zondag 29 december 2013

The Ten Best Concerts of 2013 - John Cale

By Jim Fusilli Brooklyn, New York, January 16: John Cale pulled together a fantastic array of singers and musicians for “Life Along the Borderline: A Tribute to Nico,” a celebration of his former colleague held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Jonathan Donahue, Greg Dulli, Stephin Merritt and Joan Wasser, who was especially brilliant, were among the artists who explored songs from Nico’s “The Marble Index,” a 1969 album on which Cale played most instruments. Paris, February 6: After spending the day with expatriate musicians from Mali chased from home by the threat of Al Qaeda-associated terrorists who banned music in the country’s north, by coincidence I came upon a concert at L’Olympia by the exquisite Malian vocalist and composer Salif Keita. He performed with charm and ease for an integrated audience – by age, by race, by ethnicity and religious affiliation. With the politics of terror as subtext, the percolating, elegant music was triumphant; late in the program, when Keita made reference to the routing of the terrorists by French and Malian troops – “Like all Malians, we are celebrating our liberation” – he was confirming what was already apparent. Austin, Texas, March 13: South by Southwest is an impossible bazaar of too much music and not enough time. But one set can make the week, and on a little stage on sticky afternoon I caught a great one by Darwin Deez, a band that mixes tricky rock, funk and corny show biz into their act. Led by Darwin Smith, a crafty guitarist, the music seemed the product of an inspired scatterbrain, turning in new directions without warning, as evidenced on their ’13 disk “Songs for Imaginative People.” Indio, California, April 14: At the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Little Green Cars, a rock sextet from Dublin, offered an exhilarating early afternoon set in which their four-part vocal harmonies were as tight as they are on their ’13 debut album “Absolute Zero.” On a stage that hosted later more experienced artists Hanni El-Khatib, Thee Oh Sees, OMD and Father John Misty, Little Green Cars more than held their own. Richmond, Virginia, May 17: The No BS Brass Band doesn’t hide their love for Richmond – “RVA All Day” was one of two disks they released in ’13 – and Richmond doesn’t conceal its joy when the 11-piece band lets loose, as it did on this night at Balliceaux, a restaurant that has a space for music. With the venue packed wall-to-wall, the crowd bounced and cheered as the group’s funky, jazzy, hip-hoppy take on the New Orleans brass band tradition rattled the room. New York, August 11: On a broiling day in Central Park, Hiatus Kaiyote, a quartet from Melbourne, Australia, opened for José James and the legendary Shuggie Otis. As if to declare their music free of boundaries, they started off with some post-bop noodling before delving into their debut disk “Tawk Tomahawk.” During the course of their set, which felt too brief by its end, they touched upon neo-soul, electric jazz, flamenco and electronica; opera singer Ashley Grier joined the band for one tune. In all, it was a startling performance. Nashville, September 19: In 2012, I saw John Fullbright perform a quiet, appropriate-for-the-venue set at a restaurant in Dallas. I guess I assumed he was always thus, but at the Americana Music Association’s awards program at the Ryman Auditorium, he was absolutely fierce in the one song he was granted. On the following night at the Cannery Ballroom, he was ferocious again, with his voice and guitar biting just right in a powerful presentation of rock and country that redefines his vast potential. New York, October 9: What more do you have to say after “Paul McCartney and his band performed at a high-school assembly”? Add this: He was great, mixing classic Beatles and Wings tunes with songs from “New,” his very fine ’13 release. McCartney remained onstage for 90 minutes at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens; amiable and unpretentious, he answered students’ questions, addressing them by name after they were introduced. In the audience: Tony Bennett, the school’s benefactor. New York, October 18: From Glasgow, Scotland, Casual Sex performed at Arlene’s Grocery what was likely, at 20 minutes, the CMJ Music Marathon’s shortest set. They were terrific as they discharged six songs with twangy fury as well as technical competency. Turns out the quartet was held for hours at JFK Airport by the Department of Homeland Security, and their equipment failed arrived in time. On borrowed gear, they impressed without revealing the obstacles they’d faced. Asheville, North Carolina, October 25: Neutral Milk Hotel never quite grabbed me as it did their passionate followers prior to their dissolution in 1998, and I attended the show at the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit to include them in a roundup about reuniting ‘90s bands. But the reclusive Jeff Mangum and the group were phenomenal, exceeding by far any reasonable expectation. Somehow blending brass, banjo, bagpipes and a musical saw with more traditional rock instruments, they romped and wobbled through their knotty catalogue. For their devoted fans in attention, the show was a dream come true. For me, it was the best concert I saw in 2013. Jim Fusilli is the Journal’s rock and pop music critic. Email him at jfusilli@wsj.com or follow him on Twitter @wsjrock.

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