Reviews

Pearl Jam: 20-21 May 2010 - New York

Sachyn Mital
Photos: Sachyn Mital

Pearl Jam’s two MSG shows were as excellent as always but at Friday’s show, hungrier fans were satiated by greater energy to feed on.

Pearl Jam

City: New York
Venue: Madison Square Garden
Date: 2010-05-21-22

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Pearl Jam’s back to back nights in New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Thursday May 20th and Friday the 21st were their last stop in North America before a summer in Europe. And while suggesting both were rocking examples of Pearl Jam’s high standards is an easy comparison, the challenge would be contrasting them to convince you that Friday’s show was better. One measure might be the unique event poster: Thursday’s Jeff Soto design was easy to pick up around 6:00 pm while crowds became distraught in hopes of finding Friday’s Ames Bros design in the same place by 5:30 pm. If the openers are a factor for some, though I missed both, Thursday had the Black Keys and Friday had Band of Horses.

On Thursday, Eddie Vedder, reminiscing about the venue’s history, recalled how the arena’s floor shook during their previous Garden shows (24 June 2008). He encouraged the audience to demonstrate the same energy and soon they did; with the slow starting “Unthought Known” going into full gear and then heavier rock of “Do the Evolution” creating seismic shifts amongst the sections. But this was near the end of the first set. On Friday, Vedder proclaimed “I feel it” during the first song “Corduroy”, never looking back as he led a four-guitar assault on the audience with bandmates Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Mike McCready. Matt Cameron and Boom Gaspar remained behind their drums and keyboards/organs respectively. Maybe it was just because Friday opened with a stronger song that I am swayed to say Friday’s performance topped Thursday’s. But the band sustained the energy and the crowd fed on it. Feelings of proud accomplishment arose when, singing along to “Nothingman” and later “Betterman”, Vedder told the arena how good it felt.

One of the positive aspects of seeing Pearl Jam frequently is the diversity of their sets; no surprise with nearly 20 years of history, nine full length albums and dozens of other singles worth of music. Thursday night featured the powerful “State of Love and Trust” and a dazzling version of the Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me”, with the lights spiraling and dousing the crowd. Another aspect would be the band’s respect for other artists. Vedder asked the crowd to wish Pete Townshend a happy birthday (recorded for their official bootlegs) and dedicated “I Believe in Miracles” to Joey Ramone, as well as to individuals of all walks of life, he praised a father suffering from lymphoma for standing strong and coming to the show.

But Friday was another show for “the serious collectors” as Vedder said. Pearl Jam played “Black Red Yellow”, which hadn’t been heard live since 2005, and a modified version of “Lukin”, more suited to the slower accompaniment by a string quartet. There were also a few connections made to last Halloween’s tearing down the Spectrum show (though it remains a hard night to beat). “Sweet Lew” was the encore, supposedly a one-off before, with Ament handling the vocals while Vedder stood aside dribbling a basketball. And they shared the same closer, “Yellow Ledbetter” with McCready tagging the “Star-Spangled Banner” as a coda, though this time his shirt remained on. But on Friday, Ben Bridwell joined the band to reprise Chris Cornell’s lyrics on Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike”, which was met with great appreciation.

A few criticisms must be made, however good the performances were. Unfortunately, no screens were up to help the audience at the furthest corners of the show see what was going on nor were there any graphics or banners like previous shows. Secondly, despite having sold seats behind the stage, Pearl Jam gave only a little attention to those back there even if they were just happy to be in attendance. Both are worth reconsidering especially because fans want to see what’s going on, which bottle of wine Vedder’s drinking from, what poster or shirt he’s been given from a fan or even the different t-shirts worn throughout the night.

Third, no fault of the band’s own, there is nothing to stop the fans from singing along to every verse, from even the rarest of songs, which interferes with the already difficult acoustics in such a massive arena. Finally, and this might be nitpicking, is the lack of any real sense of an encore. Fans are accustomed to a select few songs as indicative of the end, but despite an already long, unforgiving performance, the band can surely mix it up and throw in a surprise. There is a reason people start to leave during “Ledbetter”.

There is little to change a fan’s opinion of any Pearl Jam show they’ve seen and without argument both MSG shows were strong performances and have their own unique highlights. However, Vedder provided Friday’s audience with the more delicious Pearl Jam banquet and a fine way to close their current US tour.

MSG 1 Setlist:

1st Set: Sometimes, Breakerfall, Last Exit, Animal, The Fixer, Severed Hand, Small Town, I Am Mine, Comatose, Force Of Nature, Even Flow, Low Light, Down, I Got ID, Army Reserve (dedicated to Lt. Colonel John McDonough), Insignificance, Unthought Known, Do The Evolution

2nd Set: The End (w/ string quartet), Lukin (w/ string quartet), Just Breathe (w/ string quartet), You Are, Love, Reign O’er Me (The Who, Ed has crowd wish Pete Townshend a happy birthday), State of Love and Trust, Once, Porch

3rd Set: Jeremy, Leash, Mankind, Crazy Mary (Victoria Williams), I Believe In Miracles (Ramones, dedicated to Joey Ramone), Alive, Indifference

MSG 2 Setlist:

1st Set: Corduroy, Hail Hail, Do The Evolution, World Wide Suicide, Got Some, Breath, Nothing Man, I’m Open (dedicated to Howard Zinn), Unthought Known, Grievance, Amongst The Waves, Present Tense, Not For You/Modern Girl (Sleater-Kinney), Push Me Pull Me, Rats, Daughter/WMA, The Fixer, Why Go

2nd Set: The End (w/ string quartet), Just Breathe (w/ string quartet), Lukin II (w/ string quartet), Black Red Yellow, Sweet Lew, Given To Fly, Spin The Black Circle, Rearviewmirror

3rd Set: Wasted Reprise, Better Man/Save It For Later (The English Beat), Black, The Real Me (The Who), Hunger Strike (Temple of the Dog, w/ Ben Bridwell), Alive, Kick Out The Jams (MC5), Yellow Ledbetter/Star Spangled Banner

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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