did a few projects together. When a special thing happens you want to do more with them.”
It seems in the rock world a tour is calculated from a business end first – reunions and the like – but in the jazz world it seems to be more organic, coming from the musicians first.
“I don’t know what happens in the rock world because I’m not in it, but those artists and musicians that I know who have integrity, no matter what genre they’re in, they’re not controlled by management. They stay true to their own goals, their own realities and music. That’s the integrity that pushes thorgh any piece of music. You can feel that kind of thing.”
Do you play music every day or take a break from it for stretches?
"My passion, my fun, my relaxation is all around art and music. I’ve been together with Gayle for 38 years now, Gayle Moran Corea. She sang with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever in the ‘70s. We put a place together where the biggest space in the house is my studio. It’s like a playroom. When I’m home I just love to prepare for projects…and take my spare time to study and learn new things, the classical repertoire, new music, try out new ideas, keyboards, technology, different computer stuff. I also have a little room that has some of my painting and graphic equipment in. I’m an avid amateur at drawing and painting.”
Have you ever shown your artwork?
“No, but as a matter of fact I’m just starting to organize my stuff. I’m scanning it and getting good renditions of it and I’m planning on putting it up on my website … friends, when I show them, get a kick out of it. It’s very non-technical, my work. I do it for an hour here, an hour there. I carry a watercolor set with me on the road.”
So many musicians are also painters. Is there a link?
“It’s the creativity. You get out of that logical zone where you have to reason everything out and come up with solutions. You get into the zone of things you like, things that give you pleasure, whether it’s music or sounds or drawings. I’d like to try my hand at writing stories too, but I haven’t gotten much into that. It's a zone of creativity where we have time to be ourselves and create.”
Thirty years after his death, we need Bob Marley more than ever
Yes, today, May 11, marks 30 years since the death of Bob Marley. And like Lennon and Hendrix, his music is more popular than ever, with hits like "Jamming," "Buffalo Soldier" and "Is This Love" becoming radio staples in the new millennium, even if he never cracked the U.S. top 40 during his lifetime.
Granted, people like Hendrix are revered for instrumental genius and redefining rock music. But Marley did more. He arguably brought an entire genre of music -- reggae -- to worldwide attention, writing its best and most enduring songs and influencing the most people who were either his peers or came after him, be it Lennon or latter-day artists such as Jack Johnson.
Some artists had acute awareness of Marley's music during his lifetime - which is why "I Shot the Sheriff" became one of Eric Clapton's biggest hits. Johnny Nash recorded "Stir It Up" and had a hit in 1972, five years after Marley wrote it and a year before it appeared on Marley's groundbreaking break-through album "Catch a Fire."
But it took Marley's death from cancer in 1981 for fans to truly discover his genius, be it "Legend" (a posthumous greatest-hits/career overview that is in 25 million fans' collections worldwide) to brilliant obscurities such as the triple-disc box "Grooving Kingston 12," a collection of work and demos from the early '70s that mapped out much of Marley's future.
Since his death, other artists have fallen over themselves to cover his songs -- Bruce Springsteen with "Get Up Stand Up," Graham Parker with "No Woman No Cry," and Elvis Costello with "Many Rivers to Cross" are just a few that spring to mind, but the best may be the Joe Strummer/Johnny Cash collaboration on "Redemption Song." U2, Sinead O'Connor, Joan Baez and too many other artists to name also pay homage to the Jamaican icon. Songs like the Peter Tosh-penned "400 Years" turned up in video games.
To much of the world he was simply a gifted songwriter with an easygoing style, with songs that emphasized spirituality, love and a catchy, infectious groove. In his native Jamaica, however, he was a god -- far more than a rock star, but a spiritual and political leader at a time when the nation was torn with great strife.
That strife became so intense that Marley was forced into exile for a time, with his art reflecting his life; "Exodus" was named that because Marley had to flee Jamaica after an attempted political assassination in late '76 -- ironically, just before a free concert Marley had planned to bring peace between warring actions in his homeland. It's not small irony that those who preach peace, be it Lennon, Marley, or Martin Luther King, are too often the target of violence. The irony continued with his 1979 smash, "Survival."
Yet in the end it was disease that took his life; after collapsing in Central Park in 1980, it was found his body was riddled with cancer, and it spread rapidly. Despite more shows and recording, he was dead by May of the following year.
Still, his work carried on - in large part by his own children, including Damien and Ziggy, and by the other artists who have kept alive the music of a Jamaican musician who died far too young at 36. His life story lives on as well, with the late Timothy White's biography, "Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley" being as close as we've gotten to the definitive account of Marley's life. One hopes that his legacy someday gets the attention that projects about the Beatles, Bob Dylan and more have garnered.
So crank up some Marley today. The man deserves it.
Guess which songwriter gets cited most in legal briefs
By Carol J. Williams, Times Staff Writer
On summer nights in the mid-1960s, while black-and-white television crackled elsewhere in his Staten Island home with news of Southern violence and Vietnam, Bobby Lasnik would stretch out in his bedroom to let the righteous soundtrack of the civil rights movement waft into his impressionable teenage soul.
Tuned in to WBAI-FM, coming across the water from Manhattan, he heard baleful laments about injustice that he would carry with him for a lifetime.
"Suddenly there was someone speaking a certain kind of truth to you. You'd say, 'Wow! That's something I'm not used to hearing on the radio, something that moved me,'" Lasnik said of the first time he heard the lyrics of Bob Dylan. "I don't even remember which song it was, but I loved the imagery, the words you wouldn't think about putting together and the concepts that would emerge in your mind when you heard them."
Now the imagery flows in the other direction. U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik — Your Honor, not Bobby — has been known to invoke the voice of the vagabond poet in rulings from the federal bench in Seattle. He has recited lines from "Chimes of Freedom" in a case weighing the legality of indefinite detention and "The Times They Are A-Changin'," the battle cry of the civil rights movement, in a landmark ruling that excluding contraceptives from an employer's prescription drug plan constitutes sex discrimination.
Lasnik isn't alone in weaving Dylan's protest-era pathos into contemporary legal discourse.
No musician's lyrics are more often cited than Dylan's in court opinions and briefs, say legal experts who have chronicled the artist's influence on today's legal community. From U.S. Supreme Courtrulings to law school courses, Dylan's words are used to convey messages about the law and courts gone astray.
His signature protest songs, "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'," gave voice and vocabulary to the antiwar and civil rights marches. His most powerful ballads, "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" and "Hurricane," have become models for legal storytelling and using music to make a point.
10 serious mothers
Decemberists' multiinstrumentalist diagnosed with breast cancer
A Note from Colin and Jenny
Adored Mailing List Recipients,
About a month ago, we all at Decemberists HQ got hit with some pretty hard news. Jenny Conlee, our since-the-very-beginning accordion and keyboard player and all-around rad person was diagnosed with breast cancer. If you or anyone in your world has been handed a similar diagnosis, you know what a bolt-out-of-the-blue this news can be.
The good news is that Jenny caught it early. And while the prognosis is very, very good for a full recovery, tackling the disease will mean some intensive treatment for our Jenny as well as a lot of important recovery time.
So I’m writing this to say that, weighing our options, and with Jenny’s fervent blessings, we’ve decided to go forward with our scheduled tour dates this spring and summer.
What we know now: Jenny will very likely miss all nine of our concerts in May and June. We’re all hoping that her recovery will be such that she’ll be able to get back on board as soon as possible.
And now, a note from Jenny:
Hello to Everyone,
I am very sorry to say that I will be missing a few shows coming up as I go through treatment for breast cancer. It has been great to be on tour these past few weeks. The band and crew are like family to me and have been incredibly supportive and understanding. To be making music with everyone and seeing the fans has helped me to feel more positive and keep my mind off of my diagnosis. But, alas, as the tour winds down, it is time for me to get back to reality. I will try to get into surgery as soon as I can after we return from this leg of the tour so I can begin my recovery. There are still a few unknowns out there concerning my cancer, but I am thinking positive and hope to be back on the road soon. Thanks for all of your support! See you soon!
Lots of love,
Thanks for everyone’s understanding during this crazy time.
Graverobbing Miley Cyrus sings Nirvana
Miley Cyrus has added Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to her live show and yes, it's as bad as you'd imagine.
The ratings on YouTube at the time of this posting tell the story: 869 likes, 8,240 dislikes. The guy who posted the footage wisely disabled viewers' ability to comment on the atrocity (thanks to North Carolina actor Brian Willard for the tip).
Maybe it's just a cheap cynical ploy for attention. Maybe no one explained to the 18-year-old Cyrus that lines such as "And I forget just why I taste / Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile" are about heroin addiction, not a trip to McDonald's. Maybe the terrorists did win.
Oh well. Whatever. Nevermind.
Update: The guy who posted the video has now enabled comments and boy, it ain't pretty. And now the tally is 1,143 likes, 11,022 dislikes.
The album isn't out for a week, but figure out the puzzle and you can hear it now
Manchester Orchestra's new album "Simple Math" doesn't officially come out for another week, but with a little bit of detective work you can listen to a stream of the album right now.
Visit TheMachesterOrchetsra.com and try your luck at solving the puzzle. If you can drag and drop five puzzle pieces into their proper slots, then you unlock the album stream from the Atlanta-based indie band. If you're an evil genius, this should be a breeze and you can hear "Simple Math" in no time. But if you need some help like the rest of us, look for cheat codes like the one below, featured all over the web. You're doing great so far, you've already found one.
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