Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pulp: May 31, 1996

In the mid '90s, after having led Pulp for about 15 years, Jarvis Cocker was thrust into belated stardom in the UK and role of de facto spokesman for the burgeoning Britpop movement. The fact that he seemed somewhat befuddled and amused by the whole thing only made him that much more endearing.

At the time of this show, the band was touring in support of Different Class, the landmark album containing "Common People," probably its best known and loved song. It was the height of so-called Britpop, but here in the States, bands that were hugely popular in the UK played at clubs that were probably much smaller than what they were accustomed to back home.

Nashville's Superdrag opened, and at the time I unfairly pegged them as Americans wanting to sound British. In fact, they were a pretty great power pop band, and I wish I'd paid them more mind at the time. I admittedly wasn't the biggest Pulp fan either (although I eventually warmed to them, especially the album This Is Hardcore) but found Cocker immensely entertaining and funny. I recall he made a quip (equal parts cringe- and chuckle-inducing) about the Valu Jet crash that had taken place about three weeks before. "Did you hear they found the black box?" Cocker deadpanned. "The pilot's last words were 'Heeeeeellllllpppp!'" So it wasn't the height of witticism for him, but it was sort of endearing that the reluctant figurehead was willing to toss off a tasteless joke, just like any of your mates might.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Radiohead: April 5, 1996

This is one of those shows that was a downer, not because of the band, but because of the venue. I'm surprised to see this was billed as being at Sanctum, which at some point was renamed Clutch Cargo's. I'm guessing this might be the only show I saw at the venue prior to its renaming. Name change or no, Clutch Cargo's was a place I loved to hate. It booked some of the best alternative/college acts, but always seemed to be filled with frat boy lunkheads, especially on nights when there was DJ instead of live music. The Radiohead show was a particularly bad example.

This was the tour for Radiohead's album The Bends, their second release and first to gain considerable critical acclaim. Maybe because it was so early in the band's career, it seemed like most of the audience only knew, and only wanted to know, the mega hit "Creep." If the band didn't acknowledge the seeming single-mindedness of the audience, frontman Thom Yorke was aware of the bar's skeezy vibe, commenting on the scantily clad waitresses. For a band as arty and cerebral as Radiohead, the venue seemed crazily inappropriate. Yet they soldiered on, giving solid if somewhat exasperated performances of most of the songs from The Bends and some from Pablo Honey and the crowd got its desired rendition of "Creep."

When the band skipped Detroit on its next tour, I was disappointed, but by the release of Kid A both my residency in Michigan and my interest in Radiohead had ended.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ringo Starr: July 30, 1989

I recall shamefully little about this show, which was the only time I've ever seen a member of the Beatles. Believe me, I tried to see McCartney, standing countless hours in the freezing cold outside a department store Ticketmaster in January only to hear the unobstructed seats sold out, then the side-of-stage seats sold out, then even the behind-the-stage seats sold out. Alas, it will probably never happen.

This was the first of many of Ringo's tours with his self-proclaimed "All-Starr Band," comprised of various rock luminaries from days gone by. I recall Joe Walsh played at this show, Billy Preston, Dr. John, and some others. It was a solid band, actually, and Ringo led them in good-natured versions of singalong classics such as "Photograph" and "Yellow Submarine" - a mix of songs from his Beatles and solo careers.

One odd off-the-cuff thing I recall: The tickets for this show seemed quite expensive at the time. Looking back, it's funny to see that the face value was $25. With the service fees, they soared to over $30, which by today's standards is one of the cheaper shows you'll see, but in 1989 was still pretty pricey. I guess All-Starrs don't work for nothing.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Björk: August 5, 1995

Björk has long been a favorite artist of mine, ever since her days fronting the Sugarcubes. I saw that band twice: opening an amazing alt-rock bill with Public Image Ltd. and New Order, and headlining its own tour for the 1989 album Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week. The latter show was a mini disaster that ended after only about 45 minutes when the band's Einar Örn Benediktsson shouted, "Some asshole hit me in the eye with a chain," tossed off a "Fuck you as well!" to someone in the crowd who dared to jeer, then stormed off the stage, his bandmates following somewhat sheepishly.

Björk's solo English-language debut, aptly titled Debut, was a big hit at the time I was studying in England. My globe-trotting was done by the time her sophomore effort, Post, arrived. I was anxious to see her after so many years (six) and minus Einar's shenanigans.

I can't recall much about Björk's band. I have a vision of her center stage, a small but commanding presence. The set consisted of songs from Debut and Post, and her voice sounded amazing - which made it all the more memorable that she kept apologizing for trying to sing with a cold. I remember my friend and I asking each other, if this is what she sounds like with a cold, how in the world would she sound if she were well?! She was, and remains, a true talent.