Hard to believe I'm actually writing these words, but the last two weeks have brought some excellent music to these parts for the first time in a very long time. How long? I actually don't remember the last show I saw in Orlando, though it might have been The Pernice Brothers sometime in the fall. And the only local shows I can remember being interested in since the new year (Chuck Prophet opening for Aimee Mann, The Fleshtones as part of one of those Little Steven garage band spectaculars) unfortunately fell during Florida Film Festival crunch time.
But it's a new season and summer's been good so far in the tunes department. I finally caught up with Echo and the Bunnymen, despite being a fan since the very beginning. Now a six piece, they sounded quite good while playing a nice balance of newer material from their recent albums on SpinArt (that I wasn't familiar with but impressive nonetheless) with a lot of the older faves (do they qualify as "hits"?--maybe in the UK). Dynamite renditions of "Villiers Terrace", "The Killing Moon" and "The Cutter" were some of the stand-outs, but I didn't care for the lame arrangement of "Rescue" and why they refused to play "Do It Clean", one of their best songs ever, I have no idea. Plus the moody and shadowy lighting (with not a single bright spot!) bordered on pretentious, spurring the guy next to me to repeatedly scream (to no avail), "Ian--we can't see your face."
Next up was an in-store performance by British folkie Alexi Murdoch at Park Ave. CD's. Out promoting his (finally released) first LP, "Time Without Consequence", by only doing gigs at indie record stores and no actual paid concert performances, the singer/guitarist was amazed at the crowd he drew. It's easy to pigeonhole him as just a Nick Drake clone, but there are worse things you could be called. I also heard echoes of Bert Jansch in a bluesier number, and this guy's voice, guitar playing, and songwriting are stunning to say the least.
Finally, I got to see the Reverend himself (for the 3rd time), one of the greatest soul singers ever, Mr. Al Green. Backed by a super tight 12-piece band (including his daughter on backing vocals), he delivered a glorious--if too short--set of almost exclusively greatest hits with a gospel number or two ("Amazing Grace") thrown in for good measure. Oddly ignoring his last two highly acclaimed, return-to-basics studio LP's with the exception of opening with the infectious "I Can't Stop", Al's voice (not to mention his smile) was as gorgeous and joyful as ever. Hit after hit kept coming, including "Let's Get Married", "Tired of Being Alone", "Let's Stay Together", and a closing "Love and Happiness" that absolutely cooked. But would it have killed him to play "Take Me to the River" (maybe a bit too obscure for his regular crowd?), and I'd rather hear him sing stuff from his back catalog than take up time doing a Vegas-y tribute to other seminal soul artists like Otis Redding, The Four Tops, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye. Not that it's not great hearing Al Green take a shot at singing some of the legendary songs, but I hate medleys, and when you're only doing a 65-minute set, I've got more important songs to get to.
So now that I'm primed to actually go out and start seeing live music again, will there be anything else worth going to? I sure as hell hope so!