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

Tidbits on new discs from U2, Sting and…Billy Idol?

U2Ok, first up…U2. The band was in New York City at the end of last week with producer Danger Mouse who is putting the finishing touches on the new disc that supposedly will be released in the last quarter of 2013. The disc will be the foll0w-up to 2009’s woefully underwhelming No Line On The Horizon. Initially there were rumours that the band was planning to release an album of additional material worked on during the Horizon sessions but (thankfully) that idea was kiboshed.   As for the direction of the as-yet untitled new disc, who knows, but in a recent Globe and Mail article producer Daniel Lanois stated that he has heard some of the new tracks and that it was “Very, very big and powerful-sounding. Some of it was adventurous. There were shades of Achtung Baby. A couple of songs I was familiar with, because we worked on them before but had not completed them. Now they’re back on the burner. Bono is very excited, and he’s singing beautifully.”

stingAs for Sting, he also has a new album slated for a September 24th release, his first of original material in a decade. Entitled The Last Ship, his website says the album “grew out of the songwriting Sting has been doing for a musical of the same name, which the producers hope will run on Broadway in 2014. That play is set in a shipyard in Wallsend, England, near where Sting, born Gordon Sumner, spent his youth. The title song is a waltz-time folk tune, heavy with Christian imagery and told in a Northern English dialect. It freights the launching of the last ship from the yard with spiritual significance. Another song, “And Yet,” is a jazzy funk number, sung from the point of view of a sailor arriving in his home port and wondering about a woman he left behind. “Dead Man’s Boots,” meanwhile, is a tense dialogue between a father who works in the shipyard and a son who wants to do something else with his life.” For those of you hoping for something a little closer to rock n roll, you may be disappointed. His last three albums:  an album of covers of a Renaissance lute master in 2006, a holiday album in 2009 with a few originals and a symphonic album in 2010 with orchestral arrangements of his previous work.

BILLY IDOLAnd finally, for those of you want more, more, more Billy Idol is working on his first new album in eight years. He recently told Billboard magazine that he’s “been gradually putting new songs together. A couple of them are a little more ballad-like, but of course we balance those off against a lot of the sort of fun Idol songs that people know and expect.” No release date has been set. This will be the first set of new material from the rebel yeller since Devil’s Playground in 2005.

And now, a musical interlude. Some personal faves from U2, Sting and Billy Idol:

My Saturday morning playlist. What are you listening to today?

springFinally. It’s finally starting to feel like maybe Spring will actually make an appearance soon. The last few days have felt more like late January than late March. Depressing weather. This morning the sun was shining, so I decided to take advantage of respite from the cold and head out for a walk. Stopped for a haircut along the way. Now I feel better. You’re wondering what I was listening to, right? Glad you asked. The last 15:
1. Born In The 50’s–The Police
2. Trampled Under Foot–Led Zeppelin (Celebration Day version)
4. Better Days–Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
5. Turn The Page–Bob Seger
6. Flesh And Blood–Solomon Burke
7. What If I Do?–Foo Fighters
8. 36 Inches High–Nick Lowe
9. Entangled–Genesis
10. Who Am I Telling You?–J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton
11. Sound of Your Voice–Barenaked Ladies
12. Erase/Replace–Foo Fighters
13. Hollis and Morris–The Trews
14. Wicked Rain–Los Lobos
15. Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves–Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin

U2, Christina Aguilera Postpone Dates; Toronto to get Kiss’d, Lyle Lovett

Tour news is on the agenda today. First up, both U2 and Christina Aguilera have postponed their North American summer tours until 2011.

In the case of U2, this is due to Bono’s recent back surgery and the time needed to recuperate. At first only a couple of the dates at the start of the tour were postponed but it seems Bono is going to need more time off. According to band manager Paul McGuinness: “Our biggest and I believe best tour has been interrupted and we’re all devastated. For a performer who lives to be on stage, this is more than a blow. He feels robbed of the chance to do what he does best and feels like he has badly let down the band and their audience. Which is of course nonsense. His concerns about more than a million ticket buyers whose plans have been turned upside down, we all share, but the most important thing right now is that Bono make a full recovery. We’re working as fast as we can with Live Nation to reschedule these dates.” Canadian dates affected are June 23rd in Edmonton, July 3rd in Toronto and July 16th & 17th in Toronto. No word yet on new dates.

As for Christina Aquilera, whose new disc “Bionic”  drops June 8th, her outing is being postponed because the singer has stated she needs more time to prepare for the tour. The only Canadian date affected is a July 20th date in Toronto. New dates are expected to be announced later this year. Refunds for her show as well as the U2 shows are available at point of purchase.

With respect to newly announced shows, it looks like Toronto is going to get a return visit from KISS. Less than one year after blowing the roof of the Air Canada Centre (not to mention the sound system), the elder statesman of all things over-the-top have just announced a new North American tour entitled “The Hottest Show on Earth” tour. So far Toronto is the only Canadian stop on the trek which gets underway at the end of July. They’re booked for Friday September 10th at the Molson Amphitheatre; tickets go on sale June 4th.

And way at the opposite end of the musical spectrum form KISS, one of my favourite singer-songwriters Lyle Lovett has added a Toronto date to his current summer tour. He’ll hit the Massey Hall stage Tuesday August 10th. Ticket info has not yet been announced so keep checking the Massey Hall website.

U2:

Christina Aguilera:

KISS:

Lyle Lovett:

Abbey Road Studios for Sale: Got $20 Mil? (Paging Paul McCartney)

One of the most fanmous recording studios is being up for sale. The Beatles recorded 90% of their music at the studios. Another iconic album, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon” was also recorded there. Other artists who spent time there include Michael Jackson, Radiohead, U2, Green Day and Oasis.

The studios are presently owned by music label EMI. The studios are rumoured to be worth around $20 million. Maybe Paul McCartney has some cash burning a hole in his pocket…

Sidetwo’s Decade Ending List, Part 5: THE TOP 10

Here it is, the final ten from my list of 50 songs from some of my favourite discs of the decade. Enjoy.

10. Things Have Changed–Bob Dylan (Wonder Boys OST)

An ok movie but a great soundtrack, with four Dylan cuts including this brand new one to lead off his fifth decade in the biz. Even today, Dylan shows no signs of slowing down and this song is one of my favourites of his from any decade.

9. Best Of You–Foo Fighters (In Your Honor)

A double-disc affair: Disc one rocks hard like nobody’s business and disc two takes a more mellow, and acoustic, tone. But it works. And there’s not a single dud among the twenty tracks. Best of You is Dave Grohl at his screaming…best.

8. Beautiful Day–U2 (All That You Can’t Leave Behind)

A slightly better album than ….Atomic Bomb, and both are immensely better than the one that followed, No Line On The Horizon. Love how the chorus just explodes on this one.

7. Please Read The Letter–Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (Raising Sand)

Robert Plant’s going to do a country/folk album with Alison Krauss? Yeah, right. Well, colour me converted. The combination is brilliant. And the Grammy people finally got one right. (BTW, the album version is actually two minutes longer than the video below. That’s two more minutes of brilliance.)

6. Comin’ Home–City and Colour (Sometimes)

About as far-removed from Dallas Green’s other day job, Alexisonfire, as you can get. This song is just beautiful. And I love the lyric about Nova Scotia.

5. The Wrestler–Bruce Springsteen (Working On A Dream)

Springsteen won a Golden Globe for this one last year, but was snubbed by Oscar. However, because of the timing of nomination eligibility, it’s now up for a Grammy for “Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media”. If you’ve seen The Wrestler, you know that this song has to win. One of the best songs ever written specifically for a movie. Hopefully the Grammy people will correct Oscar’s mistake.

4. Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)–Steve Earle (Jerusalem)

Right from that powerhouse drum-intro, you know you’re in for some good ol’ seething rock and roll from a guy who’s not afraid to speak his mind. The lyrics in this one speak volumes. “Fourscore and 150 years ago, our forefathers made us equal as long as we can pay.” Great stuff.

3. Sequestered In Memphis–The Hold Steady (Stay Positive)

Ok, I admit it, I had never heard of these guys until I caught a review of their album Stay Positive on CBS’ Sunday Morning, of all places. But let me ask you this: you know how sometimes a song takes a few listens for it grow on you, and then other times it just hits you in the gut the first time you hear it and doesn’t let go? That’s what happened to me with Sequestered. Loved it the first time, loved it a dozen times later, and still love it. A knockout tune.

2. Clocks–Coldplay (A Rush Of Blood To The Head)

I wasn’t that keen on Coldplay when their first album, Parachutes, was released. I mean, the single “Yellow” was just ok in my book. In ’02, when their follow-up was released, the first song I heard was “In My Place”, and I liked it better than “Yellow”, but still just kinda ok. Then I heard “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face”, and I liked that one even more so I bought the album. And then I heard…”Clocks”. Right from the opening note…that was it, I was hooked. Bought the next couple of albums but I think this is still their best track.

AND NUMBER ONE…


1. The Rising–Bruce Springsteen (The Rising)

As I understand it, the story goes something like this: not too long after 9/11 when the wounds were still fresh, Springsteen, who hadn’t released a studio album in seven years, was driving his car in New Jersey when a passerby saw him and yelled out something to the effect of “We need you!”. That was Springsteen’s call to arms, and with 9/11 as a backdrop, he got the band back together and went into the studio and came out with an album in the summer of ’02 that both made you want to cry, and made you want to get up and shout your ass off. That’s what “The Rising” is. A rousing fist-pumper that let everyone know that while America was still hurting, all was not lost. My pick for song of the decade.