One time I was talking to my friend Travis about Calvin Johnson, and I was saying "goddam that Calvin Johnson this and goddam that Calvin Johnson that" and he said did you hear about Calvin's terrible car accident, he almost died!"
And I felt bad about badmouthing him.
Another time I was talking to Travis about Eli Sterling, and i was going "goddam that Eli Sterling for this and that" and he said "Did you hear about Eli falling off that 50 foot ladder? It nearly killed him!"
And I felt bad all over again.
Now I'm not privy to any inside information here, but maybe one of your several thousand readers will write you in the next few minutes and say "Bob, did you hear that Lucinda Williams has Alzheimer's disease, just like Glen Campbell?"
and then it will be your turn to feel bad. Just sayin. Just sayin there might be a good reason for her to keep a book of lyrics open in front of her when she's performing.
I never quite understood the value placed on pop musicians memorizing all that material. We don't expect classical musicians do be able to do that. It blows my mind that Yes memorized the entire contents of Tales From Topographic Oceans. I assume this piece as put together from many tiny pieces (like other albums of theirs from that period) and then they learned it to take it on the road. That's an achievement nobody seems to value; nobody seems to value much of anything Yes ever did, these days. But anyway...
I was disappointed Lucinda Williams read all her lyrics, doesn't she know her own songs? But I was blown away by her guitarist, Blake Mills.
Yes, Lucinda has a music stand, with a book, she turns the page for every number. Live performance is not only what you hear, but what you see, you've got to sell the song, it's about the experience, it's not a recital. And this was incredibly off-putting until I noticed the guitarist was suddenly duplicating the exact same tone and feel as "Wicked Game". Felice even leaned over and commented on it.
Sometimes a player is so good, he makes the whole show. You marvel at his excellence. And too often players today are about flash, as if the goal is to go to Guitar Center and wow their peers as opposed to actually playing satisfying, listenable music. But this guy added flavor, he was truly accompanying Lucinda, and what he wrung from his axe was positively mesmerizing.
He used to be in Dawes, when it was called Simon Dawes. He came out on stage with them when they played the Santa Monica Pier. But that show was more bombastic, it had more wailing. Whereas Saturday night, opening for Henley, Lucinda Williams's show was more about groove, about feel.
Blake surely made the guitar cry and sing, but he did more than that, it was like he was populating a whole classroom with the sounds he got out.
It's funny. After the boy bands, after the dominance of MTV, after the earth has been scorched, there's a generation that's all about the basics, writing and playing. It's not about outfits, it's not simply about getting rich, it's about the music.
Everything's been high concept for so long, everybody with any skill has become a producer, working behind the scenes propping up no-talents, it's rare to see someone with talent out there up front, putting the music first.
We've heard too much about how these household names are truly talented. Did you see Justin Timberlake at the piano? How about Justin Bieber on the drums! But they evidence a rudimentary skill, far from genius, and Timberlake is now an actor and soon Justin Bieber will be a has-been. Blake Mills is an anti-star, like the heroes of yore. He doesn't dress up in outfits concocted by Rachel Zoe, he wears the same clothes he does off stage and the music is his calling card. It's enough, more than enough. Watch out.
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I want to play in your town for you and 2 of your friends.