Florence and the Machine, Halo
Ever thought you'd read a comparison of Beyonce and Leonard Cohen? Well, buckle up. The similarity exists since both Beyonce and Cohen's songs unerringly sound better when covered by other artists. Have you ever actually heard Cohen's original "Hallelujah"? It's boring as hell. I made the mistake of throwing it on the air unheard during my college radio days since I figured hey, Hallelujah, why not. Let's just say that Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, John Cale, k.d. lang, etc. all made that song what it is, not Cohen himself. The same is true for Beyonce --- Antony & the Johnsons rose to fame on their cover of 'Crazy In Love,' Reba McEntire is having a mild comeback with her awesome version of 'If I Was A Boy,' and now there's this take on Halo by Florence + The Machine (which is actually just Florence Welch and a rotating series of side musicians). Florence gets the repost here since she's my latest musical obsession; picked up 'Lungs' a couple of months ago and have been listening to it ever since. The only downside is that the image chosen for this YouTube video is about the uglier picture you could've taken of poor Florence. I wouldn't call her attractive per se, but...remember the 'Two-Face' girl on Seinfeld who looked good or bad depending on the lighting? I'll take the Batman villain analogy a step further and say that Florence is a Clayface. These women don't just look good or bad in different lights, but rather completely different every time you see them. Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads is another well-known musical example of this phenomenon. Florence Welch could walk into my house right now and I wouldn't recognize her. But still, whatever she looks like, trust me, she has to look a damn sight better than that YouTube picture.
James Dean Bradfield, An English Gentleman
Hey, remember the Manic Street Preachers? Late-90's, early-2000's English rock/pop group? Made a middling impact on this side of the pond? Well, they're still around, but their lead singer (JDB) has also stepped out for a couple of solo records. This is one of his solo singles.
"Mark, you do realize that this might be your most obscure Hot Live Music entry yet, right?"
U2, A Celebration
'A Celebration' is kind of an oddity in U2's catalogue. It was actually released as a single in 1982 between the October and War albums (kind of as a 'hey, keep us in mind' single) but it didn't actually appear on an actual official U2 recording until the remastered version of October came out a couple of years ago. Why the long delay? For one, U2 aren't big fans of the song. The Edge is on record as saying that he's forgotten how to play it, which is part of the reason the band hasn't done a live cut of the song in, oh, almost 30 years or so. U2 may not like it, but I love it. 'A Celebration' ranked absurdly high on my Top 100 U2 songs list and even though I'd put that list through a big revision if written today, this track would still be a top-twenty entry. Also, everything about this live performance is hysterical. Bono's Rod Stewart outfit, the completely rhythmless dancing of the studio audience, and, in the perfect marriage between these two things, Bono inviting a girl in overalls up on stage. She's up there for, like, five seconds, too. Presumably it took that long for Bono to think, 'Oh yikes, she looked better from ten feet away.'
Mark Knopfler, Romeo and Juliet
That U2 video got me in a "Hey, remember the 80's?' mood, so here's a recent live version of 'Romeo & Juliet,' arguably the best song by one of the more underrated 80's bands, Dire Straits. Fun fact: at its peak, Dire Straits' record "Brothers In Arms" was owned by one in every five UK households. Also, Knopfler (who was the lead singer and songwriter of the Straits, I should note) wrote Tina Turner's big hit "Private Dancer" after he didn't think it would work well as performed by the Straits on their own album 'Love Over Gold.' Now, these two anecdotes are kind of pointless because 'Romeo & Juliet' appeared on neither of those cited albums but....uh, yeah. You know it's a good song when you have a line like "When we made love you used to cry" and nobody even thinks twice about laughing.
Like the Florence track, this one is an entry from the BBC Live Lounge program. It's obviously another cover though, since we all know the real Gorillaz are 2D, Russel, Murdoch and Noodle. They must've not been able to make it into studio that day.
U2, North Star
Oh that's right, another U2 entry! On their current tour, U2 have been taking the unusual (for them) tack of playing unreleased songs in an effort to test them in front of a live audience to see if they're album-worthy. Based on the quality of this version of 'North Star,' this one's good to go. Here's hoping it stays in the set long enough for me to hear it in Toronto next summer. Also, if U2 wouldn't mind releasing that next album between now and July, that would be appreciated. Nuts to this 4-5 year gap between records.