The 50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now (at least according to Rolling Stone)

Rolling Stone_bruceSo the cover story of the new issue of Rolling Stone is all about the hottest acts on the road. Of course, any kind of top-whatever list will lead to all sorts of disagreements (just check out the comments on the magazine’s website), but I can heartily agree with their choice for number one on the list. Hint: It’s the fella on the cover.

Yeah, yeah, I know…I’m biased. But c’mon…who else could it be? I’ve seen Springsteen 13 times since 1984; three of those on the Wrecking Ball tour that just finished up in Europe. Whether it was with the E Street band, solo, or with the “other band” (well, maybe not that last one), every show was a unique and memorable experience. No two shows were ever exactly alike. And on the most recent tour, he played a whopping 223 different songs over the course of 129 shows.

Here’s what the magazine had to say about their top choice:

Springsteen has always brought nearly superhuman levels of energy to his shows, but his current Wrecking Ball tour stands as one of his greatest and most thrilling. (It even featured the longest Springsteen show ever – four hours and six minutes, in Helsinki, Finland, on July 31, 2012.) For more shows, Springsteen shreds the pre-planned setlist and collects request-bearing signs from the crowd, leading the band in impromptu renditions of covers by everybody from The Ramones to Jackie Wilson. “I don’t look at the setlist very much during the night,” he recently told Rolling Stone’s David Fricke. “I’m listening to the song we’re playing – it’s talking to me about what to play next. And I’m watching the audience. Sometimes it’s the look in someone’s eyes about how bad they want to hear that song they’ve written on a piece of cardboard or their head.”

I’ve listed the top 20 below, and you can find the rest and read the whole story here. And check out the great fan-filmed clip at the end of the post from the Springsteen show at Toronto’s Rogers Centre last August. I was there, and it was outstanding.

1. Bruce Springsteen

2. Prince

3. The Rolling Stones

4. Arcade Fire

5. Neil Young

6. Jay Z

7. Radiohead

8. Jack White

9. Rage Against The Machine

10. My Morning Jacket

11. U2

12. Wilco

13. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

14. The Black Keys

15. Paul McCartney

16. Alabama Shakes

17. Nine Inch Nails

18. Metallica

19. The Roots

20. Kanye West

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New release news: Stephen Stills new project, The Rides; Elvis Costello & The Roots

The RidesWhat do you think of when you hear the name Stephen Stills? Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young), right? Or his solo output? Well, you can add more descriptor to that list. While his work with one of the most famous rock trios in history continues, Stills has a new side project: a new trio. Stills has gotten together with blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd and keyboardist Barry Goldberg (Electric Flag) and formed The Rides, a blues-rock outfit whose debut album Can’t Get Enough hits stores August 27th. The album will contain a mix of group-written originals and covers of  artists like Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Iggy Pop and…Stephen Stills. Rolling Stone has posted a link to the track “Word Game” which originally appeared on Stills’ album Stephen Stills 2 released in 1971. The new version is nothing like the original; this time it really cooks. You can listen to it here. BONUS: Preview an additional track form the album, “Don’t Want Lies”, here.

In other new release news, back in January I posted a story about a new Elvis Costello album with The Roots to be released sometime this year. Well, we now have a date: September 17th. Entitled Wise Up Ghost, the album will be the first for Costello on Blue Note Records. According to the Blue Note website, Costello has described the record as “the shortest distance between here and there” and containing “both rhythm and what is read”.  The Roots’ ?uestlove says, “It’s a moody, brooding affair, cathartic rhythms and dissonant lullabies. I went stark and dark on the music, Elvis went HAM on some ole Ezra Pound shit.”

Ok then. Like I said back in January, should be interesting to say the least.

Here’s a great fan-filmed clip of ?questlove guesting with Costello and The Imposters at a NYC performance in 2011:

Do a good deed. Get concert tickets.

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This is a very cool initiative. The following comes from rollingstone.com:

To fight world hunger and transform their fans into social activists, Bruce SpringsteenPearl JamBeyoncéBlack SabbathNeil YoungKanye WestMy Morning Jacket and dozens of other stars will donate two tickets to every show they play for the next three years. The Global Citizen Tickets Initiative allows fans to earn points (one for sharing a Facebook video dealing with extreme poverty, 20 for raising $20 or more for a participating charity) and apply them to a ticket lottery.

It’s an idea Pearl Jam’s manager, Kelly Curtis, and Hugh Evans, chief executive of the Global Poverty Project, put together while planning last year’s Global Citizen Festival in New York City’s Central Park. That concert, starring Young, Foo Fighters and the Black Keys, raised $1.3 billion in pledges for the world’s poor. Curtis first came up with the idea, but he needed Evans, an Australian who started working on world-hunger issues at age 14 and organized 2006’s Make Poverty History concerts in Melbourne, to make it work. “It just shows the natural link between music and social activism to create change,” Evans says.

For Curtis, the concept is a way to take something Pearl Jam and other stars have in abundance – tickets to concerts – and apply them to groups such as the UNICEF US Fund, Earth Day Network, Malaria No More and charity:water. “I’m hit up every day for something, whether it’s to play or donate a song or give money,” he says. “I just thought, ‘What would accomplish a lot that wouldn’t require time or anything – what if everyone gave a show?’ You’re talking about social activism in a really great way.”

Curtis and Evans devised a lottery system in which fans who rack up between 10 and 20 points (depending on the concert price) can “spend” them on prize drawings for tickets. They’ll manage their accounts on the Global Citizen webpage. The tickets are from each headliner’s personal stash, so they’re guaranteed to be available for every show and the pair of tickets is in areas where press and radio-contest winners usually sit. (Festivals such as Bonnaroo and Coachella aren’t included in the artists’ ticket offers, but some are participating in the initiative as part of their own deals.)

Evans first met Curtis in 2006, when he helped coordinate a collaboration between Pearl Jam and U2’s Bono and the Edge on “Rockin’ in the Free World” during the Make Poverty History concerts. “One day I was studying in the library and Bono’s manager called us, and said, in a thick Irish accent, ‘We want to perform at the Global Poverty Concert and we want to bring Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam,'” Evans recalls. “We said, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ It ended up beaming beamed all over the world.” 

To help coordinate the Global Ticket Initiative, which focuses on awareness about polio, malaria, women’s rights, education and other issues, Curtis and Evans reached out to a group of concert-business leaders – reps from competing promoters Live Nation and AEG and competing agencies William Morris and Creative Artists, among others. At one point, Rob Light, head of CAA’s music department and agent for Springsteen, Radiohead and many others, visited the office of longtime WMA rival Marc Geiger, co-founder of Lollapalooza, for the first time. “We are lucky the people running these areas are pretty altruistic and enlightened people, even though they may kill each other day-to-day,” says Michele Anthony, a former Sony Music president who is chairing the initiative.

“It’s such a non-political, easy thing,” Curtis says. “You can’t really say no, or you’ll be shamed into saying yes.”

Springsteen to be honored as MusiCares Person of the Year.

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[Editors’ note: I can actually talk about other music besides Springsteen, but hey, when a story presents itself… :-)]

From grammy.org:

Jon Stewart is set to host the tribute concert in honor of Bruce Springsteen being named the 2013 MusiCares Person of the Year. MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares’ services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.

The gala will celebrate Springsteen’s exceptional artistic achievements and philanthropic work. Scheduled to perform at the concert are Alabama Shakes, Jackson Browne, Kenny Chesney, Ben Harper, Emmylou HarrisFaith Hill, Jim James, Elton John, Juanes, John Legend, Natalie Maines, Tim McGraw, Tom Morello, Mumford & Sons, Patti Smith, Mavis Staples, Sting, Eddie Vedder, and Neil Young. The sold-out gala will take place Feb. 8, 2013, two days prior to the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards. Additional performers will be announced shortly.

Past MusiCares Person of the Year honorees are Tony Bennett, Bono, Natalie Cole, Phil Collins, David Crosby, Neil Diamond, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Don Henley, Billy Joel, Elton John, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Luciano Pavarotti, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, Sting, Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, and Neil Young.

The lineup as announced so far certainly lends itself to all sorts of interesting possibilities with respect to the performances.  A number of these performers are no strangers to Springsteen’ material, having performed his material or with him in the past e.g. Eddie Vedder, Tom Morello, Neil Young and Sting, who was part of the lineup when Springsteen was made a Kennedy Center honoree a few years ago:

Montreal gets lone Canadian date for Peter Gabriel mini-tour; new Bowie live disc

Peter Gabriel, whose new all-covers disc “Scratch My Back” hits stores mid-February, will be launching a North American mini-tour this spring in just three cities: Montreal, New York and Los Angeles. It actually comes as no surprise that Gabriel would choose Montreal as the city’s music fans have long had an affinity for the prog-rock sounds of Genesis, Pink Floyd, ELP and the like. Gabriel hits the Bell Centre on April 28th, followed by two shows on New York May 2nd and 3rd and an L.A. show on May 7th. No word on any further dates.

“Scratch My Back” is an all-orchestral covers album (as noted on his website, no drums and no guitars) and includes covers of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)“, Neil Young’s “Philadelphia” and Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble”. There are also plans for a disc called “I’ll Scratch Yours” featuring covers of Peter Gabriel tunes by those same artists. Ticket info for the Montreal show has not yet been announced.

Gabriel’s cover of “Heroes ” can also be heard on Download To Donate for Haiti, a compilation of as-yet unreleased music with proceeds going to earthquake relief. You can hear “Heroes” and other tracks here.

And speaking of Bowie, his new live double-disc souvenir of his 2003 Reality tour hits stores tomorrow. It contains over 30 tracks including such hits as “Rebel Rebel”, “Changes”, “Ziggy Stardust”, the aforementioned “Heroes” plus selections from his “Reality” disc, which while not up to par with some of his earlier work is actually pretty good. Check out live clips here.

2010 lineup for Massey Hall continues to grow

Ever been to a concert at Massey Hall in Toronto? I love seeing performers in a theatre-setting like that one. Sure, the building is showing its age (hell, it was showing its age 25 years ago) and the seats are a little on the snug side. And while a sell-out means just over 2700 in the hall, it’s still a remarkably intimate venue. Over the last 100+ years, the grand dame of Toronto concert venues has seen an incredible range of performers grace its stage, from Canadian icons like Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, Oscar Peterson and Rush to a who’s who of American and international performers. I’ve seen a handful of shows there, including Lyle Lovett, Paul Simon and most recently, Steely Dan.

For 2010, the roster is building nicely. Already scheduled are homegrown faves like Colin James (January 26th), Jann Arden (January 27th-30th) and Blue Rodeo (February 2nd and 3rd). Blues legend Buddy Guy comes to town on April 9th, and another guitar virtuoso, Mark Knopfler plays later in the month on April 29th.

Now comes word of three new additions to the Massey Hall calendar, with tickets all going sale within the next week. First up, Canadian rockers Our Lady Peace will play two shows on March 12th and 13th. Tickets are $42.50-52.50 and go on sale to the general public Saturday December 12th @ 2:00 p.m. ET at ticketmaster.ca. According to the Massey Hall website, the band will perform their album “Clumsy” in its entirety on March 12th, and “Spiritual Machines” on March 13th. Each show will be rounded out by selections from the OLP catalogue.

On March 23rd, singer-songwriter Norah Jones takes the stage to promote her latest cd, The Fall. Tickets are $55.50-65.50 and go on sale to the general public Monday December 14th @ 12:00 p.m. ET at ticketmaster.ca. You can listen to music from the new cd streaming on Jones’ website here.

And then on May 13th, the always interesting jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny hits the stage for a solo show, of sorts. Metheny’s new disc, Orchestrion, will be out in January. According to his website, the disc is described as follows:
“With Orchestrion, Metheny dramatically redefines the concept of the solo album. He is indeed the only live musician on this recording, but it’s the opposite of, say, the austere 2003 One Quiet Night, in which Metheny hunkered down in his home studio to explore the musical possibilities of a single new guitar. Here Metheny works with a magical set-up of acoustic and acousto-electric instrumentation, assembled for him by a far-flung team of mad musical scientists and digital dreamers. ”
Make of that what you will. I am a huge fan of the Pat Metheny Group (featuring long-time collaborator, keyboardist Lyle Mays) and have seen them in concert a couple of times. This is probably the configuration for which he is the best known and popular. Tickets for the Metheny show are $42.50-85.50 and go on sale this Friday December 11th at 10:00 am on tickemaster.ca.

All good stuff. Can’t wait to see how the rest of 2010 fills out.

Our Lady Peace:

Norah Jones:

Pat Metheny Group:

Happy Canada Day!

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Canadian music kicks a**, doesn’t it? In honour of our collective birthday, everyone should listen to some homegrown music today. Whether you prefer rock or jazz, rap or country or anything in between, the Canadian music scene has something to offer everyone, and it keeps getting better every year. So many of our artists have made it big on the world stage and this should be celebrated, not just today but all year long.

Also on the subject of music and all things Canadian, if you’re looking for an entertaining summer read, pick up a copy of Six String Nation. Bargainista bought it for me for Father’s Day. Conceived by writer and broadcaster Jowi Taylor, it’s a fascinating story about the construction of a guitar called Voyageur built entirely from pieces of Canadian history. As the website states:

The ongoing mission of Voyageur and the Six String Nation project is to encourage Canadians to tell the story of Canada from a multitude of perspectives, to know and embrace our diversity as a kind of commonality and to celebrate the power of music – a language that Canada speaks better than just about anyone in the world.

Well put.

As for the homegrown music I enjoy, here’s a list of the artists in rotation on my iPod. Who do you like to listen to?

Attack In Black
B.T.O.
The Band
Barenaked Ladies
Blackie and The Rodeo Kings
Blue Rodeo
Bruce Cockburn
Chilliwack
City and Colour
Colin James
Doucette
Doug and The Slugs
Downchild Blues Band
Gordon Lightfoot
Great Big Sea
The Guess Who
Harlequin
Harmonium
Headstones
Jacksoul
Joni Mitchell
Junkhouse
k-os
Kim Mitchell
Lighthouse
Martha and The Muffins
Matthew Good
Maynard Ferguson
Neil Young
The Odds (and the New Odds)
Oscar Peterson
Powder Blues Band
Pukka Orchestra
Pursuit of Happiness
Robbie Robertson
Rush
Sloan
Tom Cochrane
Tragically Hip
The Trews
Wide Mouth Mason
54-40

And if you were to ask me what I thought was THE ultimate Canadian song, I think there’s a lot of songs that could fit the bill, but this is one of my favourites: