PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Concrete Blonde: Live in Brazil

Jason MacNeil

Concrete Blonde

Live in Brazil

Label: Ark 21
US Release Date: 2003-03-18
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Residing in a city currently under the guise of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), I almost feel compelled to throw a barb at this group for having cancelled a recent Toronto gig due to the outbreak. However, after hearing this album, I won't. I can't. Lead by Johnette Napolitano, Concrete Blonde is a working band's R.E.M. -- brimming under the surface for years but only hitting it marginally big after years on the road. This latest release, taken from the band's last stop last August in Brazil, was a litmus test at its finest. Not knowing what to expect or what sort of reaction awaited, Concrete Blonde went ahead with the shows. The result was this double album of what most would call their staples and some rarer material. And for those "Concrete Blonde for Dummies", yes, "Joey" is on the record!

Backed by longtime guitarist Jim Mankey and drummer Gabriel Ramirez-Quezada, the trio comes out with much applause to "God Is a Bullet" and is firing on all cylinders. Mankey's crunchy guitar perfectly complemented by Napolitano's ascending and descending bass lines, the tune rolls along and is a grand opener. And from the initial chorus, the fans are singing along with her. What's also surprise is the amount of sound the trio creates, sounding much more like a four or even five-piece. Name dropping Tupac Shakur and John Lennon, it seems a very strong opening. "Valentine" follows this up, a slow builder the creeps up on the listener. Napolitano sounds like the Bronx equivalent of Mae West during this track.

Concrete Blonde has some qualities in common with a similar namesake in Blondie. "Tonight" has a winding rock-cum-ska flavor to it, akin to what Debbie and her crew did years before. It's the desire to fit outside the box that makes the tune's gallop work so well. "Everybody Know" is far more moody and murky. Napolitano gives it her all here during the middle section, making it quite memorable. As is the lovable "The Vampire Song", a track that falls in line with Iggy Pop's "The Passenger". The country sound of "Little Conversations" brings to mind Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" as the crowd claps along to her Lou Reed-like deadpan delivery. "You know I couldn't say anything in 20 words or less," she sings with a slight twang. Prior to informing the crowd that a few oldies are coming, "Caroline" is dusted off and given a fresh dose of vitality. Even more amazing is the crowd singing along in unison, as if it was all over Brazilian radio.

The second disc begins with the catchy rocker "Days and Days", with Napolitano resembling an angry Chrissie Hynde. As the show progresses, it's apparent how stellar the band sound -- tight without being stifling, loose without being careless. "I Was a Fool" has Johnette raising hell with her voice as Mankey gives one blistering guitar riff after another. Unfortunately, the only downside is an bleeped rant against President George W. Bush prior to "Violent". Although probably necessary, it gives the impression the concert is a radio broadcast and not the real live thing. But it's only temporary. The first "breather" is the downbeat aura of "Scene of the Perfect Crime". Its polar opposite ensues as "Your Haunted Head" has that rockabilly punk sound from its beginning, drawing fair comparisons to The Misfits.

The encores of this concert are basically what make the first 80 minutes very enjoyable. Beginning with the crowd pleasing "Mexican Moon" and ending with "Tomorrow Wendy", Concrete Blonde has outdone themselves on this one. Anthologies and compilations are great, but if a group can't deliver live, forget it. Johnette delivers time and again on this tour which has given the band a third wind. Oh yes, "Joey" ends the first disc, but it's about time the other tracks here received their just desserts.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.