Probably a coincidence but four of my favourite artists of all times were in the neighborhood recently. The four of them not as young as they used to be but still 200% relevant by their attitudes, energy, ethics…and of course by the greatness of their music. So let’s start with good old Bob.
1. Who : Bob Mould ; Age : 51 ; Where : Ancienne Belgique (Brussels) ; When : 3rd of June 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes
One of my musical regrets in life is not having seen on stage the seminal US band Hüsker Dü, melodic punk trio from the 80’s out of which Bob Mould was singer, guitar player and co-leader with drummer Grant Hart. The influence of this band is not something well-known by the general public but without Hüsker Dü, there would not have been any Pixies or Nirvana, simple as that. After a couple of amazing solo albums, Bob formed a new band named Sugar in the 90’s and they enjoyed a relatively high success in the UK, where they were signed on the excellent Creation label, home of Primal Scream, Ride, Teenage Fanclub or Oasis among many other bands. He went on making other good records after Sugar disbanded even if on a less frequent basis.
Tonight, the show was based on Sugar 1st LP “Copper Blue” which was rated as album of the year by New Musical Express in 1992. Sugar first months were as good as Hüsker Dü best years by the intensity of the music and the quality of the songs, which made it an album available to all from the pure hardcore fan to the more melodic-oriented person. He revisited the full album track by track in its original sequence sequence with two great musicians : Jon Wurster on drums and Jason Narducy on bass … and the least one could say is that this show was LOUD! All “Copper Blue” songs are hits as far as I am concerned and that first part of the show was something I never thought being lucky enough to see live. After revisiting the past, the band played new songs from future to come LP and of course finished with a few Hüsker Dü ones, including the famous “Celebrated Summer”. Here is for your pleasure a video I took of the third track on the LP called “Changes” :
I would recommend Bob Mould’s recent biography “See a little light” where he openly talks about all his formed addictions, failed love or missed friendships, his constant fight against his body weight and more interesting how he succeeded in assuming his homosexuality in a complicated environment. Fascinating book from a great man. All three Sugar albums have just been reissued as well on 2-CD formats and are highly recommended.
2. Who : Paul Weller ; Age : 54 ; Where : Bataclan (Paris) ; When : 13th of June 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes
I have been lucky to see Paul Weller on stage a few times but it seems he now has a recurrent commitment with Le Bataclan when he comes in Paris as this is the third time in a row that I have been enjoying him and his band playing in this venue. For those totally unfamiliar with Paul Weller, you should be aware that he is one of the most famous artists in the U.K. where thousands of people have been celebrating him play in huge outdoor places, such as Hyde Park for instance.
One can describe Paul Weller’s life as a one celebrating music in all his forms from his start as leader of mod-punk band the Jam in the 70’s, then as the leading force in jazz-soul-dance ensemble The Style Council in the 80’s and finally embracing an amazing career since the 90’s mixing influence as diverse as Traffic or Nick Drake. He has been a respected figure amongst generations of musicians, the most famous fan probably Noel Gallagher of Oasis. His first solo albums (“Paul Weller” in 1992 or “Wild Wood” in 1993 for instance) represent exactly the kind of music I would like people to hear when you receive the infamous question “what music do you like?” and that you are dumb-faced as you can not decide to choose amidst thousands of records or artists.
And the more Paul Weller gets older, the more adventurous his records are, which is remarkable for an artist who could have decided to go on doing what he knows best. His new LP “Sonik Kicks” is particularly fresh and innovative mixing 70’s German rock and typical British pop. The band (with the very talented Steve Cradock from Ocean Colour Scene on guitar) arrived on stage and started by playing this new LP in its entirety, which is always tricky as the audience is mechanically less familiar with this new material. Excellent first part anyway with Paul wearing smart italian shoes and a nice suit. The band went back for an emotional 4-track acoustic session before playing more well-known songs from his back catalogue including two The Jam songs (“In the City”, their first single!).
Probably the best show I have seen from this amazing and passionate artist for whom music is a real raison d’être. Here is the beautiful “You Do Something To Me” from the acoustic session.
3. Who : Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers ; Age : 61 ; Where : Grand Rex (Paris) ; When : 27th of June 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes
It had been twenty years that Tom Petty had played live in Paris until this Grand Rex show and one can not help but asking why such a long time… Maybe it comes from the fact that Tom Petty is quite a reluctant pop star in these glamour ages where authenticity is not really recognized at its own value. Anyway he was back and the crowd was totally forbidding him all this long period of time without a show (see article about the show for French-speaking readers).
After having had the pleasure in seeing once more this year the great Jonathan Wilson for an excellent set (his Facebook page is highly recommended as he took many pictures of this tour), the stage was ready for the main act. Tom Petty is the kind of artist everybody knows when in the music business but if you were to ask who Tom Petty is to the common man, you would have nothing but an embarrassed silence. This is probably no true in the US where he has been one of the key artists for decades but I am sure that even there his songs are more famous than who he is. And songs he had more than enough in this set! I was afraid that he would concentrate on his latest nice LP’s but the set was really well-balanced between covers (Fleetwood Mac, Chuck Berry), side-projects (The Traveling Wilburys, the band Tom formed in the late 80’s with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lyne and George Harrison), pure driving hits (“Free Fallin'”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Learning To Fly”) and very old songs (“American Girl”).
Like Elvis Costello with the Attractions/Imposters, Tom Petty has never been better than when the Heartbreakers are his backing band. These guys literally live and feel rock’n’roll but in a very subtle way. Mike Campbell in particular is such an underestimated guitar player that I would really recommend anyone to (re)listen to a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with a special attention to the musicianship of it rather than the songs.
Here is one of the hits for your pleasure : hear it and hum it back when driving your car!
4. Who : Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band ; Age : 62 ; Where : Bercy (Paris) ; When : 5th of July 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes (note : no pictures or videos taken by your host, Bercy being a bit too large for my camera… These photos come from this site)
Well, last but not least as they say… I had seen The Boss live for a few times but I must admit that this was by far the best show…and the longest one ever for me with 3h38 of pure pleasure (my former longest concert was The Cure at this same place in 2008 for 3h30). I am personally not a huge fan of long shows and much prefer an intense concert of 1h15 rather than the full one with the compulsory three encores. But Bruce is not a common man for sure as was not as well the French-English-American fellow on my side who enjoyed every minute of it as if it was his last day on Earth.
Bruce Springsteen was here first to celebrate his new very good LP “Wrecking Ball” which he is currently touring throughout the world. But he had probably as well in mind the hidden mission of celebrating his old pal Clarence Clemons who passed away last year. He did it in a very dignified way, preventing any pathos, which is not a surprise coming from the man. What else can we say apart from the fact that the show was apparently even better than the previous evening in Bercy, with an amazing set list taking tracks from all decades with a joy and musicianship that one can not fail to love without the slightest sight of cynicism. I personally have more and more doubts about these huge shows and only go there where the artist is an extraordinary person/band (eg Kanye West recently or Radiohead soon in October) but these issues do not exist with Bruce as you really feel he plays for you and only you whatever the distance you are from the stage.
The E-Street did the job as well, although I found Steven Van Zandt a bit shy. The red-headed first lady Patti Scialfa was there (and their daughter Jessica as well who went on stage to dance with her father during “Dancing in the Dark”) but the real stars tonight for me were Jake Clemons (nephew of the late Clarence) and Max Weinberg whose drumming technique has never been so powerful and subtle at the same time. Anyway, this band would not be what they are without the great man himself and tonight Bruce Springsteen was funny, full of energy, giving emotion, dancing and playing like a 20-year old man,…and I do not have any other words to qualify how this man is, except that he has qualities to which we all should aspire to in our daily life.
For more on this show (article, pictures and videos), please click on this nice link.