Voice of an Angel December 14, 2011Posted by Matt in Christmas.
Tags: Christmas, school program, solo
I was not born with much in the way of music talent.
I can’t carry a tune to save my life and have never had the motivation to become proficient with an instrument.
Luckily, that inability doesn’t run in the family.
I’ve long known that our oldest daughter, Rachel, did have a naturally endowed knack for music. Going all the back to her toddler years, she has had a wonderful voice and an innate ability to sing in tune and on key. But, though I’ve known this, I had never really heard her let loose with her instrument, to truly put her heart and soul into a singing performance.
Then I saw her last night.
We had known for some time that her music teacher had chosen her for a solo part, the character of “Heather Holiday,” in the 4th grade Christmas program, but she was always reticent to sing her piece in front of me. That being the case, I must admit to being a bit concerned, wondering if she was proctrastinating (which she has been known to do) and not doing what she should, but I didn’t push very hard, just asking her in a half-joking manner if she would sing for me. She would just smile shyly and decline.
Yesterday evening we filed into the school gym and found seats among the bleachers, facing the holiday decorated set below us. My mom had driven over for the show from Arkansas and soon after the program started Mother Clelie, our curate at church, joined us as well.
Rachel was resplendent and beautiful, dressed in a homemade Christmas dress and wearing a tiara, looking much older and more mature than her nine years. The program progressed as most school programs do, with group songs and speaking parts, all of which centered around a story dealing with the holiday season. Then, about 2/3 of the way through the show, the big moment arrived. Rachel stepped to the microphone, poised and confident, took and deep breath and began to sing.
All of a sudden the clouds parted and the gate to heaven itself was opened, the voice of an angel filling the cavernous gymnasium. With mouth open wide and tears streaming down my face, I tried to hold my iPhone steady and capture these beautiful two minutes.
Needless to say, I am a proud dad.
Free Music Friday: The Gaslight Anthem June 18, 2010Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: acoustic, American Slang, solo, The Gaslight Anthem, video
Two years ago I raved about The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ’59 Sound” album and I have to say that I love their latest release, “American Slang,” nearly as much as that great one. They continue in their young-Springsteen-fronting-The Clash style of their last album, with songs about the lives of regular people as told with a hard-charging, punk guitar. If you’ve never heard them before, you really need to check them out. This is a solo acoustic version of the title song from their latest release. Enjoy.
When Eddie Vedder Came to Town June 22, 2009Posted by Matt in concerts.
Tags: Eddie Vedder, Into the Wild, Liam Finn, Memphis, Pearl Jam, setlist, solo, transcendent music, West Memphis 3
Pearl Jam, and by extension Eddie Vedder, has been an integral part of my life for nearly two decades. They were a part of my personal soundtrack as I came of age in the early-mid 90’s, their angst-ridden songs resonating loudly in my adolescent mind. Over the years my taste in music has matured and PJ has been accompanying me along the path, walking beside me like a good friend. The baby boomers had Dylan, the younger boomers/older generation X had Springsteen, and the rest of us thirty-somethings under the moniker of generation X have Eddie Vedder. His is a generation-defining voice, a passionate declaration against injustice and corporate greed and corruption, that has thankfully burrowed its way into our very being and we are all better for it.
I had seen PJ twice before, once back in 1993 on the Vs. tour and again in 2000 supporting Binaural, and I had been wishing for several years to see them again, so it was with great excitement that I was able to purchase tickets to Eddie Vedder’s solo show that took place Saturday night. The short, 18-date tour was partly in support of Vedder’s solo work on 2007’s Into the Wild soundtrack and partly to give the hordes of rabid fans a chance to see the man himself in an intimate, more personal setting, one that was truly about the songs rather than the spectacle of a rock concert. Saturday’s event took place in Memphis’ Orpheum Theater, a place that, at first glance, does not seem well-suited for a concert with its chandeliers and pillars and multiple balconies, but, for an event like this, it worked perfectly and even Vedder took a moment to remark about how beautiful the venue was.
The opening act of the night was the duo of Liam Finn and Eliza Jane Barnes, whom I was completely unfamiliar with. Perhaps if I had been prepared for what to expect the experimental set would have made more sense to me and I probably would have even enjoyed it. Finn took turns going back and forth between his loudly distorted guitar and a drum set, occasionally setting one on a loop that he recorded live while playing the other. Barnes swayed around, singing backup and playing the tambourine and occasionally, for some odd reason, holding drumsticks. Though he was obviously talented, the overall strangeness of the songs, which often consisted of him either pounding madly and noisily on one instrument or the other, made them the butt of our jokes for the night. So, every once in a while I would quietly call out, “Time for another random drum solo!” But overall it was fine, just, ummm…, unexpected.
Soon Vedder hit the stage to echoing applause from the excited audience. He walked onto the stage, bowed, sat on a stool and motioned for everyone in the crowd to sit as well, saying something to the effect of, “I’m sitting down for this so you should too.” Then, after picking up one of the acoustic guitars propped behind him, he began the show with what seems to be his standard solo opener, a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Walking the Cow.” Following that, a verse of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” led into Pearl Jam’s “Sometimes,” the opening cut from their underappreciated No Code. The main set consisted of several older PJ songs, including a very unique version of “Better Man” on a ukulele, five consecutive numbers from the Into the Wild soundtrack, and a few more interesting covers, including James Taylor’s “Millworker,” the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” and Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door.” In addition to those, he also played a fantastic cover of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” saying that it was from Johnny Ramone’s request. I remember seeing the band do that song in a really cool punk rock style back in 2000 and it was nice to hear it again from Vedder. The first set ended with “Porch,” a tune from PJ’s classic debut album Ten. Once the tune ended, Vedder exited the stage, but we all knew the evening was far from over.
After a short break, Vedder emerged to the roaring delight of the crowd. Taking his seat and picking up a guitar, he launched into John Doe’s “The Golden State,” another song with which I was not too familiar. Finn and Barnes then joined him for the next two memorable numbers, “Society” from Into the Wild and a cover of Hunters & Collectors’ “Throw Your Arms Around Me.”
A show with Eddie Vedder would not be complete without an appeal from him regarding issues of politics or justice in the world, and this was no different. Pearl Jam have long been supporters of the three young men who were imprisoned as teenagers for the horrific 1993 murders of three young children in the West Memphis area. There have been questions surrounding the police investigation of the incident ever since it occurred, but, despite that, the accused remain in jail to this day, one of them on death row. Vedder spoke of this for some time, saying that he would be visiting death row inmate Damian Echols the next day, before dedicating “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” to the incarcerated. An incredible cover of Dylan’s “Forever Young,” which he also dedicated to somebody that I don’t remember, came next and the set ended with a strange, haunting rendition of “Arc,” as done acappella using the recording device that Finn had employed earlier. Vedder recorded layer after layer of meditative sounds, placing them one on top of the other and building a veritable wall of wordless vocals. It was a transcendental sort of moment in which he seemed to be exorcising some personal demon right before our eyes. After building to a crescendo, the mass of vocals began to diminish before finally ending before the stunned crowd in utter silence and he again left the stage.
The ravenous crowd continued in their adjurations for more and soon Vedder again emerged from the back, bowing and taking his seat before us for two final songs. The first was an unfamiliar one entitled “Pullin’ Into Santa Cruz,” but it seemed to fit a nice, comfortable fireside sort of vibe. The night’s closer was another cut from Into the Wild, “Hard Sun,” a tune that was written to be a big sing-a-long and the crowd didn’t disappoint at all in that aspect. Soon we were all singing out the chorus, “There’s a big / a big hard sun / beating on the big people / in the big hard world,” and all was right with the world. Eddie Vedder had deftly grasped up in his hand and carried us to this higher plane, one above the rest of the population, and it was good.
Having seen the band twice before and heard very few spoken words from the mouth of Vedder, I was a bit surprised to hear just how often and how easily he spoke to us in the crowd. It was as if we were merely having a conversation with one another. He told a story about his 3 year old daughter who was around while he was recording the movie soundtrack and how she became fixated on the fact that there was a bear in the story. He spoke of how she would constantly ask questions about the bear – was he a big bear? A small bear? A nice bear? A mean bear? – and I just laughed knowingly because I understood. It was really great to hear him in this intimate setting for it felt as though he were just a normal person chatting about family and life events and telling jokes and just generally having a good time. It was an amazing experience and one that has me ready for the next PJ tour. Come on, we’ve got a nice arena ready for you in Memphis!
Below is the complete setlist from the show:
Walking the Cow (Daniel Johnston cover)
Brain Damage tease (Pink Floyd)
Sometimes (No Code)
Last Kiss (Lost Dogs)
Better Man (Vitalogy)
Millworker (James Taylor cover)
No Ceiling (Into the Wild)
Far Behind (Into the Wild)
Guaranteed (Into the Wild)
Rise (Into the Wild)
Drifting (Lost Dogs)
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (Beatles cover, I Am Sam soundtrack)
Can’t Help Falling in Love (Elvis cover)
Let My Love Open the Door (Pete Townshend cover)
The Golden State (John Doe cover)
Society (Into the Wild)
Throw Your Arms Around Me (Hunters & Collectors cover)
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town (Vs.)
Forever Young (Bob Dylan cover)
Arc (Riot Act)
Pullin’ Into Santa Cruz
Hard Sun (Into the Wild)
Free Music Friday – Eddie Vedder June 19, 2009Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: Eddie Vedder, live, solo, video
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I’ve been a big fan of Pearl Jam ever since I first heard them some 17-18 years ago (really!? It’s been that long!?) and I’ve had the chance to catch them twice in concert over the years – in ’93 on the Vs. tour and again in ’01 in support of Binaural – and I’ve been itching to see them again for years. So, it was with a great deal of excitement that I picked up tickets a few months ago for an Eddie Vedder solo show set to take place tomorrow night here in Memphis. We are one of only 18 solo shows that are scheduled for 2009, so this is a rare opportunity and one that I could not pass up.
His setlist from the June 11 show in Upper Darby, PA looked great:
Walking the Cow
Around the Bend
I Am Mine
Man of the Hour
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
The Kids are Alright
Throw Your Arms Around Me
And here is a bit of what we can expect tomorrow…this is going to be awesome.