Thursday, March 27, 2008

Live Music Showcase III (a.k.a. 10 Cent Freeze Pops tribute)

The Clash, Train in Vain --- Somewhere in New Jersey, 1979

Does it sap my musical street cred if I admit that this is by far my favourite Clash song? I mean, I like most of their other work, but Train in Vain is probably in my top 20 all-time. It feels like I should like some Sandanista b-side that's been played live twice in order to keep my card on the Musical Snob Tour. You don't even want to know what qualifying school is like for that; it's six days of listening to nothing but Charlatans outtakes.

U2, PopMuzik/Mofo/I Will Follow --- Madison, Wisconsin

The cliche about never getting a second chance to make a first impression has never been truer with U2's Pop album. The band's first press event announcing the album was held at a K-Mart, which was an in-joke about commercialism that went over as well as an SNL skit in the Gilbert Gottfried season. The first video from the album (this was back in the era when videos were a big deal) was the legendarily horrible Discotheque video, which made people think U2 had turned into some weird electro-trance unit. The rest of the album's videos were some of the band's best --- If God Will Send His Angels had a particularly interesting video clip --- but nobody could get the image of U2 dressed as the Village People burned out of their minds. Then, the first few shows of the under-rehearsed PopMart Tour were shaky at best, thus causing fans to think U2 had lost their live touch as well, in spite of the fact that the rest of the tour went along smashingly. All in all, the album is looked upon as a valley by both the band and by fans in spite of the fact that it's actually a very solid piece of work. I'm biased since I became a U2 fan in 1997 and thus Pop was my 'first' U2 album, and since it was what got me hooked on the band, naturally I think it's better than advertised.

Anyway, this is a fantastic version of the heavily underrated song Mofo from PopMart. I've got to be honest, this is my second choice for a live version of the track. I was originally searching for an unbelievably sick rendition of Mofo from the European MTV Video Awards, but YouTube appears to have removed it. On the bright side, this video captures a bit of the concert experience, particularly the very cool opening featuring U2 walking in to the remixed version of M's "PopMuzik" like they're fighters approaching the ring or something. I should note, Bono isn't a Klansman --- the handicam's shaky colour makes his yellow robe look white.

Joel Plaskett, Nowhere With You --- Port Hawksbury, Nova Scotia

I saw Plaskett perform a show in Toronto last summer, and it was good stuff. This is probably his best-known song due to its inclusion in a series of Zellers ads. This is an anecdote that amuses only me, but to this day I can't walk past a Zellers without uttering "Hello, Zellers!" in the manner of pro wrestler Val Venis after a short-lived ad campaign featuring ol' Val in the late 90's. I like this entry because my non-Canadian readers (all four of them!) have no idea who or what the hell Plaskett, Zellers or maybe even Val Venis this is. I presume this will be the break that Plaskett needs to become the biggest Canadian star under the border since Lacey from Corner Gas guest-starred in that episode of Frasier. She's on-screen for a whole minute with Kelsey Grammer, it's magical.

Eddie Vedder, No Surrender --- East Rutherford, New Jersey

I was deciding between a Pearl Jam live cut or a Bruce Springsteen live cut, but then I came across this gem and figured hey, why not split the difference? Reason #843 why Eddie Vedder is fuckin' awesome: he's one of the best coverers of songs out there. He's taken a wide assortment of songs and made them uniquely his own. Rocking in the Free World, Leaving Here, Last Kiss, Soldier of Love, Baba O'Riley...the list goes on and on. I would be first in line to buy an all-cover album from Pearl Jam.

Talking Heads, Psycho Killer --- 1978, The Old Grey Whistle Test

No surprise: a Talking Heads song on one of my live music lists. Surprise: it's not from Stop Making Sense, but rather from one of the band's first TV appearances. There's actually a great version of Psycho Killer on Stop Making Sense as well (it's just David Byrne and a pre-recorded backing track), but this song benefits more from having the full band kicking it. They all look like members of the chess club and the performance is tight as hell. Arguably Tina Weymouth's best bassline. Is it just me, or does Byrne really look like Christian Bale in this clip?

Tragically Hip, Fireworks --- Vancouver, British Columbia

Fireworks is my favourite Hip song, and perhaps not coincidentially, is one of their most beloved live tracks. Wait, the coincidence isn't in my liking it --- it's not like Hip audiences have a hive mind like the Borg and said, "Oh, if Mark likes it, then it must be one of our favourites too!" I'm confused. Is there a better lyricist anywhere than Gord Downie? I would seriously consider him in the discussion of greatest lyricists ever.

Cheap Trick, The Flame --- Budokan, Japan

It was actually hard to find a decent live version of this track since Robin Zander's voice has altered over the years and thus decreased his range. One of the few 80's power ballads that has actually held up over the year. This is one of those 'official' live versions that over the years becomes the version that is always played on the radio, not unlike Cheap Trick's I Want You To Want Me or, oh, every hit Peter Frampton ever had.

Oasis, Acquiesce --- Gurten Festival, Switzerland

This version also has Liam changing the lyrics to 'when the women blow' and then making a blowjob motion with his hands. Move over Alec Guinness -- Liam Gallagher is genuine class. It is incomprehensible that Oasis never released this song on an official studio album.

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