After a one-off small show in New York earlier this year, Blur fans were wondering when Albarn and co would be returning to the States. Fortunately, when they did, Blur returned with two massive arena shows, one in Los Angeles and one in New York to really give their fans a taste of The Magic Whip, their well-received 2015 “comeback” album. Blur’s show at Madison Square Garden was their biggest in NYC ever and they brought along Australian upstart Courtney Barnett to open for them, giving her the opportunity to reach her biggest audiences yet. Barnett’s debut Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit will be sure to land in many top 10 album of the year lists and her energy was great on stage as she smashed through choice album cuts like “Depreston” and “Pedestrian at Best”.
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Chris Cornell is a rock icon with an illustrious career. During the first of his two shows at the Beacon Theater in New York, his new home town, Cornell, like every other stop on the tour I imagine, received a standing ovation after nearly every song. The man has a tremendous presence and his musical legacy, with Soundgarden, Audioslave and four solo albums under his belt, has cemented a place for him beyond his original grunge roots. As Radio.com noted, “it seems Chris Cornell has learned to stop worrying and enjoy the fortunate position that he’s in: he’s healthy, he looks as good as he did in the ’90s and sounds even better (at least when he performs).”
Disclosure‘s new album Caracal isn’t as fun as their debut but their massive sound and awesome lights made for quite a show at Madison Square Garden. While both Disclosure albums, Settle and Caracal feature a lot of big guest names (and the former allowed Sam Smith to break thru to big arenas himself), their MSG show didn’t pull out all stops and surprise with the biggest of names, Smith or The Weeknd though they did have Lion Babe (who also opened) on “Hourglass” and Brendan Reilly on “Moving Mountains” amongst a couple of others. The highlights from the brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence’s set were the soaring “Nocturnal” (even sans The Weeknd) and the older “When a Fire Starts to Burn” with its edgy pulse. Meanwhile “Holding On” (which featured Gregory Porter’s vocal) were reminiscent of a lighter Jazzanova track and it’s dark dub was another treat to hear in the massive arena. Fans were going wild as the general admission floor folks could be seen continual releasing bouts of energy in a dance frenzy. But Disclosure’s music, as the New York Times noted, “fills rooms, but it doesn’t move bodies in the interesting ways the duo’s early songs did, nor does it stimulate minds. At this lovely but largely tepid show, the brothers mainly performed behind semicircular banks of instruments: Guy, on the left, mostly on drum pads and keyboards; Howard, on the right, occasionally pulling out a bass for a taut, clever line.”
The trio, John Stanier, Ian Williams and Dave Konopka, form Battles, who recently wrapped up the US leg of a world tour in support of their third album, La Di Da Di with a hometown show at Webster Hall in New York City. Brooklyn’s Xenia Rubinos built up the experimental vibe in the opening slot but it was Battles that really proved visionary with their repetitive melodic structures and blockbuster bass lines. Their broad sonic collage drew from all their albums and meshed seamlessly into an awe-inspiring aurally destructive show that proves their music is a force unto itself.
Listening to Josh Ritter‘s newest album Sermon on the Rocks repeatedly last month, I was struck by how different it was from his previous works. It possesses optimistic and upbeat feel, but still contains the strongly developed characters and stories Ritter is known for. Rolling Stone‘s recent review of the album really nailed my sentiments in their review when they said, “with his latest, Ritter has achieved the near impossible, fully reimagining his own art while still holding close to what’s always made him special”. I thoroughly enjoy his Sermon and, though I can’t tell yet if it one of the best albums of the year, I do know it has cemented Ritter’s spot as one of my favorite artists. Tracks like “Homecoming”, “A Big Enough Sky” and “Where the Night Goes” are immediate stand outs and, on stage at Rough Trade performing these (and other) songs, Ritter demonstrated more joy than I’d seen before. He always has the biggest of smiles but now he’s literally so overjoyed he’s leaping in the air. I was glad to see him in the smaller venue as his many theater shows in 2016 are not nearly as intimate. Tour dates are below.