Concert Review: Eric Clapton
September 20, 2006
The United Center
Chicago, IL

The Cream of Clapton, Live

Eric Clapton, one of the godfathers of blues and rock guitar, played a near flawless show covering his early and latter days Wednesday night to a semi full United Center. While some people might coin the British rock prodigy the Cadillac of guitar of players, they are lying. If such a comparison must be made Clapton is the 50s era fire-red Maserati coupe of axe players. He is the kind of legend whose talent and career are unprecedented. While some of his recent solo endeavors have been mediocre at best, his slow and successful turn towards more straight blues proves that Clapton is still one of those rare musical gems of yesternow.

Dressed casually in jeans and a pink Oxford and sporting his legendary black Fender Stratocaster, ‘Slowhand’ Clapton and his band took the simply lit/decorated stage opening with the always classic, “Pretending,” from Clapton’s 1989 solo release, Journeyman. The blues rock anthem was followed by the faithful blue infused rendition of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff,” followed by the B-side, “Got To Get Better In A Little While” from Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos days. The first three tunes, melded together without pause, were perfect precursors for a night of songs covering Clapton’s entire cannon, from his early Cream days to his long blues jams. No rock was left unturned at the lively arena.

The opening trio was followed by a smooth 15-minute slow blues jam of, “Old Love” (also from Journeyman), which featured guest guitarist/song’s co-writer and long time Clapton collaborator, Robert Cray, whose band also opened the show. The song, which proved to be one of the main highlights of the night, featured beautiful two virtuosic guitar solos from Clapton and Cray.

Other highlights from the first half of the show included “Motherless Child” (a song improved when played live) from the 1994 record, From the Cradle. Half way through the show the band performed a four-song sit down acoustic set, featuring wonderful versions of the blues standard, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” and Clapton’s “Running on Faith.”

The latter half of the performance showcased some of Clapton’s best-known anthems, including the rendition of “After Midnight” from Clapton’s first solo release, the sappy but always simple and moving, “Wonderful Tonight,” the psychedelic “Cocaine,” and the Derek and the Dominos era version of “Layla,” which along with Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing,” remains to this day one of the finest guitar rock pieces ever recorded.

The band played one stirring encore of the blues standard “Crossroads,” another of Clapton’s timeless classics. The version again featured brilliant vocal and guitar styling from Robert Cray, who sang the first two verses and joined Clapton on the last.

While Clapton has aged since his early days with The Yardbirds and Cream (he is quickly making his way to 70), his voice and sound has not deteriorated like so many musicians of the past who fade away. Rather Clapton has found a very unique style and sound that shows career maturity. His band, featuring two young guitar virtuosos, Derek Trucks (kin to Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks) and Doyle Bramhall II, respectively, add a perfect blend of country rock and blues slide guitar work to Clapton’s own crisp axe chops.

With a new album, The Road to Escondido, slated for a November release, and probable future solo and collaboration tours with blues legend J.J. Cale, it is clear that Clapton is not retiring anytime soon. Still, for anyone interested in rock and blues music he is one of those must see artists who truly is one of rock music’s best-kept legends.

Concert Review: Eric Clapton

Concert Review: Eric Clapton
September 20, 2006
The United Center
Chicago, IL

The Cream of Clapton, Live

Eric Clapton, one of the godfathers of blues and rock guitar, played a near flawless show covering his early and latter days Wednesday night to a semi full United Center. While some people might coin the British rock prodigy the Cadillac of guitar of players, they are lying. If such a comparison must be made Clapton is the 50s era fire-red Maserati coupe of axe players. He is the kind of legend whose talent and career are unprecedented. While some of his recent solo endeavors have been mediocre at best, his slow and successful turn towards more straight blues proves that Clapton is still one of those rare musical gems of yesternow.

Dressed casually in jeans and a pink Oxford and sporting his legendary black Fender Stratocaster, ‘Slowhand’ Clapton and his band took the simply lit/decorated stage opening with the always classic, “Pretending,” from Clapton’s 1989 solo release, Journeyman. The blues rock anthem was followed by the faithful blue infused rendition of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff,” followed by the B-side, “Got To Get Better In A Little While” from Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos days. The first three tunes, melded together without pause, were perfect precursors for a night of songs covering Clapton’s entire cannon, from his early Cream days to his long blues jams. No rock was left unturned at the lively arena.

The opening trio was followed by a smooth 15-minute slow blues jam of, “Old Love” (also from Journeyman), which featured guest guitarist/song’s co-writer and long time Clapton collaborator, Robert Cray, whose band also opened the show. The song, which proved to be one of the main highlights of the night, featured beautiful two virtuosic guitar solos from Clapton and Cray.

Other highlights from the first half of the show included “Motherless Child” (a song improved when played live) from the 1994 record, From the Cradle. Half way through the show the band performed a four-song sit down acoustic set, featuring wonderful versions of the blues standard, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” and Clapton’s “Running on Faith.”

The latter half of the performance showcased some of Clapton’s best-known anthems, including the rendition of “After Midnight” from Clapton’s first solo release, the sappy but always simple and moving, “Wonderful Tonight,” the psychedelic “Cocaine,” and the Derek and the Dominos era version of “Layla,” which along with Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing,” remains to this day one of the finest guitar rock pieces ever recorded.

The band played one stirring encore of the blues standard “Crossroads,” another of Clapton’s timeless classics. The version again featured brilliant vocal and guitar styling from Robert Cray, who sang the first two verses and joined Clapton on the last.

While Clapton has aged since his early days with The Yardbirds and Cream (he is quickly making his way to 70), his voice and sound has not deteriorated like so many musicians of the past who fade away. Rather Clapton has found a very unique style and sound that shows career maturity. His band, featuring two young guitar virtuosos, Derek Trucks (kin to Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks) and Doyle Bramhall II, respectively, add a perfect blend of country rock and blues slide guitar work to Clapton’s own crisp axe chops.

With a new album, The Road to Escondido, slated for a November release, and probable future solo and collaboration tours with blues legend J.J. Cale, it is clear that Clapton is not retiring anytime soon. Still, for anyone interested in rock and blues music he is one of those must see artists who truly is one of rock music’s best-kept legends.

Film Review:
Half Nelson—R
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie
Directed by: Ryan Fleck

Half Nelson, Full Drama

“Half Nelson” may be one of the hardest and depressing films you will see this year but it is also one of the finest. It features some of the best performances of the season, specifically that of Ryan Gosling (“The Notebook”) and his 17-year-old counterpart, newcomer Shareeka Epps. During the early part of the fall film season where film releases have been disappointing at best, “Half Nelson” is refreshing reminder that low budget independent filmmaking still has the ability to best its Hollywood counterparts.
“Nelson” tells the story of Dan Dunne (Gosling), a 20 something inner-city middle school social studies teacher who yearns to make a difference in his confined world. During his days he lectures his fairly attentive students about dialectics, history’s constant shifts and the corruptions and social politics of governments including the U.S. After school he coaches the girl’s basketball team, a team that as he tells a parent, “just can’t quite get the ball in the net.” Outside of the one place where he actually feels good about himself, however, Dunne is a train-wreck of a man.
His nasty addiction to crack cocaine prevents him from completing a children’s book he clearly has been talking about for quite some time. He is unable to maintain a steady relationship, lives in a ratty apartment, hangs out in seedy bars and on a regular basis self-loathes himself to sleep only to wake up for a new day of classes.
We are never given any indication to how he reached his current state of mental and physical health and in many ways we don’t need a back-story. Dunne is a good man trapped in the body of someone seriously ill. During the day he comes alive in front of the chalkboard, getting as much out of his difficult class as he can. During the night he roams the streets and bars with the mind set of someone lost in the world.
In one scene a parent of an old pupil confronts him at a dive bar as he is slouched over a glass of whiskey. The man tells Dunne about his daughter who is in her second year at Georgetown studying history while he struggles to put a name to a face. If only someone had told Dunne earlier that his work was in fact making a difference.
After an unfortunate and embarrassing moment with one of his students and team member, Drey (a wonderful Shareeka Epps), Dunne begins to form an unlikely friendship with the eager student who has had her share of hardship as well. Dunne gives Drey rides home, teaches her about the troubling sides of history and begins to warn her of a local drug dealer named Frank who is eager to employ Drey. Dunne is the last person to warn someone about drugs but still feels the need to help this one student; fueled by the idea that is he can help just one person his life will have meaning.
Epps and Gosling’s on-screen chemistry is perfect and is very reminiscent of Robert Deniro and Jodie Foster’s friendship in “Taxi Driver,” a film that in many ways shares similar themes to “Half Nelson.” Both films examine the darker sides of society and the need for change.
Gosling is one of those rare young actors who has done his share of teen romance dramas and comedies but has proven that he is capable of moving outside this typecast. The Canadian born actor devours Dunne’s character down to the finest details. The constant wiping of his drug induced sweat from his face as he teaches his students, the thick Brooklyn accent, his street mannerisms and above all his somber eyes, which at times speak more than his words or actions, are all examples of an actor’s masterful style that goes beyond mere method acting.
“Half Nelson” is not an easy film to watch as it leaves the viewer uncomfortable and unsure of whether it’s okay to sympathize with Dunne’s character. It is, however, an honest look at the struggles with depression, tackling the truth, discovering one’s place in the world and above all drug addiction. Add to this stunning cinematography, a moving score and wonderful supporting roles and you get a little film that sets out to say a lot about society and the human psyche and ultimately succeeds.

Film Review: Half Nelson

Film Review:
Half Nelson—R
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie
Directed by: Ryan Fleck

Half Nelson, Full Drama

“Half Nelson” may be one of the hardest and depressing films you will see this year but it is also one of the finest. It features some of the best performances of the season, specifically that of Ryan Gosling (“The Notebook”) and his 17-year-old counterpart, newcomer Shareeka Epps. During the early part of the fall film season where film releases have been disappointing at best, “Half Nelson” is refreshing reminder that low budget independent filmmaking still has the ability to best its Hollywood counterparts.
“Nelson” tells the story of Dan Dunne (Gosling), a 20 something inner-city middle school social studies teacher who yearns to make a difference in his confined world. During his days he lectures his fairly attentive students about dialectics, history’s constant shifts and the corruptions and social politics of governments including the U.S. After school he coaches the girl’s basketball team, a team that as he tells a parent, “just can’t quite get the ball in the net.” Outside of the one place where he actually feels good about himself, however, Dunne is a train-wreck of a man.
His nasty addiction to crack cocaine prevents him from completing a children’s book he clearly has been talking about for quite some time. He is unable to maintain a steady relationship, lives in a ratty apartment, hangs out in seedy bars and on a regular basis self-loathes himself to sleep only to wake up for a new day of classes.
We are never given any indication to how he reached his current state of mental and physical health and in many ways we don’t need a back-story. Dunne is a good man trapped in the body of someone seriously ill. During the day he comes alive in front of the chalkboard, getting as much out of his difficult class as he can. During the night he roams the streets and bars with the mind set of someone lost in the world.
In one scene a parent of an old pupil confronts him at a dive bar as he is slouched over a glass of whiskey. The man tells Dunne about his daughter who is in her second year at Georgetown studying history while he struggles to put a name to a face. If only someone had told Dunne earlier that his work was in fact making a difference.
After an unfortunate and embarrassing moment with one of his students and team member, Drey (a wonderful Shareeka Epps), Dunne begins to form an unlikely friendship with the eager student who has had her share of hardship as well. Dunne gives Drey rides home, teaches her about the troubling sides of history and begins to warn her of a local drug dealer named Frank who is eager to employ Drey. Dunne is the last person to warn someone about drugs but still feels the need to help this one student; fueled by the idea that is he can help just one person his life will have meaning.
Epps and Gosling’s on-screen chemistry is perfect and is very reminiscent of Robert Deniro and Jodie Foster’s friendship in “Taxi Driver,” a film that in many ways shares similar themes to “Half Nelson.” Both films examine the darker sides of society and the need for change.
Gosling is one of those rare young actors who has done his share of teen romance dramas and comedies but has proven that he is capable of moving outside this typecast. The Canadian born actor devours Dunne’s character down to the finest details. The constant wiping of his drug induced sweat from his face as he teaches his students, the thick Brooklyn accent, his street mannerisms and above all his somber eyes, which at times speak more than his words or actions, are all examples of an actor’s masterful style that goes beyond mere method acting.
“Half Nelson” is not an easy film to watch as it leaves the viewer uncomfortable and unsure of whether it’s okay to sympathize with Dunne’s character. It is, however, an honest look at the struggles with depression, tackling the truth, discovering one’s place in the world and above all drug addiction. Add to this stunning cinematography, a moving score and wonderful supporting roles and you get a little film that sets out to say a lot about society and the human psyche and ultimately succeeds.


One Of The Catchiest Songs Ever

I first got introduced to The Pixies “Doolittle” album when I was a young lad. A friend of my dad ripped me a tape of the album (tapes. Remember those?) after I told him about my interests in Alt bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. I remember giving the brilliant album a listen to but never truly got into it. During high school I not only resurrected the tape but also realized that The Pixies were in fact one of those rare great bands to come out of the 80s and early 90s. I often revisit Doolittle, Surfer Rosa and Bossanova on a regular basis now but a week or so ago I realized that one of their songs––one of the few radio hits, “Monkey Gone to Heaven”–– is in fact one of the catchiest tunes out there. The song is so catchy that since my epiphany I have had the song’s ridiculous but brilliant hook stuck in my head (much to the dismay of my father who can’t for the life of him realize what the hell I’m saying).

The song in a nutshell is kind of an allegory for growing global environmental concerns. That and a monkey. With lyrics like,

there was a guy
an under water guy who controlled the sea
got killed by ten million pounds of sludge
from new york and new jersey
this monkey’s gone to heaven

the creature in the sky
got sucked in ahole
now there’s a hole in the sky
and the ground’s not cold
and if the ground’s not cold
everything is gonna burn
we’ll all take turns
i’ll get mine, too
this monkey’s gone to heaven

it’s hard to say what the hell singer Black Francis is actually going on about. However, one this is for certain, the song will get sucked into your head. The Pixies were one of those rare bands with a sound and style that was different and bizarre but worked really well. They recently reunited for a sold out world wide tour. Surfer Rosa and Doolittle are both essential owns and for the adventurous, the underrated Bossanova is also worth checking out. Bossanova also features their best song ever written, “ANA,” a must download. So if all goes well this entry will help me rid this song from my head as I am starting to tire from reciting “this monkey’s gone to heaven” everywhere I go.

“if man is 5
then the devil is 6
then god is 7
this monkey’s gone to heaven”


One Of The Catchiest Songs Ever

I first got introduced to The Pixies “Doolittle” album when I was a young lad. A friend of my dad ripped me a tape of the album (tapes. Remember those?) after I told him about my interests in Alt bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. I remember giving the brilliant album a listen to but never truly got into it. During high school I not only resurrected the tape but also realized that The Pixies were in fact one of those rare great bands to come out of the 80s and early 90s. I often revisit Doolittle, Surfer Rosa and Bossanova on a regular basis now but a week or so ago I realized that one of their songs––one of the few radio hits, “Monkey Gone to Heaven”–– is in fact one of the catchiest tunes out there. The song is so catchy that since my epiphany I have had the song’s ridiculous but brilliant hook stuck in my head (much to the dismay of my father who can’t for the life of him realize what the hell I’m saying).

The song in a nutshell is kind of an allegory for growing global environmental concerns. That and a monkey. With lyrics like,

there was a guy
an under water guy who controlled the sea
got killed by ten million pounds of sludge
from new york and new jersey
this monkey’s gone to heaven

the creature in the sky
got sucked in ahole
now there’s a hole in the sky
and the ground’s not cold
and if the ground’s not cold
everything is gonna burn
we’ll all take turns
i’ll get mine, too
this monkey’s gone to heaven

it’s hard to say what the hell singer Black Francis is actually going on about. However, one this is for certain, the song will get sucked into your head. The Pixies were one of those rare bands with a sound and style that was different and bizarre but worked really well. They recently reunited for a sold out world wide tour. Surfer Rosa and Doolittle are both essential owns and for the adventurous, the underrated Bossanova is also worth checking out. Bossanova also features their best song ever written, “ANA,” a must download. So if all goes well this entry will help me rid this song from my head as I am starting to tire from reciting “this monkey’s gone to heaven” everywhere I go.

“if man is 5
then the devil is 6
then god is 7
this monkey’s gone to heaven”


Archive Review:
Prince
3121
Universal

(The following review was published in the Indiana Daily Student March 30, 2006)

A PURPLE PAIN

No matter how often the media poke fun at his bizarre and reclusive lifestyle or how many times Dave Chappelle ranks on his quirky, sexual purpleness, Prince is still one hell of a talented musician. Which is why listening to 3121, the newest addition to the artist formally known as the artist formally known as Prince’s repertoire, is so disappointing.

Following in the footsteps of 2004’s Musicology, a highly successful, but fairly mediocre album, Prince attempts to return to the ’80s synth-pop rhythms and sounds that made him exclaim, “Baby I’m a star,” and mixes things up with a bit of hip-hop and Latin instrumental flavor. Unfortunately, the result is an album that tries hard to rekindle a sound of the past, but ultimately comes out lost and confused in an age where rap and hip-hop make up mainstream pop.

The album opens up with the title track, a funky, amusing little electro house beat about what we can only imagine is Prince’s address to his personal garden of Eden. With lyrics like, “Put your clothes in the pile on the floor / Take your pick from the Japanese robes and sandals / Drink champagne from a glass with chocolate handles / Don’t you want to come? 3121,” one can’t help but assume that this album is more a personal invitation into the secret and opulent lifestyles of the billionaire Jehovah’s witness than anything else.

In the world of 3121, at least in the first six tracks, every day seems to be a party, a party with a bad girl named “Lolita,” lots of “Incense and Candles,” “Black Sweat” and of course “Love.” In fact, the first half of the album plays out more like a self-indulged string of sexual infused funk beats (which might or might not be fantasy), than the catchy pop songs from the ’80s that Prince is most commonly known for.

The album picks up the pace during the second half, however, with a number of tracks that are reminiscent of the pop life of Prince’s past.

“Fury,” which is the best song on the album, feels like a highly polished B-Side cut from any of Prince’s truly classic masterpieces, the flawless Purple Rain, the politically charged Sign ‘O’ the Times and even the campy but boisterous 1999. The song opens with a driving drum beat, catchy keyboard hook that nicely resembles the works of former Revolution member Lisa Coleman and fiery axe licks that remind us Prince is still a guitar virtuoso.

According to the liner notes 3121 was produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince himself, a feat that shows both musical chops but also quite possibly control issues. There are a couple ‘guest per4mers’ including funk saxophone maestro Maceo Parker, some shouts and sexual grunts from Prince’s ’90s band lineup, The New Power Revolution and a surprisingly soulful balladic duet, “Beautiful, Loved and Blessed,” featuring R&B singer Tamara, who nicely compliments Prince’s highly feminine voice in the same way Shelia E. did back in the purple velvet decade of the ’80s.

Overall the album seems to be lost somewhere between classic Prince fare and the sexual soul world of someone like Barry White. It’s quite generous of Prince to invite us to his purple, sexual soirée, however, it’s difficult to truly get into the world of 3121 while we’re doing our normal daily routines like walking to class or riding the C-bus. Perhaps incense and Japanese sandals do in fact make the listening experience all the more rewarding.