The superb, the good, and the one that got away

About a month or so back, I guess, I decided to go check out Billy Connolly’s show up in S.F. That was good fun – it was a little intimidating I guess, to go see such a comedian in person, but then after talking to people here who mostly had no idea who he was, it helped damper unrealistic excitement. :)

Still, I had high expectations, and they were met, though not exceeded… I felt the show was pandering a little bit to a U.S. audience, just in terms of topical content and whatnot, and I’m really not much amused by pop comedy here. It was good nonetheless. Though fairly short – about an hour or so, I think.

And he did his trademark thing, too, of picking on the one random dude that turns up late – I wonder if that dude’s in on it? – which is one of the classic jokes I still remember reciting with Steven Boyd back in high school. :D

Anyway, since that went well – including the whole getting into the city via trains thing – I took some time to go through Ticketmaster’s available tickets exhaustively, and see what else is around. I was a little disappointed, and now I’m regretting my stinginess with regards to concerts I’ve now missed like Matchbox 20. But, anyway, I went and booked all the ones that looked interesting. It’s a bit frustrating that I don’t know people’s music tastes here, in general, and those I do know don’t really line up with mine so far as live gigs go, so, thus far I’m always a single. Though, many of these events aren’t social anyway, much like going to the movies, so the perceived stigma about doing so alone really makes no sense at all.

Anyway, that little built of self-insecurity guiltily defended, the shows I’ve seen thus far are K.T. Tunstall’s just this week gone by, and Celtic Woman last week. K.T.’s was good, though I was retarded and didn’t book tickets when I first saw the concert, but rather weeks later after they’d virtually sold out. I thus had the privileged of sitting in S2 at the Warfield, which is approximately the furthest seat possible from the stage (it’s the last row, but seats 101 etc might be an inch or two further). Waaaaaay up in the nosebleeds… so I couldn’t really see much of the band, and the acoustics were a little lousy at times given the wall right behind me, but it was a good show nonetheless.

I had to laugh, too… I got there by 8pm when it was listed as starting, but didn’t realise that there was both an opening band – an Irish duo of unknown name that were quite good on their own – and that they were in no rush, so K.T. didn’t even take the stage ’till after 9:15 or so. And people in the general admission on the floor had been arriving long before even I did, it seemed, in order to get reasonably good standing… the consequence being that for two hours or so there was a large body of young Sanfriscans standing around with not much to do..

… thus, I shouldn’t have been surprised, once I got to my seat and took my bearings, that the place smelt inexplicably of weed. And by 8:30 or so, you could see great plumes of it rising up past the lip of the balcony. The Warfield ain’t no small place, but it got visibly smokey all through… it makes me wonder exactly how many joints were had that night. Or if perhaps they were just shovelling it into the furnace wholesale; I guess it’d be a good way to ensure everyone there left the event feeling reasonable about it. :D

So anyway… I also realised that apparently K.T. has a second album out that I was otherwise unaware of. Oops. :) Also, that a random song I’d heard on the radio once or twice – and quite liked – was one of hers, too. D’oh.

She bridged some of the songs with random things like obscure “facts” (in the kind of Wikipedia “fact” sense) and general chitchat and anecdotes about previous shows and whatnot… I had to laugh when she talked about playing at a music festival in Australia at some point, a while back I guess, before she was particularly famous, and that there had been a guy in the front row yelling out “Hopeless!” over and over, and she was like “Jeez man, pick another song…”… ‘Hopeless’ of course being a song title, not that the guy was particularly unimpressed with her music. :D

Of course, the one song that they probably hate by now but will never be able to get out of playing every single concert, is ‘Suddenly I See’. They saved that ’till the first finale (rolls eyes), which was fitting as many many others were evidently also hanging out for that one song, but alas it didn’t come out quite right… I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was simply that, given it’s so well known, that they didn’t reproduce it exactly like the studio recording… I mean, several other songs they played also weren’t exactly like the album versions, but that didn’t bother me…

I’m more tolerant to that sort of thing than I used to be, but it’s always bugged me… I like what I hear on the album; that’s why I buy it. When I go to see a live performance, I expect it to sound at least as good – given they’ve got hundred-thousand-dollar speakers over my $150 set – with allowance for the occasional special acoustic versions or new songs or even just the general talking to the audience a la K.T. Whenever I go to or see a live show where they sound nothing like the album – usually worse – it shits me no end.

Taxiride were very good live, in the sense that their music is especially suited to live performances, and they really can play and sing like they sound on their albums…. but of course as I’ve probably written long ago, that event was trashed by the horrific acoustics of La Trobe’s main hall, and the “turn the volume up to 11 and see if that helps” mentality of the sound crew made me want to beat their heads in with their mix boards.

I guess I’m subconsciously building up to my coverage of the Celtic Woman concert, which – while I don’t meant to downplay K.T.’s – was pretty much flawless. I was in a way surprised and inevitably a little self-concious that I was more or less the youngest person there… I guess Celtic music doesn’t go reverb with the younger generations these days :P… and I was surprised in the sense that, yes, stereotypically it’ll be all older people, but it was a stereotype I expected to be busted and it completely wasn’t…

But I wasn’t too bothered as I had gone with seats in the 2nd row of the lower balcony, which afforded me an excellent view and probably optimal acoustics (I need a thesaurus, I know). And the show itself; superb. I hadn’t really though at all about how they’d present their stuff, I mean, they’re not really able to kick it up and down the stage on lead electric, which is about all I know of how to do a good show ;), so… of course I’ve seen a recording of one of their shows before, thus should have known what to expect. I hadn’t factored in all the instrument support they’d have – two giant drum kits with all the bells and whistles (almost literally) along with a guy on piano, guys on guitars, bagpipes (or something similar), I think a piccolo or something, etc. And of course there were eight back-up singers as well, so, it turned out the stage was pretty full, and the whole thing was run seamlessly.

So, yeah; I love their music anyway, and it was even better live, and they made a real show out of it with a very high (perceived) production value. They also had an opening group, the New Kings, whom were very good in their own right as well; I’ve been meaning to check out if their album’s on the iTMS.

So anyway, three good events out of three thus far; I’m pretty happy. :)

Later today I’m heading up to pier 30/32 for this KFOG concert with Los Lobos, Collective Soul and Matt Nathanson. It jumped out of the 350-strong list originally for Collective Soul, which is the soul reason I bought the ticket; again, one of my favourite artists. I had no idea who the others were, and I suspect very few people do know who Los Lobos are, but I could almost guaranteed you’d know at least one of their songs… yes, they’re the guys that brought he world “La Bamba”.

Matt Nathanson… I still can’t name any of his songs, though I think I did hear one the other day and again he’s someone who’s music most people have probably heard, but couldn’t pin his name on. I suspect, given KFOGs apparently esteemed reputation – K.T. thanked them during her show this week, for making her a star in the U.S. – that all three bands will be superb, so, hopefully it’s a darn good arvo.

Otherwise, other such events I’m going to check out in the next month or so include Smash Mouth & Alien Ant Farm next week, and Crowded House also next week. I didn’t even realise Crowded House had reformed, nor that they’ve had three or four albums since disbanding six or seven years ago.. so I guess they’ll be playing a lot of newer stuff that I’ve never heard, but, I trust them to pleasantly surprise me. :)

The one concert I did try for but couldn’t get in on was Flight of the Conchords. I doubt anyone outside the U.S. has heard of them, but basically it’s two Kiwis that somehow ended up making a TV show in mock documentary style about their two-man band, Flight of the Conchords, trying to make it big in the U.S. Apparently they didn’t actually play any instruments when they started the show, but in something of a Spinal Tap vein, they picked up the basics and are now touring doing live performances. Their stuff is particularly… I dunno… “smooth”?… it’s mostly parodies or jokes or things that would solidly fall into the category of Random, but, the show is amusing and I reckon they’d put on a damn fine concert.

Alas, so does every other sodding sod round here, apparently; their first show sold out within ten minutes or so, I heard, and their second sold out in about 60 seconds. 60 seconds. Bloody hell. I get the feeling their second show – announced only last week – was a result of the first having sold out so quickly, so… perhaps they’ll also offer a third, then a fourth, then a fifth, until such time as I can actually buy damn tickets.

I hate, though, the scalpers… pricks… within five minutes of the Conchords’ second show going on sale, and four minutes after selling out, tickets were already available on the various scalper website with 600-2000% markups. When I heard about eBay shutting down ticket resales via Slashdot many moons back, and I was totally removed from it personally, it seemed like the usual big business being evil… but now I’m actually Joe Shmo consumer trying to get a ticket to a concert, I actually appreciate what they were doing. It’s not fair to disallow real people to resell tickets – things come up, plans change, and in the absence of the ticket sellers providing refunds.. – but there should be some reasonable constraint, e.g. that you’re not allowed to sell them for more than their purchase price.

I also wonder about the people who support these arses by buying their ridiculously overpriced resells.

Anyway… of all the concerts I have an interest in the Conchords’ was probably bottom of the pile anyway, but it was something that lots of people I know wanted to go to as well, so it could have been a good little group thing. :(

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