April Smith’s New York homecoming was confirmation of just how solidly crafted the impeccable string of songs she’s recorded with her “boys”, the Great Picture Show, are. Commanding her band from the Mercury Lounge’s quaint stage, the tracks of Songs for a Singking Ship were transformed into barrelhouse stompers and sing-a-longs, all under the direction of Ms. Smith’s powerful alto.
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Leaving Toronto’s Air Canada Centre exhilarated Monday night, feeling like we’d witnessed one of the very best demonstrations of rock and awe, I had a mild regret: for years I hadn’t given Muse enough attention.
Yoko Ono, age 77, assembled the new Plastic Ono Band (composed of Cornelius, Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto, and son Sean Lennon) for a psychedelic jam fest and trip down nostalgia lane at the historic Fox Theatre in downtown Oakland, California. The band was headlining Noise Pop, the independent music festival which invaded Bay Area venues with hoards of lesser-known indie rock troupes and experimental electro pop bands for a little over a week. Following a projection of crows flying out of Ono’s mouth (accompanied by a chorus of chirping sounds fluttering throughout the theatre), a video reel highlighted Ono’s lifetime of successes—including footage from earlier video works and the dedication of Strawberry Fields in New York’s Central Park. Dressed in a white cap, customary dark shades, and a black track suit Ono launched into an amped up version of “Waiting for the D Train” from 2009’s Between My Head and the Sky. What followed was as much a showcase of the new super group’s collective talents as a tour of past Ono musical highlights. The crowd of almost 3,000 sang along to an encore performance of “Give Peace a Chance” while flashing the message “I Love You” using free onochords (tiny flashlights) to close out the night.
Todd Snider said it best himself: he was only spouting his opinions because they rhymed—and to ease his mind. That anyone ever shows up to his performances is, to him, simply a bonus, one big blessing in the “crazy adventure” that has been his life. And years of playing in bars and sleeping on couches—the aforementioned “crazy life”—has provided the fodder for countless stories while fueling Snider’s numerous albums—most recently, 2009’s The Excitement Plan. But it is Snider’s wit, cynicism, humor and charm that coalesce into poignantly touching yet simple folk songs.
World Café Live, an attractive music venue in downtown Philadelphia, is not unlike New York’s Joe’s Pub, but much grander. Like Joe’s it plays host to a diverse range of talented artists. Last Thursday it was the talented trio, North Mississippi Allstars that sauntered into the spacious downstairs Café Live area. Due to an impending snow storm a smaller but dedicated and daring crowd showed up. And the band—composed of lead singer and guitar slinger, Luther Dickinson (also lead for The Black Crowes), his brother, and drummer, Cody Dickinson, and Chris Chew on bass—rewarded them with a seriously incendiary set spanning two hours.