Saturday, October 31, 2009

Some notes on MJ's This Is It.

Last night I took in Michael Jackson's This is It - in IMAX, no less!

Though I'm certainly an MJ fan, I had my doubts about the London O2 concerts. The live performances that I'd seen from the HIStory tour and the 30th Anniversary show at Madison Square Garden didn't give me much hope that MJ could ever reclaim his throne of pop showmanship.

This is It now has me thinking that those concerts really could have rejuvenated his reputation in global pop culture.

I was encouraged by the promotional clips that had been circulating, which indicated live vocals - and good live vocals at that. The majority of the songs in the film are in fact sung live, and I'm amazed that he was able to get his voice back in shape. This was probably the greatest and most convincing aspect of the film for me.

The dancing wasn't exactly the high-octane performance of MJ's legend. That may be partially due to the fact that these were rehearsals, and may also be the product of middle age. That's not to say the film is devoid of MJ's dancing, just that it's a bit more subdued than one might expect. I will say that in this video footage, his face looked better than it had in the previous 10-15 years.

Most of the man's biggest hits are here"
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
They Don't Care About Us
Human Nature
The Way You Make Me Feel
Beat It
I Just Can't Stop Loving You
I Want You Back/The Love You Save/I'll Be There
Earth Song
Black or White
Man in the Mirror

Noticeably absent are any tracks from the much-revered Off the Wall album. Whether or not those were planned for the shows is unclear. It's possible that their absence is simply a product of what footage existed. (the bulk of the performances hail from four or five days' worth of rehearsals).

As much of the press has noted, what's really interesting to see is MJ in the midst of his creative process. Granted, it's not quite the same as getting access to a slew of demo recordings and hearing those classic tracks take shape. But there is definitely a sense of vision and MJ working to realize that vision of what could have been his reclamation of relevance in popular culture. Of course, the unsettling irony is that he achieved that reclamation in death.

Granted, the film was meticulously edited from something like 80 hours of footage. No doubt the producers of the film worked to present MJ in the best possible light. Even so, you do not get the sense of watching someone on the verge of collapse. This doesn't appear to be a chemically dependent man, out of touch with reality. Quite the contrary - he seems focused, energized and set on blowing the O2 arena to bits.

In short, it was a worthwhile look into the construction of Jackson's O2 stint, and I think a fitting final testament. A concert film classic? Probably not. But something that any fan should make a point to see over the next two weeks (though I'm betting on an extended run. One can't help but think the "two week limited engagement" was a means to drum up advanced sales).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crying Lightning

Either the Arctic Monkeys haven't done much to impress me up to this point, or I totally slept on them. I'm in love with this song though, it's been on a loop all week (in large part thanks to KRUI). The whole album is pretty good, but this is a gem of a rock tune. Video is so-so.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Raveonettes @ 9:30 Club, DC (10/16)

(Photo by Chris Chen)

I've wanted to see The Raveonettes live since I first heard them back in 2004 or 2005. I was perusing music at the Iowa City Public Library when I came across Chain Gang of Love. The name caught my eye. I tend to like groups with "-ettes" affixed to their name: The Marvalettes, the Raylettes, The Ronettes, et. al. I think I may also have heard them on Little Steven's Underground Garage. I loved the album immediately, ended up finding a copy at a record swap not long after, then proceeded to pick up their earlier EP and subsequent releases. But I never got to see them live, because fate wouldn't have it. So when I caught wind that they were performing DC on a Friday night, I quickly made moves.

Openers were the Black Angels, from Austin. Not bad. A little excessive on the reverb, and there wasn't a whole lot of variety in their set. But still enjoyable.

The Raveonettes put on a show that was well worth waiting four years to see. The energy of their music - alternating between '60s pop buoyancy and the darker edges of rock - translates very well into a live setting. They ran through material from 2002's Whip it On up through their newest release, In and Out of Control. They included many of my favorites - "Dead Sound," "Little Animal," "That Great Love Sound," "Aly Walk With Me" (a personal highlight), "Love in a Trashcan" and others that I can't remember at the moment. And of course, they played about half of the new record. I'd only heard it once on their live stream, but it is now in heavy rotation after the show.

Speaking of which, the band has a deal going where anyone that buys the new album at the show gets to attend a brief meet and greet after the show. I was planning on buying the new disc anyway, so this was an added bonus (though sometime between Friday and Sunday, I lost the slip containing the download information). Maybe 20 or so people were at the meet & greet. I never know what to say to my favorite bands when I get the rare chance. I just complimented them on a great show and talked to them about the tour. And got their John Hancocks. I always feel weird asking for autographs too, but when they come pen in hand, it's not so awkward.

In short, the Raveonettes live show gets the Gonzo seal of approval! Check them out if they're hitting your town. And also check out their new album. At least for the time being, you can stream it through their official widget below!

Rave on!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Funk (back from the dead!)

I've been absent, I know. I started my new gig in August and have been super busy. Frankly, blogging is one of the first things to go by the wayside in these situations. But I'll try to get a bit more regular with posting again. I have some things in the works - including a new podcast (finally!), of which this week's Friday Funk is a preview. But I won't divulge the podcast's theme until it's done. So there!

Cherrelle- I Didn't Mean To Turn You On