Thursday, April 28, 2005


Blue Girl in a Red State commented in my Joe Jackson/Todd Rundgren post from a couple days ago, asking how the gig went.

Well, I liked it better than Dave McKenna at The Washington Post did, I can tell you that.

Strange that McKenna should make note of how the crowd "confused" Joe when, during "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" he sang, "Look over there!" and we yelled "Where?" True, he did stop and giggle, but I've heard at least four live versions of that song, and the crowd always yells "Where?" -- it's on the original record fercryinoutloud. It's tradition.

At any rate, this show would have been much, much better in a smaller venue. Joe Jackson at a solo piano is (believe it or not) a very warm and charming performer, and the intimacy a solo performance needs was a bit lost in the cavernous Warner Thea-taaaaaah. Also, I sorely missed the Joe Jackson Band, which is a fierce, fierce, fierce little rock band, rivaling and even surpassing The Attractions at their sharpest. Joe's rendering of "Awkward Age" and "Take It Like a Man" were terribly underpowered without Graham Maby.

For an experienced perfor-maaaah, Todd Rundgren was strangely unable to calibrate his act to a solo setting. He basically oversold himself, I think. A man standing alone on a large stage playing an acoustic guitar is not a particularly absorbing thing to watch (unless you're Bob Dylan in 1963), and I think he felt he needed to compensate by oversinging, mugging, reaching for notes he couldn't hit on even his best day, and generally trying too hard. Pity. His ukelele rendering of "Bang the Drum All Day" did amuse, with a modified verse:
And I get my sticks and go out to the shed
And I pound on that drum like it was John Bolton's head!
The opener, Ethel, a string quartet in the mold of The Kronos Quartet, was utterly wonderful, and the fact that the Warner Thea-taaaaah has a policy of allowing latecomers -- some as much as 40 minutes late! -- to be seated during their perfomance made me want to strangle somebody. Add to that the yacketing and guffawing emanating from the bar in the lobby and you have one cranky occupant of Seat 17-S. Those tickets weren't cheap, dig?

(One other note: I just hate the sound made by an acoustic guitar with a piezo pickup that's plugged directly into amplification. It sounds the way plastic tastes, like prechewed polystyrene. Go grab a big mouthful of bubble-wrap, and that's the way a plugged-in acoustic sounds to me. I understand you risk less feedback that way, and you can apply effects to the signal, but Jesus. Ick. Like being trapped in Guitar Hell with 200 of those horrible plastic Ovations all playing at once. Bleah.)


ade said...

Re: your description of D.I. piezo-electro-acoustic guitars; I once encountered a chap who described his Fender Precision bass as "like playing with a big wedge of cheese in your mouth, y'know..." (at which point he opened his mouth and jutted out his jaw).
This is the same guy who freaked out because he hallucinated that 50 foot high pink Hedgehogs were crossing the Fens to attack his remote Fenland farmer's cottage.

XTCfan said...

>Like being trapped in Guitar Hell with 200 of those horrible plastic Ovations all playing at once.<

And being played by earnest, bearded, spectacled men using New Standard Tuning and desperately trying to be like Robert Fripp.

blue girl said...

That is strange that McKenna wasn't anticipating the "where" himself! (Must be a young child.) I yelled it just reading your post! Odd those two would be in a large venue these days. That's half the fun now going to see the "old guys." -- To see them in an intimate setting. Regarding yackers -- a few years back we went to see Neil Young (I had to drag my husband kicking and screaming, although he turned into a fan because of it) -- anyway, in the middle of an acoustic Sugar Mountain, no less -- two women -- FRONT ROW CENTER were gabbing. Neil Young stops, and lectures them! Can you imagine getting yelled at by Neil Young? He did give them a pick at the end of the show. Believe me, they had stayed quiet for the remainder. Anyway. Thanks for the update!

Anonymous said...

Graham Maby is a bass god! Not only with Joe Jackson, but some very tasty stuff with Marshall Crenshaw as well.

Ed Drone said...

Acoustic guitar pickups have improved a lot since the early piezo variety. I have a TruSound in my Running Dog jumbo (, and it uses the piezo for the main source, and internal mics for the sweetening.

I like it a lot, though I have to admit to playing into a mic instead of using the internal system most of the time. Then again, I'm not usually playing gigs larger than a schoolroom (NEFFA, NOMAD and similar folky festivals where the performers aren't being paid).

Anyway, I agree on the horrendousness of piezo pickups, and of Ovation guitars in particular (even unplugged).

Ed Drone