Big Country - Fields of Fire
The Alarm - Marching On
The Waterboys - I Will Not Follow
The Dream Syndicate - That’s What You Always Say
Pretenders - My City Was Gone
Big Audio Dynamite - The Bottom Line
World Party - All I Really Want To Do (Dylan cover)
The Pogues - Sally MacLennane
The Dubliners - The Wild Rover
In Tua Nua - Right Road to Heaven
Hothouse Flowers - Hallelujah Jordan
Hoodoo Gurus - Bittersweet
The Mission - A Wing and a Prayer
Lone Justice - Belfry
Lou Reed - Satellite of Love
BB King - The Thrill Is Gone (with Tracy Chapman)
Little Steven - Solidarity
Damian Marley - Road To Zion
PJ Harvey - Beautiful Feeling
Kings of Leon - Slow Night, So Long
Interpol - Evil
Keane - Somewhere Only We Know
Arcade Fire - Wake Up
The Killers - All These Things I’ve Done
Simple Minds - Promised You A Miracle (with KT Tunstall)
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
from my personal archive; originally published on Interference!
On tour throughout this year, with what’s proving to be one of the most craved and desired tickets in rock ‘n’ roll, U2 cannot imagine a disappointed customer. The elegant and earnest combination of catalog-mining dedication and back-to-basics-inspiration that defined the Elevation shows returns without apology.
An inclusive invocation of spirituality and social justice transcends rather than tramples on the integrity of the experience. As Bono illustrated in a recent short interview with NME, the new Vertigo tour comes with the character the best U2 shows have almost always possessed. "At times it was a political rally, at times it was a gospel tent, at times it was a Las Vegas show,” he told the British music magazine.
From the confetti-drenched elation of the people screaming at the opening twinkles of "City of Blinding Lights" to the teary-eyed edification of 20.000 sharing an intimate refrain of the band’s final, prayerful chorus of "40," the Vertigo tour is a triumphant moment of the arena-sized concert succeeding as serious performance art and redemptive rock ‘n’ roll.
As much as the venue and the crowd matter at a concert, the San Jose scene Saturday was lovely, with a warm and enthusiastic crowd. I cannot imagine a more Beautiful Day and night than this to see my first concert on the Vertigo Tour.
Early doubts and questions about Bono’s tired throat chakra or his overall commitment to vocal delivery will hopefully wane. If this seventh show -- two weeks into a tour that might last two years -- has any hallmark quality to make it one memory among many, it’s the frontman’s fierce devotion to wed technical performance with soulful personality, to utter every nuance and transition with the rhetorical loyalty of a radio preacher, to nail every chorus and every verse as if this were the band’s last night on stage.
Dedicated, traveling fans looking for wild and risky set list variation may feel disappointed; at least at this point in the tour, the switch-ups in song selection and sequence have dramatically settled down. The self-professed apostles of stage design may miss the experimental excess of previous projects. Fans for whom the concert experience depends on the band’s compliance with a must-hear list of songs might find fault with the increasingly solid shape the set list on the first leg of Vertigo appears to be taking. For the second San Jose show, of course, the band could launch a whole new set list, stripping this theory entirely. If a fan’s distinction between a good and great show is irretrievably linked to its degree of spontaneity, there may be reason to quarrel with the organic and elegant flow this two hour set has developed.
As preachy as the self-appointed rock prophet can be, Bono’s sermons tonight are shockingly sparse and almost painfully precise. But in his moments of ethereal ebullience and churchy evocation, the "insufferable little Jesus" is actually his most modest. The most elaborate homily came in the lucid build-up to "Miracle Drug." Pontificating about the pontiff, Bono confesses his own "pope complex" while describing his encounters with the hip old patriarch. Since we all know how the deceased father advocated global solidarity with the poor, Bono spends more of this dedication paying tribute to the man’s deep and piercing eyes.
While the white flag represented the unequivocal refusal of all nationalism, Bono’s current litany embraces an almost utopian global unity. While this message remains as moving and motivated as it is carefully choreographed during the Africa encore sequence of "Pride," "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "One," Bono complicates and challenges easy answers during the battle drums and ballistic guitars of "Love and Peace or Else," "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Bullet the Blue Sky."
"Bullet" is perfect example of the post-ideological tightrope Bono dances on. Over the years, this reliable crowd-pleaser has evolved from a vicious critique of US intervention in Central America to a more nuanced statement about the cost of American foreign policy. At times, it’s been about other topics altogether. Often the piece can be read as more about the religious nature of American conflict, with an almost pharmaceutical dose of Jimi Hendrix-esque guitar that reflects a tortured but still-present patriotism. This time, the tune has taken on a whole new aura: the final sequence, once an angry and haunting recitation about a preacher peeling off dollar bills has been transformed into a hymn that includes a somber "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," some of the most wickedly metalesque Edge guitar ever and a few lines from "The Hands That Built America."
Some in the old-school set might miss the younger, brasher Bono’s biting the hands that feed him in deliriously dadaesque defiance of politicians and politics as usual. Especially for those fans with political leanings to the left of John Kerry, the newer, shrewder singer as pragmatic negotiator and power-broker might come off a little lukewarm. But in his current phase of nonpartisan passion, this refusal to pledge allegiance to the left or right actually carves a space for more sustainable moments of meditation. While a favorite point of the band’s harsher critics, these self-conscious contradictions have become an expected facet of Bonoism.
But without fail, from Edge’s howling and moaning rock-god solos to Bono’s exaggerated gestures and Christ-like POW poses to Larry’s pounding, pulsing, puncturing percussion to Adam’s understated ability to keep the sound on the ground even as it soars outer stratospheres, the emotional center of this show remains connected to the riveting heart of all great arena rock.
After "Bullet the Blue Sky," the band reclaims the old-school transition into "Running to Stand Still" which fades into an almost heart-breaking series of Bono’s "hallelujahs." Just when the show looks like it’s turning into a welcome but sober late 1980s revival, the band immediately follows the universal Declaration of Human Rights statement with the fierce and Euro-funky early 1990s trilogy of "Zoo Station," "The Fly" and "Mysterious Ways."
After a long and beautiful dance with an overjoyed fan and without a break, the band leaves its most hedonistic and secular segment of the show for the three songs ("Pride," "Streets," "Oneâ€) that Bono uses to define what he believes is the defining question of our timeâ€”what will this generation do about global AIDS and extreme poverty? While communal text-messaging for the sick and starving at an upscale rock concert can come off as a tad much, even to those most sympathetic, Bono before "One" is his most painfully sincere rhetorical salesmen, asking those in the crowd with cell phones to dial in on behalf of The One Campaign. It’s hard not to believe every word. Even as this one phone call might be the most activist gesture some of these fans ever make, it’s one that might actually save lives.
While those following this tour closely will notice how much this part of the show relies on a rehearsed formula, its musical integrity surpasses the intrinsic shortcomings of the cell-phone gimmick. And this emotional section is only getting us ready for the even more sentimental encore.
Through the late 1990s, the once holy band wandered though the global shopping mall of fashion and sex and flirted with getting jaded and detached through decadent industrial music. But when the band went on tour to places like Sarajevo, Tel Aviv and Mexico City, the hope and sincerity seeped through. And to the emotional pleasure and moral satisfaction of the band’s most devoted fans, U2′s released its most overtly religious album since "The Joshua Tree."
Years ago, Paul McGuinness and other handlers of the band’s image guaranteed that these wide-eyed evangelicals avoided the Christian rock pigeonhole like the plague. Such a worry wouldn’t make sense to this latter day U2. So, from an open stage, the four men all dressed in black close the show in the manner of traveling apostles as they transform a cavernous arena into a cozy revival tent. The final trilogy combines two recent songs with one that’s more than 20 years old. The punk hymn "All Because Of You" prepares the way for an acoustic "Yahweh" and the standard coda of the old school, simply called "40."
Although I’d experienced this enchanting ritual with thousands before on both the Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree tours, the first time I grappled with the sentimental gravity of "40"as a show closer was watching the video from "Under a Blood Red Sky." Around that time (it was probably still 1983) I read an article in Rolling Stone where Bono compared the band to The Beatles and The Who. The cynics saw Bono’s now-trademark pomposity but laughed off the claim.
Today U2 stands alone, having long since left behind its peers in the 1980s new rock revolution. In fitting tribute to those bold ambitious comparisons, Bono channels those whose crown he’s stolen, with delicious snippets of "Blackbird" during "Beautiful Day" and "I Can See for Miles and Miles" at the end of "Electric Co.”
U2 has revived the big music of arena rock from numerous near-death experiences. Perhaps that’s too much for one man, perhaps this is too much for one band, but U2 seems up for the challenge of keeping it real and keeping it human, a fact exemplified again and again by Bono’s accessible and down-to-earth demeanor that can be see when he’s chatting up his fans who gather outside each venue early, hoping to get a glimpse of the band. If the world of pop music is a kind of musical polity, it’s a place where Bono is unashamedly pope, president, and king.
Yet because of U2′s unrelenting loyalty to the fans, and the enduring grace and power of the music itself, it’s a society we’re still willing to pay to be citizens of, if only for one (or, maybe, more) night every four years.
Monday, May 8, 2017
Neil Young - Tonight’s the Night
Jamey Johnson - High Cost Of Living
Gary Allan - It Ain’t The Whiskey
Steve Earle - Oxcontin Blues
Phil Odgers - Sunday Morning Coming Down
Son Volt - The Storm
Ryan Adams - Breakdown
Sturgill Simpson - Keep It Between The Lines
First Aid Kit - My Silver Lining
Joseph Arthur - I Miss The Zoo
John Mayer - Helpless
Buffy Sainte-Marie - Helpless
The King’s Singers - Helplessly Hoping
The Michigan G-Men - Helplessness Blues
Straight No Chaser - Helplessness Blues
Donna The Buffalo - One Day At A Time
David Benton - Came To Believe
Luka Bloom - Bad
Mickey Harte - Running to Stand Still
Ed Sheeran - Save Myself
Can We Hang On? - Cold War Kids
Johnny Cash - Help Me
Corey Harper - Keeping Me Alive
Mondo Cozmo - Shine
Sunday, May 7, 2017
The Joshua Tree must be more than an album. And pondering its impact on me for its 30th birthday, this is more than just another mid-life crisis and exercise in nostalgia. 1987 was such a whirlwind year. 1986 and 1988, too. I graduated high school, started college, dropped out of college. I was finding myself and losing myself.
My first wave (1983-1988) of seriously following U2 would peak when I caught numerous shows that spring season, trekking around on the first leg of the North American tour, from Tempe to Los Angeles, from San Francisco and Detroit. My friendship with Maria McKee and Lone Justice, who would be tapped to open the shows on this tour, helped make this possible for a college student on a budget, as her generosity provided me guestlist tickets to the shows I attended.
The Lenten season had just begun when the album was first released, so the record’s desert Biblical tones seemed more than a perfect fit for the journey we were on. That March, I scrambled to throw together my dream of following the band’s world tour. If people could follow Springsteen or the Dead, then U2 needed that kind of traveling fanbase, too.
At the time, I was living in intentional Christian community in Atlanta, and the idea of running off to catch these shows seemed frivolous, even a decadent privilege, but I was possessed in my gut with that kind of fandom obsession only conjured by rock n roll bands. Within walking distance of where I lived, I could purchase the new tape for less than ten dollars, and I learned all the songs by listening to it on my cassette Walkman with headphones.
The social frame surrounding The Joshua Tree was for me more-than-intense, a fierce urban and rural religious resistance to Reagan-era America. We could feel it from the breathing bricks and overgrown weeds of our lives, manifest in mixtapes of classic rock. I was running from rally to protest, against the KKK or against intervention in Central America or against apartheid in South Africa or against the nuclear arms race. We had a lot to be against. Because of all this passion, I decided my touring with U2 needed a “mission statement,” so I conjured up “Celebration Road” as the nickname for my endeavor. I would pass out fliers at the shows, encouraging fans to get involved in movements for change.
Like the social and political edges, the musical ambiance that influenced The Joshua Tree also influenced me in heady and heavy ways. Like Bono and the gang in their late 20s, during my last days as a teenager, I rediscoverd the deeper cuts in the music of the late 1960s, music that had been on the turntables at my house my whole life. And after being mostly straightedge in high school, I was suddenly discovering the substances that made the 60s sound better. Like Bono has said about himself in the intervening years, I was as much punk as hippy. But so much both, that at times, I had been called hippypunk. For my sensibilities, U2 and R.E.M. of the late 1980s were much more avant-garde in musical and political spirit than their sudden “college rock” surge in popularity might suggest.
As much as I loved learning more Dylan or more Doors, more Beatles or more Hendrix, I could easily fall into rapturous moments with the Minutemen or the Meat Puppets or even hardcore like M.D.C. or Dead Kennedys.
Looking back, this time would be the last season of my youth when I would identify as a follower of Christ, before a two-decade descent into a crazed wilderness of addiction. My belief in Jesus had shaped, inspired, and guided me for so long, that it was hard to imagine life outside church and fellowship communities. My faith filled me with passion, and it shaped the entirety of my life, fueling my commitment to social justice. But the allure of the secular counterculture called loudly. I found myself dancing in the streets, debating in classrooms, and drinking at parties, seeking and craving and experiencing a version of the revolution that wasn’t rooted in a religious context.
Listening then and listening today, The Joshua Tree reaches the status of canon and brings a riveting liturgical experience. This is rock as revelation. The tracklisting is an order-of-service. Strangely, my experience of immersion on the opening leg of the tour would almost completely sate me. These concerts were undoubtedly church, but I would get somehow and somewhere disillusioned by the end of the line, and I was ready for extended visits to other rock-and-roll denominations. Months later, I would get spiritually restless, and some of the theological significance of the album for me would get lost, at least for awhile. Nevertheless, I have returned to this record at various times and places, and it has been rock scripture again and again, unpacking parts of my aching heart in new ways.
I stopped listening to U2 as much when I drifted away from Jesus. Then, when I made a decisive break with the church at 20 years old on Easter 1988, it was to listen to loud voices of hedonism, psychedelic and otherwise. When I returned to U2 in the 2000s, to this album along with all the others, especially All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, U2’s music helped draw me back to the source of my faith, the source of salvation, to Jesus.
U2 has always embodied for me what we today call the intersectional, the deeply connected. For them, the message is musical art as justice, brandishing a chorus or a guitar solo at that crossroads of God and spirituality, at the intersection of romantic love and movements for social change.
The music that a person connects with while growing up is the music that grabs heartstrings and holds you with gravity. To this music you can return, years and years later. My yearning for deep spirituality and romantic love and world peace were the swirling turbulence of the late 1980s, and this album brings those aches a profound amplification. Older versions of ourselves share the same concerns, and we will sing them out loud on this coming tour.
reposted from U2interference.com
Monday, May 1, 2017
Burning Sky - Spirit Within
Douglas Spotted Eagle - Dance
Douglas Spotted Eagle - Dance
Willie Thrasher - Spirit Child
Sugluk - Ajuinarasuasuga
John Trudell - Blessings
John Sinclair - Everything Happens To Me
Malcolm Guite - The Green Man
Jethro Tull - Beltane
Loreena McKennitt - Huron Beltane Fire Dance
Reclaiming - Wake Again
Libana - Kore Chant
Libana - The Earth is Our Mother
Reclaiming - We Are the Flow
Casey Neill - Mayday
Casey Neill - Riffraff
Utah Phillips - “All we want is to create volunary combinations”
Dick Gaughan - The World Upside Down
Pete Seeger - My Rainbow Race
Jackson Browne & Bonnie Raitt - Kisses Sweeter ThanWine
The Weavers - Wimoweh
Rising Appalachia - Medicine
Nahko and Medicine for the People - Love Letters to God
Grateful Dead - The Wheel
Phish - Breath and Burning
Desert Dwellers - Peaceful Om’s
Desert Dwellers - Wandering Sadhu
The Farm Band - Prayer
Scissor Sisters - Return to Oz
Israel Kamakawiwoʻole - Over the Rainbow
Monday, April 24, 2017
Son House - John the Revelator
The Louvin Brothers - Are You Washed In The Blood
Hart Valley Drifters - Standing in the Need of Prayer
Old & In The Way - Angel Band
Grateful Dead - Samson & Delilah
Jerry Garcia Band - Who Was John?
Grateful Dead - Sing Me Back Home
Wilco & Bob Weir - St. Stephen
Bob Dylan - Man Gave Names to All the Animals
Bob Dylan - Saved
Bob Dylan - Property of Jesus
Jerry Garcia Band - Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Grateful Dead - Greatest Story Ever Told
Jesse McReynolds - Franklin’s Tower
David Crosby - I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here
David Crosby - Tamalpais High
John Fogerty & My Morning Jacket - Long As I Can See The Light
Divine Hair - The Flesh Failures
Monday, April 17, 2017
Alison Krauss “Down To The River To Pray”
The Alison Krauss version of the traditional medicinal now iconic, this song is an invitation to the holy waters of baptism, best done when we get clean in the dirty waters of a local creek. This song signifies what I call the ‘O Brother’ effect when the Coen brothers 2000 film turned all our hearts to the deep American river of Appalachian roots music and religion, the comedy and mythos of the movie notwithstanding. This is our ‘invocation’ and ‘call’ to study the intersection of popular music and religion in the United States.
Madonna “Ray of Light”
An exuberant singalong dance number that brings this 1980s star into the next century, this song reminds that we all know the light means something spiritual. In the live version performed at Live 8 in 2005, Madonna and her entire backing ensemble are all wearing white, like the robed sinners on their way to baptism in the movie scene where I first discovered the previous track. Madonna much like Marvin Gaye has done much to entice Americans to explore difficult tangles at the place where the sexual and spiritual, the ethereal and erotic meet, but most of all, this track is pure pop gospel as evidenced in the lyric: “She's got herself a little piece of heaven/Waiting for the time when earth shall be as one/And I feel like I just got home.” Even the performer’s stage name demands we reckon with the divine feminine and the divine within.
Norman Greenbaum “Spirit in the Sky”
Did your hippy grandparents get saved listening to this swirling psychedelic 1969 pop rock-meets-gospel-revival that would become the Jesus People? Some might be surprised that this big hit is brought to us by an observant Jew who was raised in an orthodox household. Greenbaum’s grooves would later be matched by the Doobie Brothers on “Jesus is Just Alright” for radio-friendly hints of the gospel amid the sensations of secular hope and hedonism that defined the 60s and 70s sounds.
Queen Latifah “Oh Happy Day”
The Queen is holding court as this dynamic actress, R&B singer, and MC renders this Easter classic a truly bodily resurrection, supercharging the track with the smoky charisma of her supernatural sensual side.
Stevie Wonder “Jesus Children of America”
Generally placed in the Motown tradition, Stevie Wonder is a genre all his own. The musical genius is responsible for every sound on this song’s sonic funkfest of holy fusion: lead vocal, background vocal, Fender Rhodes, Hohner clavinet, handclaps, tambourine, handclapping, drums, Moog bass. Wonder’s lyrics connect compassionate mother Mary with transcendental meditation or the junky’s obsession with Christ’s sacrifice for salvation. Released in 1973, this track captures the old school churchy aspects of the Jesus revival in conversation with the drugs and New Age ideals mingling in the air.
For my interfaith hip hop set, we go on a whirlwind tour including Christian (Lecrae), Muslim (Rakim), and Jewish (Matisyahu) rappers, along with MC Yogi, who is the feel-good, interfaith yoga MC. He had a rough life transformed by Yoga practice. Chance lays such dynamic and divine-dense head-flipping, knowledge-sipping goodness, it shows why hip-hop is the perfect medium for laypersons turned MC preacher-philosophers.
Chance The Rapper - How Great
Rakim - Holy Are You
Lecrae - It Is What It Is
MC Yogi - Namaste
Matisyahu - King Without A Crown
For our first kirtan set, we turn to Krishna Das, a leader in the genre, and the kirtan Rabbi chanting the traditional Jewish “shema,” meaning: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Kirtan is a call-and-response musical chant genre, with repetitive vocals and instruments like harmonium, the veena or ektara (forms of string instruments), the tabla (one-sided drums), the mrdanga or pakhawaj (two-sided drum), flute (forms of woodwind instruments), and karatalas or talas (cymbals). Kirtan gets categorized as a New Age musical genre and attracts people on blended paths. It’s current forms are recent developments but roots are in Yoga, Hinduism, and Krishna Consciousness. Celtic Christian and Jewish kirtan are emerging. I really like the description provided by Nashville kirtan artist Amy Barnes on her website here: http://amybarnesyoga.com/kirtan/
Kirtan Rabbi - Shema
Krishna Das - Hara Hara Mahaadeva
Paul Simon - Spirit Voices
Originally a superstar with Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon has delivered quite the electrifying career as a solo artist. A line from this track -- “Some stories are magical, meant to be sung” -- could be a defining line for this whole playlist and foray into interfaith musical mecca. Back when Simon’s stunning Graceland first came out with the great help of African musicians such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, I was first introduced to the concept of “cultural appropriation,” or, inappropriate borrowing from marginalized cultures by dominant cultures in offensive, and at times, profiteering ways. Although there are truly exploitative and egregious manifestations of this, the idea itself is a recent invention, and the attempt to “copyright” a musical idea or fashion expression as the exclusive property of an ethnic or religious group has problematic aspects as well. Point being: be sensitive, give credit, and don’t be a total jerk by stealing another culture’s or someone else’s idea or by morally condemning those who do share in truly communal and collaborative ways.
Aaron Neville - Gotta Serve Somebody
Taking the most influential and inspiring track at the top of Bob Dylan’s “born-again Jesus phase,” Aaron Neville gives the track a remarkable treatment as New Orleans gospel. The lyrics to this song describe a defining moment in any spiritual seeker’s life, when the existential rubber meets the road of cosmic reality, and the seeker must decide who is God and who is not.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Come By Here
When I think about the intersection of the blues and gospel, I think about Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She fuses these genres with her deep throaty singing and acid-rock worthy axe-slinging. There’s a version of “Up Above My Head” on YouTube that is Jimi Hendrix backed by a choir, except the Sister is Hendrix, and the lead singer in the choir. Although many of you know this track as “Kum Ba Yah,” this iteration makes as much sense for our ears. I have taken it upon myself to chair the defense of “Kum Ba Yah” against all the cynical cliches armed against it. This version has its own version of the lyrics that speak to the heart and Sister’s guitar, which speaks to the rest of the body.
Mahalia Jackson - This might be the most genuine black gospel track in the whole mix, and it is fitting because it is Mahalia’s version of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” that initiated my true love for black gospel many years ago. As you may or may not know, Jackson is depicted singing this song to Martin Luther King over the phone during the movie Selma. She also sang this song at MLK’s memorial in 1968. Sometimes when this song plays, tears are not optional.
There’s an actual John Coltrane church in San Francisco, and I have been there. The song “Love Supreme” is legendary in jazz, and in the liner notes, it testifies to God and spiritual awakening, to Coltrane’s overcoming of heroin and alcohol addiction. Alice Coltrane is John Coltrane’s widow, who after his death, studied under Swami Satchidinanda and Sathya Sai Baba. She established an ashram and pioneered the Kirtan chant genre, coupled with cosmic free jazz.
John Coltrane - A Love Supreme, Pt. 1
Alice Coltrane - Om Shanti
Marion Williams - Hare Krishna
Continuing the collision of gospel, jazz, and Kirtan, the great Marion Williams does her version of “Hare Krishna” from a 1971 record of peace and love streetcorner gospel.
Rev. Yolanda - Interfaith is Just Alright
Rev. Yolanda is a gospel-kirtan trans-performer who holds church in a bar in New York. Yolanda’s riffing on the Doobie Brothers classic “Jesus Is Just Alright” is a glorious celebration of peace and dialogue for persons of all faiths and no faiths. You just cannot help but sing along to this cosmic love song and learn from it. It should be an interfaith anthem, but it is an interspiritual hymn. Its theological claim of “sameness” may be too much to transcend the particularities of some faith practitioners.
Amy Barnes - Shiva Gospel
From a gospel singer doing kirtan, we conclude with a kirtan singer doing gospel. When we are in the zone of interfaith and musical jams, that’s just how we roll.