Monday, September 12, 2005

Smithereens, Katrina concerts keep me listening

I think I heard so much music over the weekend, my eardrums are buzzing!

It started Friday night, Sept. 9th. There was a long night at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. After listening to two opening bands (one was awful, bad, ughh!), the Smithereens finally came on well after 10 p.m. - I think it was actually around 10:30 or something. But the good news is they rocked so hard and so effectively, I forgot how tired I was.

They performed all their classic cuts, including "Blood and Roses," "Behind the Wall of Sleep," "Only a Memory," etc. Although their bassist Mike Mesaros was not there (his wife just had a baby and he was busy being dad), the fill-in guy was good and the show was loose and indicitive of the magic the ultimate bar band delivers everytime I see them.

Pat DiNizio remains a strong singer, while lead guitarist Jim Babjak smiles as he plays distinctive licks and Dennis Diken still plays with fury when the song ("Room Without a View" notably) demands. A great show.

On Saturday, I caught up and watched the tape of the hour-long "Shelter from the Storm" concert broadcast on Friday, as well as the four-hour benefit videocast by Vh1 and MTV. The highlights were in short supply. Neil Young was great both days, performing material off his forthcoming "Prairie Wind" CD. On Saturday he performed the beautiful "When God Made Me," a song that songs like it could have been penned another time. Especially the way he played it at the piano, with the beautiful but sparse backing efforts of a choir.

On Saturday, he was joined by Emmylou Harris and sang "This Old Guitar," a simple but authentic-sounding country western song. Can't wait to hear this CD when it's released later this month.

Also turning in solid entries were the Foo Fighters, with the flannel shirt-attired Dave Grohl leading the quartet through CCR's "Born on the Bayou," and Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood teaming up for CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain?"

The important thing about the Hurricane Katrina efforts is obviously helping get people to donate and help out. But I'm just nitpicking about the music here. Mary J. Blige ruined U2's version of "One." I repeat, she ruined it. She has a vast range and big voice, but her voice was not up to the emotional challenge of singing the song.

At the Sunday event, leaders included U2 powering through "Love and Peace or Else," while Trent Reznor - in a hushed performance featuring him alone at his piano - brought chills with an emotive "Hurt." Pearl Jam ("Given to Fly") and Coldplay ("Fix You") also played well in support of the Gulf Coast suffering.

My thoughts were also with the survivors of 9/11 and their loved ones. Where have the four years gone, and have we forgotten?

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