Local Rhythms – What Money Buys You Then and Now

Picture 9“Is it sick to love a web site?”

I read that comment while sampling the live music gems on Wolfgang’s Vault – everything from a pristine recording of Maybelle Carter in 1963 to full-length videos of modern bands like Plain White T’s and Fleet Foxes.

This week, Wolfgang’s released vintage shows from John Lennon and George Harrison, along with a 2001 Ringo Starr set.

Paul McCartney’s 1990 Washington, D.C. appearance is already on the site; all four Beatles are now represented.

I saw George’s tour when it came to San Francisco in 1974.  Let’s just say that listening to it again tempers my nostalgia.

The Seventies were a golden decade.  I bought concert tickets with a week’s allowance, and was privileged to witness many classic rock staples in their prime.

But  some of those greats weren’t exactly accommodating, often acting like they didn’t owe fans much more than simply showing up.

Due to a pre-tour illness and a primitive sound system, Harrison’s voice was a ragged mess, but that wasn’t the biggest problem.

George rolled into town determined to do what he pleased.  More than a third of the show was sitar music, and he flogged his new album relentlessly.  When he deigned to play Beatles songs he changed the words, even rearranging John Lennon’s “In My Life” as a Hare Krishna anthem.

Speaking of which, Lennon sounded almost bitter introducing “Come Together,” the only Beatles song from what would sadly be his last full-length show in 1972.  “We’ll go back in the past just once,” sneered John, who relied on “Sometime In New York City,” a record no one bought then or remembers now, for most of the night’s music.

Though Paul McCartney did much the same, Wings was easier to take. But it’s interesting that as the years wore on, and tickets got more expensive, Paul seemed more concerned about keeping the customer satisfied.

Now, the ratio of hits to self-indulgence is reversed.

AC/DC has a new album, but you won’t hear much of it on their current tour, nor will Billy Joel trot out a piano concerto when he duets with Elton John.

Bob Dylan put it well in a recent interview.

Classic rockers “started out anti-establishment, now they are in charge of the world,” Dylan said when asked about “trading on nostalgia.”

“They made perfect records, so they have to play them perfectly,” he continued. “Exactly the way people remember them.”

The sound systems are better, too.  OK, on to the here and now:

Thursday: Three Girls and Their Buddy, Green @ Shelburne Museum – Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin and Emmylou Harris, who’ve shared many a stage and studio together, are joined  by Americana exemplar Buddy Miller.  These collaborations can be both exhilarating and frustrating, particularly if you’re a bigger fan of one musician over another (Patty Griffin – guilty as charged).

Friday: Jamie Ward, Sophie & Zeke’s – A New York piano player slash actor is joined by Nate Thompson (New Kind of Blue) for a night of standards like “Paper Moon” mixed with contemporary music from Tom Waits and Elvis Costello.  Tomorrow night, the downtown Claremont restaurant has a three-band dance party, topped by Boston’s McMahon Brothers.

Saturday:  O-Tones, WRJ American Legion – A fundraiser for the Ethiopia-based Selamta Family Project in Addis Ababa, which addresses the devastation of the AIDS pandemic, poverty and despair through support of families and communities.  The O-Tones play swing, funk and Motown.  Also on hand are DJ Spin Doctor, with John & Sandra Tomeny offering dance lessons.

Sunday: Bad Dadds, Salt Hill Pub – A special 6 PM Sunday performance by this playful area cover band to raise money and awareness for the new Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon.   Benefits like these are the only time the Pub, which will soon celebrate its sixth birthday, asks for a cover charge – $8.00.  They’ll also donate 15 percent of all sales after 5 to the library fund.

Tuesday: Singer & Jordan, Tip Top Café – Phil Singer and Laurianne Jordan just posted 10 original songs on their web site, www.smallflame.com.  The “Company of Friends” album is lighthearted, old-timey and optimistic.  The barking dogs in the background are a nice touch too.  But with an enterprise subtitled “Songs of Peace, Love and Fried Dough,” it’s to be expected.

Wednesday: Vince Gill, Lowell Memorial Auditorium – Though most of the world knows him as a crooner, I consider Gill to be the world’s most underrated guitarist.  Mark Knopfler asked him to join Dire Straits – he declined, “Someone like Vince puts you in your place if you think you’re hot stuff,” Knopfler said at the time.  “He writes, sings on all the best records in Nashville …  plays guitar like a god, of course, and then can do it on a mandolin or something else!”

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