Steve’s Musical Highlights of 2009
My Five And A Bit Musical Highlights of 2009
5. This Tornado Loves You - Neko Case
I always think Neko Case sounds like a small piece of carry-on luggage you might find for sale in Muji.
Oh, what a charming fool I am. Ms Case is of course the flame-haired alt-country siren and sometime vocalist with The New Pornographers.
This, the opening track from her fifth album Middle Cyclone, sees Neko as a destructive tornado rampaging across the States in search of some missing beau.
4. Leeds United - Amanda Palmer
On February 1st, as The Steve Show limped towards it’s unmourned end, we played host to a live session from Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls.
Amanda is a wild, wonderful presence, full of the same energy and eccentricity that infuses her solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer.
One of the highlights of the album is the song Leeds United, which she bashed out live on a keyboard in the studio and dazzled us all with her fiery performance.
On the album version, Amanda’s voice is frazzled by a long day in the recording studio, which injects a wild, ravaged passion to a song that feels like it’s lifted from some great gothic cabaret.
It’s on constant rotation round my way. Tremendous.
3b. Say Please - Monsters of Folk
Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, Jim James from My Morning Jacket and sing/songwriter M. Ward have formed Monsters of Folk, an alt-country super-group with a terrible name but some cracking tunes, including this rollicking indie/folk/rock/pop nugget.
3a. Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear
My mate was like, “You should listen to Grizzly Bear’s new album” and I was like, “No, it’s not my thing” and he’s like, “No, I reckon it is” and I was like, “Yeah?” and he was like, “Yeah, totally” and I listened to it and I was like, “Yeah, it’s good, nice one” and he’s like, “Yeah, no problem”
2. The Breeze/My Baby Cries - Bill Callahan
As former listeners of The Steve Show will know, Tiny Dan believes we should all adore mindless pseudo-jazz electro-twaddle, Harry gets off on shouty American men and who knows what the heck Sammy is listening to in any given week.
They are all idiots, which is the reason I fired them all and quit the show.
The truth is there is nothing more affecting than a talented person, their voice, a guitar or piano, some quality lyrics and, if needs absolutely must, one or two session men. That’s why Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks and Neil Young’s On The Beach are two albums I carry on my person at all times.
Sadly, in our age of retro 80s synths and R n B loudmouths, it’s increasingly hard to wheedle out the raw beauty of a talented singer/songwriter.
My vampiric bloodlust for fresh singer/songwriter meat is rarely sated, so imagine how thrilled I was to stumble across Loving Takes This Course: A Tribute to the Songs of Kath Bloom.
Kath Bloom was a folkie with many admirers but no great commercial success who retreated to Conneticut to raise kids sometime in the 1980s.
The seductive, six-minute stand-out track from this recent tribute album is by Smog main-man Bill Callahan.
Over simple guitar, keyboard and low-key percussion, Bill’s whispering growl of a voice and Bloom’s heartfelt lyrics hypnotise me on every listen. “I’d like to touch you, but I’ve forgotten how…And said I didn’t need you, but look at me now…”.
I promise it will melt even the coldest of hearts. (Harry, that means you)
Start the video at 1.25, ignore someone falling over out of shot at 2.43…
1. Because The Night – Bruce Springsteen Live At Glastonbury, 2009.
I nearly missed Bruce Springsteen at Glastonbury.
The plan was simple : race down to the festival Saturday morning, worship The Boss when he headlined the main stage that night, then crash-out in a tent for a few hours and drive home again the next day.
I woke up Saturday morning as excited as an orphan on Christmas Day when he knows Noel Edmonds is on his way round with a camera crew and a trip to Legoland in his back pocket.
I leapt in the car – and the bastard wouldn’t start. It just spluttered and choked and did nothing. Bastard.
I began a frantic dash around local car-hire shops to find a replacement, all the while sweating at the thought of poor Bruce saying “Good evening Glass-ton-bury” and not seeing my beaming face staring back at him. How would he get through the show?
Finally I paid some crazy price for a tiny car my 6’7” frame could barely squeeze into, picked up a pal en route and drove south like a demon (a demon who obeyed all speed regulations, naturally).
I made it to Glasto mere hours before Bruce and the E Street Band took to the stage but I couldn’t relax as I needed to pitch the tent before darkness fell. From bitter past experience I knew you don’t want to be erecting a tent in the dark at Glastonbury.
My friend had promised to pack his tent but he’d let me down. Luckily I’d had a distant memory of a tent that I had bought years ago for a previous festival but never used.
I had found it, unopened, in the back of a cupboard and thrown in the car. Now, as the sun began to set, I unfurled the tent and out fell ground sheets and metal poles and rubber hoops – and everyone around me started laughing.
Apparently, tents have changed a lot since I last slept under canvas. Now they are all bendy and pop-up. Mine looked like a proper old school Carry On Camping tent minus bubbly Babs Windsor and her poorly fastened bikini top.
“Nick that off some Brownies?” chortled a passer-by.
“Fuck off!” I said, brilliantly.
As more pointing and laughing rippled around the field, I slipped off into the night and tramped my way over to the main stage.
The Boss divided opinion. He played an uncompromising set, which was a thrill for die-hard fans but probably featured too few sing-a-long hits to convert all the heathens.
Some of the strangers around me seemed suitably impressed by Bruce’s unparalleled showmanship; others said they found his hard-working rock ‘n’ roll schtick corny, which I didn’t understand.
Oh well. I wasn’t going to defend the man.
For me it was an electrifying performance.
At one point, the cool night air hit Bruce’s over-heating body and he began to steam. Actual steam rose up from him. Backlit by the stage lights he looked like some glorious rock ‘n’ roll demon/angel and for believers like myself he seemed even more Messianic than usual.
There is nothing quite like Saturday night in front of the main stage at Glasto.
That vast, seemingly never-ending sea of expectant faces, the homemade signs, the setting sun, the overpriced beer — it’s joyful.
And as I finished hollering along to the chorus of Because The Night I remember actually shouting “This is the greatest night of my life.”
And I believed it.
But it wasn’t the greatest night of my life because I had to sleep in a tent that was 25 years old. With people constantly unzipping the flaps and peering in and saying, “Look, I told you, it’s that bloke off the telly. He’s nicked this off some Girl Guides”, and then swaying off into the night to tell more drugged up knuckle-heads where they could laugh at me.
But as their jeers and taunts spoiled my sleep I thought back to Bruce’s performance :
“They can’t hurt you now / can’t hurt you now / Because the night belongs to lovers…”
And everything was okay.
MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL…
If you liked this, then you may like these too