For those of you who are familiar with Counting Crows' morose recordings, let me assure you that lead singer Adam Duritz did not walk out onstage with a gun held to his head. In fact, there was not so much as a single tear or frown. Instead, Duritz looked surprisingly happy to be standing in front of the rain-soaked, sold-out crowd at San Francisco's Warfield Theater on a Monday night. He must have had a good feeling about the performance, though, because he began the evening's show with a rendition of "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)", the sugary, flower-powered anthem penned by Scott McKenzie and John Phillips 30 years ago. Nothing could have better warmed the crowd or placed more grins on faces. This was something of a homecoming for the band -- the five shows in San Francisco represented the end of the supporting tour for Hard Candy, the group's fourth studio album released last summer. Counting Crows originally formed in Berkeley, and toiled in the obscurity of the Bay Area music scene until a chance performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 shot them into the national spotlight. After releasing their debut album, August and Everything After, many of the band members relocated to Los Angeles. According to Duritz, the move was provoked by resentment from their Bay Area fan base, centered on all the new success. But there was no hostility in the air at this pre-holiday show, and Duritz looked genuinely relieved when the gathering sang along to both old and new songs. Counting Crows followed the ode to San Francisco's summer-of-love past with the title track from Hard Candy, a roots-rock anthem with more power than flower. With seven musicians onstage, it's amazing that the group achieves such high levels of synchronicity. In particular, dueling acoustic and electric guitarists, Dan Vickrey and David Bryson respectively, harmonized wonderfully against a strong rhythm section made up of Ben Mize on drums and Matt Malley on bass. The six of them have been playing together for a long time, and could probably walk through a show blindfolded if they had to. Duritz, to his credit, certainly was not going through the motions; however, he seemed worn out and generally lacked energy, which was particularly visible during his solo lulls when he took time out to sit down. It was hard to pay too much attention to the band's stage presence, because the show featured one of the most amazing visual displays I've ever seen at a rock concert. Using a combination of theater lights, LEDs and background patterns, their lighting technician had as many spectacles to share with the audience as Counting Crows had songs to play. From completely bathing the band in lime greens and deep sea blues to recreating a nighttime sky on the backdrop, this alone was worth the price of admission. "Mr. Jones", the high energy hit from their debut album, received a fuchsia treatment as Dan Vickrey strummed the tune's opening chords. The crowd sang along with Duritz, and the group appeared to be having a blast. The rest of the set featured songs from each of Counting Crows' four studio albums, with a little more weight given to the latest stuff. The group treated "Goodnight Elisabeth" and "Long December" from Recovering the Satellites like old friends, taking the time in extended versions to catch up with the reasons why the songs were written in the first place. The new songs off of Hard Candy included "American Girls", "Good Time" and "Holiday in Spain". The band members joked with Duritz over which song was about which of his busted relationships. These new numbers were generally up-tempo and upbeat. It may seem as though Counting Crows are taking advantage of the newly popular alt-country style, following in the steps of Ryan Adams and Wilco. But then you remember that this is the same way they've been playing for a decade. They haven't changed; they've fallen back into fashion. This gives them an opportunity to show off what Joe Cocker would sound like if he were backed by Lynyrd Skynyrd. So when guitarist David Immergluck broke out the mandolin on "Time and Time Again" or keyboardist Charles Gillingham shows off his accordion skills, it was a perfectly natural part of the show. Of course, they included their new hit, a remake of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi", which they rolled through magnificently at the Warfield. The only piece that didn't quite fit was "New Frontier", which features bending synthesizers and smacks of time spent in the UK's electronic music scene. The group ended the set with "Miami", another sweet melodic piece from the new album. Two encores followed, but by this time Duritz's voice was broken, and his shirt was soaked through with sweat. Still they had enough in them to close out the show with the best song of the evening, a perfect version of "Hangin' Around". Duritz recruited some old friends from the audience to sing backup and dance onstage, while he climbed up on the ten-foot speakers, happy to be home.
The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.
70. The Horrors - "Machine"
On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke
Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.
20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)
Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta
"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.
The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.
Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.
"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.
Old Wine, New Punch: Martha Argerich's Peformance of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto at The Kennedy Center
Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.
In a staid city like Washington, D.C., too many concert programs still stick to the basics. An endless litany of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concerti clog the schedules and parades of overeager virtuosi seem unwilling to vary their repertoire for blasé D.C. concertgoers. But occasionally you encounter a concert that refreshes your perspective of the familiar. The works presented at The Kennedy Center on 25 October 2017 might be stalwarts of 20th century repertoire, but guest conductor Antonio Pappano, leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, reminded us how galvanizing the canonical can still be. Though grandiose executions of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome were the main event, the sold-out crowd gathered to see Martha Argerich perform one of her showpieces, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.