Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Arts + Culture Music All Ears: 9 classic concerts to cue when you're...

All Ears: 9 classic concerts to cue when you’re missing the stage

From Beyoncé to Curtis Mayfield, feast on these shows when the wait for IRL shows to be a thing again is just too much.

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In June, Outside Lands canceled its 2020 edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the festival has released details on its new Inside Lands virtual festival, set to take place August 28 and 29 on Twitch. The free celebration will include archival sets, live performances, and interviews, with featured artists including LCD Soundsystem, Gorillaz, J. Cole, Jack White, Sharon Van Etten, Kehlani, and more.

The festival is already planning its 2021 live return and the line-up looks pretty sweet

But we all miss live music like Drake misses that “Hotline Bling.”

You know what it is.

That feeling of, you have no idea what’s gonna happen on stage, and will be worth this dude behind you, kneeing the shit outta the back of your shin?

What we wouldn’t give to be around copious numbers of really excited humans taking part in a communal gathering! If, it were only safe. All the things we considered nuisances seven months ago are now golden, cherished memories.

We feel the ache, and so we are providing a list of, not necessarily the best live records ever, but musical moments that put you in the middle of hot chaos. Performances that evolve, becoming enjoyable despite some fool bumping that $20 cocktail all over your new ‘fit.

Let’s go.

BeyoncĂ©’s Homecoming

Bey set a new standard that Coachella and the world were not ready for.

Possibly, she came harder than Prince doing “Creep.” She was supposed to headline the taste-making festival in 2017 in support of Lemonade, but postponed after announcing she was pregnant. Her performance, a year behind schedule, killed it.

On April 14, 2018, with her Beychella Marching Band—an all-Black orchestra she created specifically for the show—Beyonce went in. There are too many points of excellence to stress. I’ll focus on three.

After the welcoming, she opens with “Crazy In Love,” featuring a mid-song twist, dropping the song to a half-time groove. Houston’s own flavor of being “chopped and screwed”.

Ridiculous.

Later on, Homecoming provides two Black national anthems; “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” sung acapella, and a studio version of the Frankie Beverly and Maze’s backyard BBQ staple “Before I Let Go” with elements of Cameo’s “Candy” interspersed. Perfection.

Khruangbin

I’m guilty of liking this band too much. But damn, they came outta nowhere with some odd combo flexes and have since kept it interesting. Quick recap; Khruangbin formed after guitarist Mark Speer and bassist Laura Lee found and developed an appreciation for Thai pop music by scouring the music blog Monrakplengthai. Enlisting the expertise of drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson came next. Johnson is a well-respected member of the Houston music scene for his work with Z-Ro, Paul Wall, Mac Miller, Slim Thug, and Chamillionaire. The group’s 2015 debut The Universe Smiles Upon You established a new template for what world music could sound like.

As diverse as all their album have been—so diverse that you can hear their joints bumping under several beer commercials, because bands gotta eat during COVID too—their live show is just as frisky and fun.

In this hip-hop medley (some Sade too, fam) they burn through through the set. Damn, I miss the uncertainty of live shows.

Aretha Live at Fillmore West

Aretha Franklin played a Fender Rhodes piano on four cuts, including “Eleanor Rigby,” “Spirit in the Dark,” “Don’t Play That Song,” and “Dr. Feelgood.” Backing Franklin was King Curtis’ band, the Kingpins, featuring Cornell Dupree on guitar, Bernard Purdie on drums, and Jerry Jemmott on bass, Billy Preston on organ, Curtis on saxophone, together with the Memphis Horns. But that wasn’t enough. This quintessential San Francisco concert from 1971 hit the climax when Aretha calls for Ray Charles to sit in on “Spirit In The Dark.”

Listen, folks, I don’t even have the words to explain. This record was a staple of my parents growing up.

When you watch and hear Aretha and Ray at their zenith powers, you may start to understand.

Broun Fellinis at Empress Theater

In the early 1990s, Broun Fellinis personified the best of San Francisco’s thriving acid jazz scene. At clubs like Bruno’s and Cafe Du Nord, this trio wielded the densest assortment of jazz that flowed through all the genres of the moment: hip-hop, drum ‘n’ bass, dub, funk, Afrobeat, and whatever else was trending at the moment.

This trio covers all ground.

Founded by drummer Kevin Carnes, saxophonist David Boyce, and bassist Ayman Mobarak (who was replaced in 1994 by Kirk Peterson), Broun Fellinis brought international attention to the Bay. I remember going to one of their shows at Great American Music Hall in the late ’90s and the Fellini’s were opening for Medeski, Martin, and Wood. John Medeski stayed focused on Boyce for the entirety of the opening set, and as fate would have it, the crowd started leaving when MMW began to play. THAT is the Broun Fellinis. Here is a taste.

Seablite at Rickshaw Stop 

One of our favorite San Francisco bands, Seablite had a show taped and recorded before COVID shut down in March. This four-piece dream-pop quartet has all the jangle, fuzz, reverb, and right amount of twee to keep you feeling elevated the entire night. It’s this type of show from a local band that you can’t replicate.

It’s been said before and I shall repeat … “Seablite is the shit.” Bounce along and enjoy in your living room.

Girlfriend Is Better/Talking Heads

This performance was outlined in the forward to Remain In Love, Chris Franz’s account of his and his wife Tina Weymouth’s early days in the Talking Heads. Tom Tom Club, the critical and commercial off-shoot band he and Tina created, performed “Wordy Rappinghood” and “Genius of Love” live on Soul Train—a fantasy come true for the couple—on a December morning in Hollywood. Then, they rushed over to the Pantages Theater to shoot Stop Making Sense with Jonathan Demme in the afternoon with David Byrne and the rest of The Talking Heads. The expanded line-up included Parliament Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell and Brothers Johnson guitarist Alex Weir, among others. It’s Worrell’s psychedelic squelches from the keyboard, distilling sheets of funk-weird goodness, that elevate the alien comfort of David Byrnes’ big suit.

Joy Division at Les Bains Douches

It’s easy to get caught up on how much of a presence Ian Curtis is—and he was—that you forget to focus on the band that would be New Order someday. This live album and “Shadowplay,” recorded just before Ian Curtis died in 1979, gives up the nasty ripping bits and makes you wonder if Joy Division would have been a presence well into the ’80s if Curtis had stuck around with that dark, cold, banging sound. “Shadowplay” delivers the facts. Granted, they were tuning up for their first tour in the US, but they were not suffering any fools either.

Jealous Guy/Donny Hathaway

Donny Hathaway’s Live somehow falls through the cracks. That makes no sense—it’s tremendous, track to track. You put it on, get your feel-good person of choice, and just vibe. Yes, the cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is a stealing moment where Hathaway transforms this political statement into a grooved standout piece. Maybe it’s the bandleader in him. I’ve always been transfixed and dumbfounded on how he stole John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” and made it his own personal moment, full of begging and pleading and barroom piano playing. It’s a full mood and again a bandleader and musician scooping yet another historic songwriter and cooking on the fly. Thank you, Mr. Hathaway.

Curtis Mayfield at Bitter End Club

At New York’s Bitter End Club in 1971, Curtis Mayfield unleashed his amalgam of spiritual bedrock with funk-bomb arrangements for his first album Curtis/Live!, pushing the uplift message to move your ass first. “Move On Up,” was a nine-minute workout with church sincerity and a directness that could push any dance floor, in any era, into pure chaos. It’s so sweet and catchy, you just let the horns, guitar, and strings put your brain on auto-pilot. The feet will do what they do.

John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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