Journey singer denies using "n" word
In an interview with Playboy set to hit newsstands tomorrow, comedian Sarah Silverman responds to questions about her provocative brand of humor by telling a story about how “the onetime lead singer of a very popular band from the 1980s” came up to her after a show and said, “You’re my favorite comedian. You have the best nigger jokes.” Silverman didn’t outright name Journey’s Steve Perry, but she added, “I’ll just say this: After that, I stopped believin’,” a poke at the band’s classic “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Was she joking? In an interview with Rolling Stone yesterday, Perry took Silverman’s accusation very seriously, adamantly denying he ever used “the n-word” after meeting her backstage at a comedy show. “I’m really shocked. She was so friendly and so nice,” Perry tells RS. “I don’t understand why she would go there, it’s so bizarre. I don’t use that word, are you kidding? That’s so derogatory.” Perry admits he met Silverman on a pair of occasions “a long time ago” after being “amazed at her ability to make people actually laugh at every racial slur and every ethnic group she could possibly come up with,” but insists Silverman’s recollection of their meeting is just another episode concocted by the controversial TV star for comedic effect.
Perry tells RS, “I walked up to her after the show and I said, ‘I can’t believe that somehow you seem to be getting away with all these slurs and the n-word, I just can’t believe how you’re doing this,’ and I looked at my friend and I said, ‘I can’t believe how she’s getting away with this,’ and she looked at me and kind of smiled. It wasn’t like I was condemning her or condoning her, it was just that I can’t believe how somehow creatively she was making everybody in that club of all colors and all ethnic backgrounds laugh. That’s what it was.”
Despite the accusation, Perry still marvels at Silverman’s ability to walk the dangerous line of political correctness with her comedy. “You’ve gotta see her show because she uses every ethnic slur known to man that historically has been very unforgivable,” Perry says. “I’m Portuguese, that’s the only ethnic background she left out, but maybe after this article she’ll come after me now.”
SXSW Big Star tribute closes festival, sends chills
Antone's was the quietest room in Austin last night as the remaining members of Big Star and a slew of special guests paid tribute to the band's primary creative force, singer/songwriter Alex Chilton, who died of a sudden heart attack just days earlier. The room was packed but the crowd hushed as the band took the stage; the silence was profound.
"I think we all know why we're here," said drummer Jody Stephens as way of introduction.
Publicist Heather West read a letter from Chilton's wife, who suggested Chilton's meticulousness in the studio was balanced by creative spontaneity, a rare combination that made him such a respected artist. She listed some of his most recent musical obsessions: Carol King, Petula Clark, Brian Wilson, the band Free, Handel, Hayden.
Then the band delved into
their catalog, songs written almost 40 years back, beloved by the indie rock
community for just as long. Though it was far from a somber affair—Stephens and
his bandmates, longtime members Jon Auer on guitar and Ken Stringfellow on bass, cracked jokes between songs—the reverence was palpable.
Puppets guitarist Curt Kirkwood
took lead duties on an upbeat take on "Don't Lie to Me" and “In the
Street,” the song Cheap Trick covered as the opening theme of That '70s Show. Mike Mills
of REM sang a reverent version of "Jesus Christ." Along the way, Andy
Hummel, who played bass in Big Star's first, early-'70s incarnation, joined for a few tracks.
The words to "Big Black Car," sung with a gentle, softy faded croon by guest vocalist M. Ward, were heartbreaking in context: "Nothing can hurt me/Nothing can touch me/Why should I care?" Towards the end of the 70-minute set, John Doe, former frontman of LA punk forefathers X, lent his powerful tenor to "I'm in Love with a Girl," turning it into a country-gentleman paean. He was immediately followed by Norwegian singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche doing an impassioned version of "The Ballad of El Goodo." Those lyrics, too, were painfully affecting: "Years ago my heart was set to live/I've been trying hard against long odds/It gets so hard at times like now to hold on/I'll fall if I don't fight."
Amid all the narcissism and bacchanal of SXSW, the gravity and purpose of this set, one among several hundred which closed the festival, was rare and heavy. Sometimes some music means more.
Smokey Robinson, Courtney Love, Thurston Moore, Superchunk
Smokey was dignified, confident, affable, seemingly grounded, sometimes hilarious. He was backed by a nine-piece band, including three backing vocalists, plus a pair of dancers, all dressed in Motown-esque white-suited finery. During his hour-long set at the Austin Music Hall he offered song after classic song to the adoring throng, and the throng sang along word for word, note for note. "I thought maybe you bought tickets or had passes to this thing," he said, "but y'all are the South by Southwest Choir."
He did a dead-on imitation of Stevie Wonder that led into "Tears of a Clown," the music for which was written by Wonder, he explained. It was one of several monologs Robinson delivered, spelling out the origins of some of the most famous and beloved songs in the world: He wrote the Temptations' "The Way You Do the Things You Do" in the car while on tour driving to a gig, he said, and then played it. Hearing Robinson's personal connection to these iconic songs was poignant.
"I Second That Emotion," "You Really Got a Hold on Me," "Get Ready," "Being with You"--these songs are untouchable, but Robinson rendered them fresh and relevant and meaningful all over again. The feel-good moment of the weekend was "My Girl," the crowd singing along so loudly that Robinson backed up and had everyone repeat the chorus several times.
Kids singing along to their parents' music: Not what anyone expects at South by Southwest, but that's what we got. I texted my mom.
Courtney, on the other hand, ran dry on dignity a long time ago, a fact she's proud of. Her new incarnation of Hole played the Spin magazine party at Stubb's yesterday afternoon, Love and a four-piece backing band of youngsters that looked straight outta 1990. Wearing a black lacy top and cherry red lipstick, blond hair very blond, she opened with a snippet of "Pretty on the Inside" before taking a two-verse bite of "Sympathy for the Devil," seemingly to re-introduce herself to anyone who might've forgotten her bad behavior. The band--hard to call them Hole as Love's the only original member--"this is Hole whether you like it or not, you little suck sh*ts," she announced--ran through several songs from their upcoming album. These were by-the-numbers hard rock delivered professionally, no frills, aggressive, unmemorable. Love's lyrics offered further details about her sordid life, and your reaction to the performance was determined by how much you're willing to continue hearing further details about Courtney Love's sordid life.
She pleaded relevance: "Yeah, I'm on Facebook. There are teenage girls on Facebook. I have to watch over the teenage girls." Fair enough. It seems like Love's stature, whatever it's worth, would be put to better use without trying to convince anyone to listen to her music.
From pop to indie: Thurston Moore, guitarist for art-rock godfathers Sonic Youth, played to a small and attentive crowd at Red 7. Sitting calmly and strumming an acoustic 12-string guitar, he read lyrics to "Friends"--a tender, gentle song about an ex-girlfriend--from a printout sitting on a chair next to him. "I'm a little dis-com-bob-u-late-ed," he drawled, shuffling papers, but the small crowd was thrilled for the intimacy and immediacy of the moment.
Earlier in the day, Superchunk played a full-throttle set at the Village Voice day party. This band is true indie-rock royalty, comprising members of beloved indie label Merge Records. From start to finish, it was a powerhouse set, showing 20-some years into a banner career the go-for-it energy and passion of punk kids playing their parents' basement. They're everything you want in an indie-rock band: huge riffs, clever lyrics, sharp songs, wise-ass banter. "Slack Motherf*cker" is their anthem, what everyone came to hear, and towards the end of their set, they delivered.
Age is not necessarily the enemy of rock 'n' roll. Some artists just wear it better than others.
You Will Never See All the Bands You Want to See
SXSW delivered on all its promise yesterday as underexposed bands gained national attention and hotly buzzed acts lived up to their hype. Say what you want about music and instant gratification in the Internet age, but there's nothing like 11 straight hours of booze and tunes under a blazing Texas sun to buoy your faith in the whole messy song and dance.
Top down, things went like this:
The Mohawk was the club of the night, headlined by London noir-pop trio the xx and undercarded by dance-mad experimentalists Holy Fuck and Swedish indie-folk songbird jj. The xx is one of SXSW's most lauded young bands, riding the acclaim of their self-titled debut, released mid-2009. Their reputation has been built by the record's unalloyed brilliance—a soft, sultry take on classic bedroom pop a la Mazzy Star and New Order—and reportedly their live sets have been mostly disappointing.
Not last night. The xx turned down the volume to show the power a little quietude can have amidst the noise and hustle of a rock festival. They played most of the songs from their album, mellow sexual tension delivered via pillow-talk vocals from Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. Backed by electronic drums and minimalist keyboards, they culminated with should-be hit "Vcr" and sent the packed Mohawk crowd out into the night all hot and bothered.
And a laptop is a real instrument
Flying Lotus, aka LA-based beat alchemist Steven Ellison, is set for a big 2010, and last night's hour-long performance at the Phoenix felt like a catapult into the stratospheric heights he'll soon occupy. His third album, Cosmogramma, comes out on Warp in May. On it are guest appearances by pop music's two most talented/most enigmatic stars, Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu. The album is pure brilliance, merging dub, drum n bass, hip-hop, trip hop, glitch, and electro with a musicality it's tempting to call "jazzy." That FlyLo's great aunt is Alice Coltrane puts a certain spiritual-seeking context to his music, but it's not hard to hear the lineage. That he's touring with Thom York and producing his new solo material puts him in good artistic company.
"Ain't it crazy to hear shit that don't sound like nothin' else at SXSW?" Ellison asked midway through.
In Austin, Tuesday is the new Thursday
Motörhead played an hour-long set last night at Stubb's, officially unaffiliated with South by Southwest ("SXSW" for the typographically lazy) but attended by a thousand or so early arrivals and Austin, TX locals. Despite the band's redlined energy level, the night held a sense of reserve. This was pregame, a day before SXSW begins, and the band started before 9 pm and ended before 10. Which maybe a good thing--there are 2,000 more bands to see between today and Saturday night. That's an average of 20 bands an hour for four full days.
The band roared into their set like it was their first of the year, which they said it was. At 64 years old, Lemmy's got a voice that makes Ozzy Osbourne sound like one of the Three Tenors--beyond gravely, it's like he's gargling boulders and spitting out nails. Once drummer Mikkey Dee unleashed a double-kick drum pummeling on "In the Name of Tragedy," the crowd surfers ascended the front-row throng and even the stragglers in the back of Stubb's dusty lot were caught up in the noise. In Austin, Tuesday is the new Thursday.
"Once again, we are Motörhead," Lemmy reminded at the end of the set, "and we play rock n fuckin' roll!" Point made.
Stay tuned for more dispatches from SXSW after the festival officially kicks off tonight.
Whole lotta shakin' goin' on.
Reverb reported nearly two months ago that the Eagles/Fleetwood Mac stadium tour had been scrapped before a single date had been set (unfortunately, we can’t reveal the reason, but don’t put your mind in the gutter -- it is far from tragic, scandalous or life-and-death. It was a concept that just didn’t work out). The Eagles have a slew of arena dates starting in April in LA, but they’ve got replacement stadium dates set up with the Dixie Chicks and Keith Urban.
Billy Joel recently announced that he’s leaving the Billy
Joel/Elton John tour, that he needs some time off. Take that at face value I think it is true.. I
interviewed Billy several days ago for a separate project, and he’s happy,
sober, sharp and in good humor. Taking a year off would have helped many
artists back in the day. Good for Billy for looking out for himself. And may I say it? Billy Joel kicks ass.
Michael Jackson could have used $250 million a year ago. It’s gross to say it, but now that he’s gone and can’t spend it, he’s got it. His estate is going to make Elvis’ marketing look like an ice cream stand. Get ready for a decade of Jacko.
Finally, I'm not sure how I missed this -- not only is Ray Daviesdoing a duet with Bruce Springsteen on his upcoming album, but the song is "Better Things" - one of Ray's most affecting, loving ballads and an oft-overlooked Kinks classic.
Finally, a Jeff Beck interview that bears repeating. It's that good.
And his version of "A Day in the Life" also bears repeating.