Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Stephen Colbert, Morning Access Host

To get back in the swing of hosting a talk show, Stephen Colbert randomly decided to host a public access morning show in Monroe, Michigan.  It's funny all the way through, yet things really get to another comedy level when Eminem shows up at the 22-minute mark.  Kudos to Eminem for (almost) keeping a straight face the entire time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Happy Canada Day Eve!

What's more patriotic than...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Other People's Writing


* Every Mad Men episode is ranked by Buzzfeed's Kate Aurthur.  I don't have any serious problems with the order here (the top four are unimpeachable) though of course, I have quibbles!  The pilot, "The Crash" and a couple of the S7.5 episodes are too high, "At The Codfish Ball" and "Souvenir" are way too low (c'mon, Don & Betty in Rome barely cracks the top eighty?!?!) and "The Strategy" would've been my #5.

* "I woke up at the moment that the miracle occurred/A film that made some sense of all the world."  Rob Bricken of io9.com is incredulous that a movie like Mad Max: Fury Road both actually managed to get made in the first place, and that it ended up being so awesome.  Bricken is right, this movie is the best.  Will Hollywood learn a lesson that the best way to make a good movie is just to let a creative director so whatever they HA HA HA I couldn't even finish that without breaking up.

* Speaking of things that seem impossible, NBC Sports' Joe Posnanski chronicles how Steph Curry developed into a thoroughly unlikely NBA superstar.

* And speaking of NBC, let's get really inside-baseball with this fascinating look at how NBC's news department has been steadily declining for years, culminating in the Brian Williams scandal.  Vanity Fair's Bryan Burrough really outdoes himself with some fine reporting here that breaks down exactly how things have been going from bad to worse at the ol' Peacock.  Jack Donaghy would never have stood for this, that's for certain.

* Nina Simone is a musical legend who has somewhat been forgotten to history, though this piece from Grantland's Brian Phillips reminds us that her music and social conscience are as relevant today as ever.

* Oral history time!  Alan Siegel of the Onion's AV Club delves into the creation of the Simpsons' legendary "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" two-part cliffhanger.  You may all remember the episodes as the only reason my generation knows who Tito Puente is.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Random Nonsense

Though it's still just June, in what will surely score a high placement in the "link of the year" sweepstakes, here are 11 Houses That Look Like 'Game Of Thrones' Characters.  The Littlefinger one is particularly awesome.  This link is so funny that it's worth throwing off my blog's formatting to get the long image in there!  (Which, ironically, might be akin to infecting it with greyscale, so THANKS JORAH.)

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I picked the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup in my preseason predictions, and I picked the Lightning to win the Cup in my pre-playoff predictions.  Ergo, like Parker Lewis, I couldn’t lose.  Since correctly calling a champion eight months out is more impressive than calling one two months out, I’m more pleased that Chicago took it down.  You figure the Lightning have at least a couple more runs in them anyway, so they’ll be back for a Cup within the next couple of years. 

A couple of my fellow Leafs fans figured that Steven Stamkos is more likely to remain in Tampa Bay chasing that Stanley Cup, whereas if they’d won this year, he might’ve felt satisfied enough to check that off his bucket list and come play in Toronto for the ultimate goal of returning the Leafs to championship glory.  Yes, that was a perfectly plausible scenario in our minds….as opposed to, say, Stamkos realizing “why would I want to leave a Cup-winning team for gigantic losers?” and just remaining a Bolt for life.

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Speaking of Parker Lewis and myself, LeBron James also really couldn’t lose no matter how the NBA Finals ended up.  If Cleveland wins, he’s accomplished his major goal in his very first year back as a Cavalier and pulled off one of the great Finals upsets in history.  If Golden State wins, as they did, nobody blames LeBron since he was literally a one-man team out on the floor.  The fact that this motley crew of a Cleveland team actually came within two wins of a championship is a minor miracle.

Remember, the 2013-14 Cavaliers were a terrible team.  Their main offseason move was adding LeBron, which (no surprise) instantly got them back into the East’s playoff race.  But they weren’t really a truly good team until midseason trades for the likes of J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov bolstered the roster.  With a bit more maneuvering, Cleveland can finally take the last step to becoming a true championship contender, though it’ll be difficult since they’re almost certainly going to be facing a salary cap crunch.  The easiest move is just to add as many quality bench guys as possible, and with the promise of playing with James and chasing a title, the Cavs have a shot at attracting some good veteran talent.  The other move is to ditch Kevin Love, as you can save the money earmarked of his max salary and spend it on more depth parts.  Love never really seemed to fit in with the rest of the Cavaliers, and while that mutual disdain might’ve actually helped fuel the roster to some extent (Love was the Adam “Cake Eater” Banks to the rest of the Cavaliers’ Mighty Ducks) it’s probably best for both parties if Love signs elsewhere in free agency.

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I’m starting to think that maybe, just MAYBE, Jordan Spieth is for real.  I mean, he had that tournament handed to him on a silver platter by Dustin Johnson but even still, when you have consecutive major wins before your 22nd birthday, it’s safe to say you’re awfully good.

My friend Kyle and I exchanged texts after the U.S. Open wondering if Kyle should make a wager with our Tiger-loving friend Misha over whether Spieth or Rory McIlroy (or both) would eventually surpass Tiger’s 14 majors.  I fully admit I’m buying into the hype here, but of the two, I’d say Spieth has the better chance.  Already it seems that Spieth has as well-rounded a game as anyone on the PGA Tour, in the sense that he seems to be able to compete on any course.  Rory is the same when he’s firing on all cylinders, yet he’s also just as likely to miss a cut if he doesn’t have his A-game.  Even for Tiger in his prime, there were certain courses you could predict he’d struggle on since they didn’t quite suit his game.  For Spieth, though, he kind of does everything pretty well — his only “weak” point is his driving distance, though he’s certainly long enough and if you’re doing everything else well, you can live with 10-20 yards fewer off the tee.

Anyway, check back on this post in five years time after Spieth’s career has totally collapsed and he’s living in a trailer behind a mini-putt course to see just how wrong I was in predicting he’d wind up with 15+ majors.

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Embedding isn't allowed for this link, but it's the Parks & Recreation gag reel for the final season.  The actual new bloopers don't start until around 17 minutes in, but you can certainly enjoy the 'greatest hits' of goofs from the previous six years.  Any excuse to show Chris Pratt's legendary Kim Kardashian joke, really.

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One of the unsung influences in my life is my seventh and eighth grade teacher, Mr. Aldington.  Nice guy, very good teacher, looked kind of like a real-life Inspector Gadget, LOVED Diet Coke (seriously, he probably ran through at least 4-5 cans per day) and perhaps most importantly, the guy who stressed the value of typing.  Back in my grade school days, computers were still rather a new thing, a sentence that makes me feel like an absolute caveman.  Yet ol' Mr. A was on the ball in getting us all into "computer class," which was essentially just teaching us proper typing technique.

And man, those lessons stay with me to this very day.  Typing is such a commonplace ability that you don't even really think about it...until you see someone who outright can't type.  Someone who is still hunting and pecking here in 2015 (thus making them the caveman).  This could've easily been me given my sausage-like fingers and overall clumsiness, but thanks to my early lessons and muscle memory drummed into me, I've managed to type like a boss (well, technically, like an assistant) for years.  Thanks, Mr. Aldington. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

It Happened One Ride...

You can always count on the streetcar for human comedy.  The other day I'm taking a ride when these three youths get on, all roughly between 19-23 years old.  Despite it being downtown Toronto, they look straight out of the Trailer Park Boys cast.  The principles...

* A girl, wearing roughly all the eye shadow in the world (no doubt an attempt to distract from her unfortunate face).  Plaid shirt, yoga pants (shudder), ragged teeth. 
* A guy, a scrawny twerp weighing maybe a buck-thirty, yet wearing enormous sneakers, cargo pants at least two sizes too big, a camo undershirt and one of those squareish Raptors caps that just perched atop his head like a pillbox hat, covering up his Joe Dirt-quality mullet.
* A second girl, the only semi-normal looking one of the bunch except for the gigantic tattoo that covered virtually her entire upper back.  It just looked like vines, so I'm presuming (hoping?) the tattoo was a tribute to Little Shop Of Horrors.  She didn't say a word during this entire exchange, minus her part in the song.  Oh yes, there's a song (and sadly, not a song from LSoH.)

So they get on at Yonge/Queen, talking a good 120 decibel levels louder than everyone else on the streetcar.  Every other word is a curse, in the style of, "yo, why the fuck hasn't he fuckin' called me the fuck back?"  The two main topics of conversation are....

1. The guy describing how he wasn't really "arrested" once during a drinking party in a field, it was just that "f'n Brian just handed me the bottle and the f***ing cops saw me holding the bottle and s*** and they kept asking me about it, yo."
2. The three of them at one point singing, in perfect unison, the theme song to "Little Einsteins," which is apparently a Disney Network cartoon.  Words fail me.
3. Girl #1 bemoaning her bad luck in relationships.  Apparently she was upset that her ex-boyfriend Kevin was "now a businessman, and he's rich.  If I'd married him, I could've just sat at home and gotten drunk all day."  This led to the dude noting that she had spent all of the previous day (a Tuesday!) drunk, to which she annoyedly responded "I was only drinking for two and a half hours in the afternoon!  That's nothing!"  Her delivery was just so put-upon that it took all I had to keep from laughing out loud.

For the rest of us strangers on the train, there were a lot of looks being exchanged about this trio of little Einsteins.  It led to one incredible moment when, as they were getting off, Girl #1 kept whining/asking "do you think I should call Kevin?  Should I call Kevin?"  As the doors swung shut, this one middle-aged dude who looked not unlike Keith David and had at least 80% of David's excellent timing, immediately remarked "Kevin dodged a bullet."  Everyone just cracked up.  That man is my hero.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Conan's Performance Review

Two of my favourite things --- Conan goofing around with his backstage staff, and Conan ripping on Jordan Schlansky.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The "Game Of Thrones" Comeuppance List

Needless to say, SPOILERS AHEAD

Back when Bill Simmons was still part of ESPN, he sat in on a Hollywood Prospectus podcast and complained that ‘Game Of Thrones’ was lacking in truly memorable villains with Joffrey gone.  Um, seriously?  Look at this list of loathsome people!  With five seasons of Game Of Thrones now in the books (though not in ‘The Books,’ a.k.a. the spoileriffic bane of anyone like me who just watches the show and didn’t read George R.R. Martin’s novels), it’s time for me to run down everyone left who is sorely overdue for some serious comeuppance.  Arya “Matt Murdoch of Westeros” Stark isn’t the only one who can make a revenge list!  

18. Ilyn Payne
Despite his prominent place on Arya’s list, we haven’t seen much of Ilyn Payne on the show lately since Wilko Johnson (the actor who portrays him) has been battling cancer.  Hopefully Johnson gets back to full health so he can make a triumphant return to the show and….uh, get brutally killed?  Payne is basically just a thug, so it’s hard to hate him “too” much, yet still, he sucks.

17. Everyone in Meereen besides the seven characters we give a damn about
I’m hoping the S6 premiere has a scene of Daario and Jorah out tracking Daenerys when suddenly Tyrion, Varys, Missandei and Greyworm suddenly show up with the other two dragons.  “What are you all doing here?”  “Yeah, we decided Meereen wasn’t worth the effort, so we just left it to ruin.  Let’s head for Westeros, team!”

16. The Mountain
I almost feel like “Gregor Clegane” and “The Mountain” are two different characters.  Clegane is an awful human being; The Mountain is a physical powerhouse so impressive that you can’t help but be impressed by him.  In theory, Zombie Mountain may essentially mark the end of Clegane the man, if all that’s left is just a dead-eyed, order-taking killing machine.

15. The Entire Brotherhood Without Banners
I dunno if the show is going to forget about these guys entirely or what, though you’d figure characters who can resurrect the dead are a bit of a Chekhov’s Gun in a story like this.  But anyway, they seemed like jerks.

14. Balon Greyjoy
Theon’s brute of a father.  The fact that this guy has barely appeared on the show and hasn’t shown up in two whole seasons yet STILL ranks at #14 is a sign of just how unlikable he is.  Also, remember when Melisandre leeched Gendry and used his, um, various bodily fluids to put blood curses on Robb Stark, Joffrey and Balon?  Why did Balon get off scot-free?  Does the curse only kick in if the victim gets married?

13. Jamie Lannister
Here’s the thing about pushing a kid out of a tower window — not even four+ seasons of attempted character rehabilitation can make up for it.  The Kingslayer is still long overdue for some comeuppance, maybe in the form of his other hand.

12. Ellaria & The Sand Snakes
First of all, this is a great name for a rock band.  Secondly, I don’t really have anything against the characters per se except they commit two cardinal sins of TV — their storyline went nowhere and the acting is terrible.  While my book-reading friends are loath to spoil anything for me, I get the sense that the overall lameness of the Sand Snakes (and the Dorne folk in general) is one of the big letdowns of the entire series.

11. Cersei Lannister
Prior to yesterday, she would’ve been at least a half-dozen slots higher on this list, yet it’s hard to say she didn’t eat a giant slice of humble pie in the season finale.  That walk of shame was so degrading that it almost made me feel sorry for Cersei….except oh wait, she totally brought it on herself by arming the Faith Militant and she’s been responsible for about a thousand awful things in the story.

10. The One Nun Who Kept Saying “Confess” And “Shame” At Cersei
Kudos to this actress for bringing to life such a horrible character in literally two words of dialogue.  When Zombie Mountain starts running amok in the Faith Militant’s church, she is going to be the first one on his list.

9. The High Sparrow
Jonathan Pryce must truly be an excellent actor, since he is setting a record for the maximum amount of smugness that can be packed into a character while still having it be a good performance. 

8. Lancel Lannister
Honestly, being named ‘Lancel Lannister’ gets him on the list straight away.  I don’t know if Jamie will be happy at not being the only Kingslayer in the family or if he’ll be annoyed that the nickname didn’t pass onto his cousin. 

7. Walder Frey
Here’s the thing about Walder Frey, who is clearly a rotter and deserves to die.  If you look past the whole “killed a bunch of beloved characters” and “broke the sacred rule of hospitality in a horrific massacre,” the Red Wedding was actually kind of a brilliant tactical move.  He and the Boltons have been laughing all the way to the bank on that one…so far.  Also, I find it hard to truly hate actor David Bradley.

6. Theon “Reek” Greyjoy
My friend Dave is literally the only person in the world (including even Alfie Adams’ own friends and family) who has Theon as his favourite character.  This is another case where it could and probably should easily be argued that Theon has more than suffered enough for his misdeeds, yet I dunno, he’s still a gigantic weasel.  If he and Sansa are going to be running buddies next season, I hope it’s a situation like Arya and the Hound, where it’s an uneasy partnership for much of the time and yet once Sansa gets what she wants, she leaves this jackanape dying in a field somewhere.

5. Alliser Thorne
This was more or less “everyone in the Night’s Watch” except I didn’t want to lump Jon Snow’s buddy (I can never remember his name, but it’s the guy who’s also a good fighter, he was with Jon and company at Hardhome, looks kind of like a gerbil) in with the rest of these traitors.  Snow’ death astounded me, since between him dying and Sam/Gilly leaving, the entire Wall storyline is almost totally superfluous.  I love Davos but it would be an odd turn to have him suddenly join the Watch in the wake of Stannis’ defeat.  Is it possible that since now the entire Watch has been essentially set up as villains, they’re going to be summarily dispatched en masse once the White Walkers storm the Wall?  If there’s a way to get Davos, Sam, Gilly, Gerbil Face Guy, Breanne, Podrick and Sansa all out of harm’s way, I say just let the White Walkers take the entire North and clean out some of the other scum. 

4. Littlefinger
For instance, does the Vale count as “the North”?  Of all the rotters on this show, I never say “this fuckin’ guy…” more often than I do when Baelish is on the screen.  Aiden Gillan’s weird performance doesn’t help matters — on a show almost uniformly full of tremendous acting, Gillan’s strangely mannered, stagey line readings don’t stand out for the better.  He sounded way more natural in his fake American accent on ‘The Wire’ than he does trying to smother his native Irish accent under Baelish’s dialect.

3. Melisandre
While she deserves a harsh fate, I do have to laugh at how Melisandre’s entire arc in the season finale was just “ah crap, I was wrong about everything.  Welp, time to run away!”  Her character has always walked a fine line between manipulative and somewhat fraudulent, though it might be an interesting direction to have her be legitimately shocked that her prophecies didn’t come to pass and now she’s doubting her own powers.  Oh well, just as long as she eventually meets a brutal death, since y’know, character development pales in comparison to HAD A DELIGHTFUL CHILD BURNED AT THE STAKE.

2. Roose Bolton
Maybe the worst father in Westeros, which is really really really saying something.  The worst thing about Roose is that he’s both evil and competent.  Unlike Cersei and her children, Ramsey and his impetuousness, Melisandre and her reliance on his magic, Roose doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses that you can point to as a clear hint at his eventual downfall.  This is a guy who openly stated that his strategy was just to hole up in Winterfell and let his enemies freeze to death, and it was a pretty good one.  (Though, “having your enemy kill his daughter and lose half his army, then just swarming them as the approach the city” is also not a bad tactic.)

1. Ramsey Bolton
The.  Worst.  Just kill this guy already in a particularly humiliating and (ironically) torturous fashion and be done with it.  By the way, in case you’re wondering where the Night’s King is on this list….he’s a villain?  As stated, by this point I’m rooting for the White Walkers to just obliterate all the horrible characters up north, so go Night’s King!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Secretariat vs. American Pharoah


If you had a time machine and used it to transport athletes from 1973 into the present day, then dude, that's really a waste of such phenomenal technology.  But anyway, most of 1973's stars would look surprisingly inadequate in modern sports since the human body's limits just continue to evolve year after year.

I say "most," since Secretariat is the exception.  A tremendous machine.  I actually give credit to that horse who hung pretty closely to him for that first half-mile before Secretariat kicked it into overdrive.

Also relevant...


Sunday, June 07, 2015

Mark & Ravi, Chattin' About U2

With the “Innocence & Experience Tour” now well underway, it’s time for the internet’s two biggest U2 conversationalists to once again join forces and discuss the band…

Mark: So, after the initial run of shows, I am quite fired up for seeing them in Toronto next month.

Ravi: Yeah, I’m very impressed so far.  I am pumped I got tickets for end of July.  You never know when Larry is gonna say "fuck it" and ride off in the sunset, so I decided to see this tour. Pumped with the decision.

Mark: Absolutely, it was only a question if I'd see one or multiple concerts.  Though since they're not doing the 'two different shows' gimmick, I feel like I probably didn't need to attend both Toronto concerts.  C'est la vie.

Ravi: First up, what's your thoughts on how the new material is playing?

Mark: Thankfully, almost all of the new songs are playing well in a live format.  The only issue is that aside from Every Breaking Wave, I'm not sure there are any that are real showstoppers

Ravi: Yeah, I think that's right.  I think that's part of the genius of the tour.  If they did an Elevation tour totally stripped down first half, I think the audiences may not have been super thrilled - but by combining them with a "story" and the video, they work well.  If we count "Ordinary Love" as a new tune, I thought that worked well last night and could do well if played on a regular basis in the second half of the show.

Mark: Yeah, in terms of how the setlist flows together, that opening 'half' of the concert is brilliant.  The initial 'punk' set that provides an easy fit for Vertigo and one of the Boy oldies, then you have the newer songs flowing into SBS and the natural segue into Raised By Wolves. 

Ravi: So I don't see them abandoning the new stuff like they had to on 360.  They work really well in the format they've been packaged in.

Mark: It helped that U2 built the tour around the songs and the 'theme,' rather than for 360, they just had a big massive stadium show planned for a pretty introspective and quiet record.

Ravi: My one beef is why not include "The Troubles" to conclude the first half? It is a solid track and falls in line with the sombre mood the first half is supposed to leave the audience with

Mark: It seems like they're having trouble (pardon the pun) finding a good spot for Troubles, and slotting it between RBW and Until The End Of The World is actually a great idea

Ravi: The other night it was in the second half between Beautiful Day and With Or Without You, which makes zero sense to me.

Mark: Your Troubles placement works much better.  They should run with that.

Ravi: Song For Someone works better in the second half, though I realize they put it after Cedarwood Road to convey the idea of Bono at home writing a love song for Ali.  I can see Joey Ramone (clearly made to start a show), SFS, Cedarwood Road, Raised By Wolves, Iris and EBW being permanent fixtures. If they can implement Troubles in a good spot it may get more play, and I suspect Ordinary Love may see more play as it was well received last night.  Volcano/California will likely see occasional play. Frankly, I'd also ditch Invisible and put in something better.  If they do play Crystal Ballroom - where could it fit in?

Mark: Yeah, Invisible is the only one that doesn't quite seem to have a foothold.  You'd think having it kick off a set would be a natural spot, but it's maybe not quite fiery enough played live.  Crystal Ballroom could go at the end of the ' fan with cameraphone' set.  Mysterious Ways then CB is a good match.

Ravi: Invisible is a song which I think is OK at best, but whatever you think of it, it is a rare U2 song that comes off worse live.

Mark: The visual is at least very cool, with Bono 'not visible' behind the video catwalk until the screen opens to reveal him.  That catwalk screen is awesome, btw.  What a brilliant idea.  The Iris/Cedarwood Road combo went from "hmm, not sure if it's a great idea to pair two mid-tempo new songs together" to a major highlight since that's when they reveal the screen.  The walk down Cedarwood Road is an instant U2 concert classic.

Ravi: Very, very smart.  So, what about act 2? Thoughts on the material in the regular rotation/stuff being swapped in and out?

Mark: For Act 2, you have Invisible/EBTTRT/EBW/Bullet/Pride/Beautiful Day/WOWY every night, in some order.  For the other 3-4 songs, seemingly anything goes, which is great

Ravi: Yeah I like how on any given night you could get two more SOI tunes/two Rattle & Hum/two ATYCLB etc.  I must say, as much as Sweetest Thing is a crowd pleaser and great track ... they gotta rehearse that one a little better.  Bono never seems to remember its words

Mark: Switching between the 1987 lyrics, the 1998 lyrics and...well, general Bonoglese.

Ravi: I thought it was quite gutsy doing In God's Country after years with a random fan, and all in all it worked out well.  To be honest, when they take risks like that, I think it really adds something to a show (like in 2011 Chicago when they did One Tree Hill at the end/or in Nashville when they played All I Want Is You with a random fan)

Mark: They're already rotated through an entire second setlist's worth of songs this tour, so more surprises are sure to come.  In fairness, the playing-with-a-fan thing is kind of like the old Springsteen gimmick where he 'takes a request' from a fan's sign but it's generally a song the band has already been rehearsing.  It's not like U2 would've randomly played, like, Red Light or something.

Ravi: Of course, but it's still pretty neat I think.  Actually, before we get on this part
one thing - I dunno how I feel about Bullet the Blue Sky being a fixture. Killer track and I love they have gone back to the original guitar part (more or less) and I get Bono changing the lyrics to "have a conversation with his old self" but ... something about 2015 U2 singing this song just seems odd

Mark: May be a tribute to McGuinness, since it's his favourite song.

Ravi: fair enough.  I am curious though if they'll be unveiling any tracks from the "albums not spoken of" - October, Pop or NLOTH (beyond a snippet)

Mark:  I could see Gloria or even Discotheque pop up in that early Act 2 set.  NLOTH is probably gone for good, except for mayyyyyybe an acoustic Breathe

Ravi: it's funny. As a fan I'd be pissed to hear it at a show, but man it'd show some "we play what we want to play" if they played Boots at a show.  Discotheque I think would be well received - though they may save it for the European leg (where Pop/Popmart was better received).

Mark: I dunno about that perception.  The Toronto crowd went nuts when they randomly busted out DIscotheque on the Vertigo tour.  U2 more or less gave up on the NLOTH songs before the 360 Tour was even over, so I'd be surprised to see any resurface.

Ravi: What about Staring at the Sun (acoustic, of course)?

Mark: This may be because it's my generation, but there seems to be some real love for those mid-late 90's U2 songs.  DIscotheque is a great 'hey, you know what song is actually really good....' hidden gem.  Fans went nuts for HMTMKMKM last tour, and I bet they'd adore a Staring At The Sun revival

Ravi: The real nerds want to hear Acrobat live - not sure if they will do it
I am curious if they'll pull out some "popular but not on the regular rotation since the tour ended" tracks - Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, Wild Honey, Kite, etc.

Mark: You touched on the idea of having each album get a 'night' for songs in the Act II early set.  This would be a cool idea for another multi-concert series in one city.

Night 1: Desire, Angel Of Harlem
Night 2: Stuck, Elevation
Night 3: Mysterious Ways, maybe even Acrobat
Night 4: Staring At The Sun, Discotheque
Then for other nights, pair Sweetest Thing (the random one) with songs like Gloria, Breathe, Stay, In God's Country, etc.

Ravi: Yeah I like that. I'd frankly replace Bullet the Blue SKy with Acrobat - it would interest fans to hear something not played live, and it features some killer guitar by Edge.

Mark: BTBS wasn't a major hit but it's certainly more well-known than Acrobat.  If U2 played that one live, about 15-20% of the crowd would so absolutely insane and the rest would be checking their phones.

Ravi: Maybe - I think it'd be a moment in the show where they'd have to work to win over the audience more than relying on a more established track.  But I can see your ideas coming to fruition in Chicago or even Montreal…they have some time between Denver and Montreal.

Mark: It's not out of the question they finally play Acrobat, but it'd be a one-off or a two-off.  I do enjoy how in this age of social media, hearing Acrobat played live has become a real movement for a lot of U2 fans

Ravi: So what are your thoughts with swapping One/ISHFWILF/occasionally 40 as closers?

Mark: Well, I remember us wondering which SOI song they'd use the concert closer since none seemed like a perfect fit.  Looks like the band sidestepped that problem entirely.  Any of those songs work as a closer...ISHFWILF is interesting since it's new in that role and has some of the same singalong appeal as 40

Ravi: I am happy they realized it's smarter to go with a hit rather than try to force in The Troubles, which doesn't work at all.  It’s better than 360, when the band would be trudging through Moment of Surrender and half the audience was sleeping and the other half was heading for the exits.  Man, I hated that song as a closer (though it was in line with U2 using a new, slow tune to end shows).

Mark: That long a song may not have been a great choice, though I love that track and even thought it was good live.

Ravi: It sounded good and it is a good track but esp in a stadium setting didn't work as a closer, I don't think.  So here comes the biggie - assuming Songs Of Experience comes out during the tour - where in the world does that fit in?  They can't do THREE setlists in a show - and I doubt they tinker with the first half much (if at all).

Mark: Hard to say until we hear the songs.  Could they do three sets of nine songs each?

Ravi: Maybe 8 songs (keeps them at 24 songs/night, which is already a lot).  But I've been wondering what they're going to do - presuming they intend to release SOE at some point during the tour.

Mark: If you end Act 1 on RBW, that's nine songs.  They can drum up a new 'experience' setlist for Act 2 with some of the new tracks and some of the older songs.  Then Act 3 can basically be an extended encore with a bunch of megahits.

Ravi: That makes sense.  The natural time to do that, incorporating rehearsal time would be the European leg.

Mark: Yeah, it could literally be like Zooropa, when they release it between tour legs and then slowly debut new songs as the next leg goes on.

Ravi: Do you see them coming back to NA?

Mark: Oh yeah.  They'll be touring again in 2016.  If the album comes out in January, they could literally run the same type of setlists they're doing now except with the 'experience' songs in place of the SOI tunes.

Ravi: Then they can save the "Ascent" tour for 2017.  I think Experience will be good actually. I have no basis for saying that but I have a good feeling.  The band sounds good, they seem motivated, they're not writing musicals, and they've been slightly humbled by the iTunes reaction (whether they want to admit it publicly or not)

Mark: Three straight years of touring, with six months on/off each year....that's doable.  SOI gives me a great vibe about what the next album will be like.  Writing around a set theme really aided the songwriting, in my view.  (Though 'experience' is broader than 'innocence')

Ravi: I also wonder how SOE will be released ...I think they'll do something different, though not a conventional release either. Fitting that the release Experience will (likely) be different than Innocence

Mark: Interesting that 'innocence' got the totally modern release format and 'experience' will be more conventional.  Vinyl only!  The release date WON'T be announced, they'll just show up in stores!

Ravi: I think the band is focused though - perhaps more so than in a long time. Bono seems to have dialed back his other endeavours, perhaps out of necessity post accident

Mark: The fact that they delivered their fourth-best album (in my opinion) this deep in their careers is a sign they have a lot more great music in the tank.

Ravi: I am certainly excited again by what I've seen by the tour.  They're not phoning it in

Mark: Yeah, it seems like they've taken a bit of the innocence gimmick to heart and are approaching this tour like a young band with something to prove.

Ravi: Yip. Haven't gone into "Full Stones mode" yet.

Mark: I saw the Stones in 2003 and to their credit, they still put on a great show.  But as an ongoing, musically-vibrant entity, they've been over for a while.  (Though I liked their 1997 record, Bridges To Babylon)

Ravi: Great show for sure.

Mark: Did you see this article?  The writer has a clear 'U2 are not relevant and the last album stunk' bias but it also asks the question if a rock band in their 50s can be relevant.

Ravi: I just think U2 never wanted to do another 360 tour again where essentially the entire show was oldies.  I thought the Grantland piece was well done. I may not agree with it all, but to be honest the majority of concert reviews are 100% kiss-ups.  I thought he gave his share of credit to the band, and I respect a piece that isn't a total homage.

Mark: The good news is that I don't think anyone could see an I&E tour show and think "yeah, this band is washed up."  Remember, U2's tours usually start slowly, too....this one already seems off to a peak start

Ravi: Yeah. And I am usually quite critical. Very pleased so far.  Also, to end on something truly kickass, U2 playing ‘The Electric Co’ in 1983

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Charlie Watts

There are a few different versions of the world’s greatest Charlie Watts anecdote, but here’s my favourite.

The legendarily gentlemanly and urbane member of the Rolling Stones is quietly sleeping in his hotel room when he’s suddenly woken up by a phone call in the middle of the night.  Watts picks it up and it’s a drunken Mick Jagger on the other end, yelling “Where’s my drummer?!” like an utter boor, and imploring Watts to come join the party in his room.  Watts hangs up the phone, gets up, showers, shaves, shines his shoes, puts on a suit (Watts is always nattily-dressed) and heads down the hall or up the floor to Jagger’s suite.

He knocks on the door, and when Mick answers, Watts straight-up punches him in the face.  According to the version of the story in Keith Richards’ book, Jagger was so rocked by the punch that he stumbled backwards and almost fell clean out the room window, only saved when Richards grabbed him at the last second.  Watts takes a moment for a dramatic pause and says…”I’m not your f***ing drummer.  You’re my f***ing singer.”  He then proceeds to turn around, go back to his room, get undressed and go back to sleep.

Happy 74th birthday, Charlie Watts.  You are awesome.