Nashville’s Long Players To Perform The Joshua Tree On June 4th!

May 31, 2010

Sad about the postponed tour dates? U2 fans in the southeast have a rare opportunity to hear The Joshua Tree performed in its entirety by Nashville’s The Long Players on June 4th at the Cannery Ballroom.

Beginning in 2004 with Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones, The Long Players have worked to revive our collective respect and reverence for that beleaguered and beautiful art form, the rock album, simply known as the LP. Each month, the Players unveil their fresh version of something special, covering everything from the Beatles to The Band, from Led Zeppelin to Aretha Franklin. This will be the group’s first performance of a U2 album.

Guitarist Bill Lloyd explains the Players process as they arrive at each choice: “We pick the records we perform in a democratic fashion. Over the course of six years, we’ve all tried to do albums we all liked. Some more than others, but we try to allow everyone in the band to get their favorites in.”

Although a handful of the choices have seemed more eccentric than others, so far, The Long Players have taken aim at albums that most everyone would recognize as enduring classics. Lloyd observes, “Because we eventually found an audience in Nashville for what we were doing, the popularity of an album has come to be a factor. We’ve done some albums that were personal favorites where the attendance dropped, and we try to keep a balance in our choices.”

Since U2 often skips Tennessee on its big tours but commands a fanbase in the volunteer state, hopefully, the U2 faithful will turn out this Friday to hear an epic and expert interpretation of what many fans argue is U2‘s best record.

Lloyd expects a good turnout this Friday: “We like doing what we we think are great albums, but we also like having a crowd to play to. When we play The Joshua Tree on June 4, it will be the 40th album we’ve done in a public setting since March of 2004.”

Each time out, The Long Players bring in an array of guest vocalists. On Friday, we’re particularly looking forward to hearing Mike Farris on a couple of tracks.

Already fronting his own an amazing gospel-rock shows in Tennessee and around the nation, Farris rocks a look that very much evokes Bono, circa-1987.  His voice will work well with any of the tracks, but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t take lead for the song that Bono’s been using to turn stadiums into churches for two decades now.

In addition to Farris’s Bono, I really look forward to Lloyd’s and other guitarist Steve Allen’s interpretations of Edge’s guitar parts.

The Cannery Ballroom is one of Nashville’s best live rooms where I’ve seen acts like Raconteurs, Of Montreal, and TV On The Radio. It’s hard to imagine seeing U2 there, but The Long Players should fill the space and do this classic album justice. –Andrew William Smith, Editor

The Long Players perform U2′s Joshua Tree. Cannery Ballroom. Nashville.  9:00 PM June 4, 2010. $15 cover, with proceeds in part benefitting The Nashville Musicians Emergency Flood Relief Fund.

Whispers and Wails: The Wonders of One eskimO’s Live Set

May 31, 2010

Since 1989, I’ve followed Michael Franti, who still puts on an amazing show. But this time, opening act One eskimO brought me to Asheville’s Orange Peel, with the band touring behind the magical strength of their self-titled debut album.

Standing in line to retrieve our guestlist credentials, I met a woman from an Asheville radio station who mentioned the band’s single “Kandi.” She remarked, “What’s up with the R&B,” thus revealing one of the conundrums with One eskimO, the band’s careless and creative defiance of genre.

One attempt to peg a category on the London four-piece invokes the term “ambient,” which for many fans signals the quieter, laid-back, early-morning fringe of electronic music. Onstage, it’s all pop, and the all-acoustic crew silenced the noisy and packed house with irreverent whispers and reverent wails. Taking full advantage of the Peel’s dual projectors, the band ran tape with their quirky animations, hypnotizing, mesmerizing, and magnetizing us for a full 45 minutes.

Without a bit of banter between songs, lead-singer Kristian Leontiou wrapped himself inside his songs, often singing with eyes closed as if serenading a personal muse or private goddess. Adding to Leontiou’s lyrical layers of loving soul, the bandmates backed with grace.

Guitarist Peter Rinaldi fit the Asheville vibe with his long locks and casual clothes, sitting towards the back of the stage as though he were jamming on your living room couch. Bassist and horn play Jamie Sefton also sat for the set, looking like a contented jazz man holding court in a New York club of the last century. Drummer Adam Falkner is almost a frontman in his own right, sharing the most energy and holding a subtle tribal anchor for the whole show.

Leontiou’s epic voice polishes beauty, betrays cynicism, and fits cathedrals or coffeehouses, bordellos or bars, making the mundane of the day fade into the majesty of night. Hopefully this tour will give them more confidence and many fans, leading to a follow-up record fierce enought to match the miracle of the debut.  I know that I cannot help but want to catch them again at Nashville’s intimate Third and Lindsley in a few weeks. –Andrew William Smith, Editor

One eskimO are still on Tour. Catch them. For info, go here: http://www.oneeskimo.com/tour.html

Adolescent Awkwardness: Ben Graham Discusses U2′s Boy 30 Years On

May 29, 2010

I’m no big fan of the band U2 became. When I was at school they represented everything I wanted to kick against: that smug black and white Joshua Tree poster pinned to the wall of the fifth form lounge exuding carefully contrived and paid for faux-authenticity, and supposed to represent some pinnacle of sophisticated musical taste among the bum-licking swots who lounged there (as opposed to the carefree oiks kicking balls about and practicing their bad breakdance moves in the cold Yorkshire drizzle outside).

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The Edge Discusses Bono’s Back Injury, Postponement of 360 Tour

May 26, 2010

Following the disappointing news that the entirety of the North American leg of U2’s 360 Tour would be postponed after Bono’s major back surgery in Munich, The Edge called into U2’s headquarters over Skype to talk about the injury and postponing the tour.

From New York, The Edge explains that, with “cases half-packed,” “I was, until a few days ago, getting myself ready to go out on the road, and then out of the blue, we got this news that our fearless leader had done himself some serious damage and was heading to the hospital in Munich.”

Doctors have made clear that Bono’s recovery—due to the injury causing “fairly major damage,” in which had nothing been done, there “could’ve been serious and permanent damage”—involves “nothing physical for eight weeks” and a “methodical” program, in order to ensure a triumphant return to the stage in Turin.

The Edge stressed that “this is not a cancellation of the tour; it is a postponement.” And, in jest, he relayed that for Bono, this is “probably the most rest he’ll have had in decades,” meaning that the band and “fearless leader” will be back, and in peak form, as The Edge said, “When we do get back out there, we will be in top condition and just raring to go. So, that’s our focus now.”

Though many fans are now frantically trying to re-arrange travel plans and dealing with the disenchantment of a tour postponement, there is something on the horizon to look forward to: U2 playing new, unheard songs live. As The Edge revealed, the band had been working on new material and planned on unveiling it on the latest leg of the 360 Tour, which is “something we’ve never really done before.”—Cassie Traun, Editor

Out of the Rain: A Rebuilding Music City Gets Its Gospel On

May 26, 2010

Rebuilding, recovering, reviving, rebooting: these are physical as well as spiritual realties. As Nashville comes back to life after a devastating flood the first weekend of May, the entire music community has come together regardless of genre. While not flood-relief shows per se, recent gigs by rock-gospel standouts Mike Farris and Ashley Cleveland have used music to highlight our collective hope and healing.

Just as artists like Springsteen and U2 have put the gospel back in arena-sized rock and roll, emerging frontman Mike Farris gives the contemporary gospel scene a sweaty, soulful dollop of divinely inspired rock and roll.

Performed in a tiny bluegrass bar in the gentrifying Gulch district near downtown Nashville, Farris’s “Sunday Night SHOUT!” series transforms the building’s roadhouse grit with tent revival grace. Fueled by Farris, a fully captivating preacher creature, and backed by the glorious voices of the McCrary Sisters and the full band of the Roseland Rhythm Review bringing the horns, bass, guitar, and drums, the “SHOUT!” feels sainted and shamanic.

During an extended version of “I’ll Take You There” towards the end of the set, the Mavis Staples-meets-Janis Joplin magic of the McCrary Sisters takes over. As the Station Inn shakes with the voice of the spiritually possessed, Farris and the sisters turn the world into an Amen corner, as the whole church chants of “Love! Joy! Peace! Happiness!” The Dove award-winning SHOUT! Live album (Farris received the actual trophy at the SHOUT! this past Sunday) contains a similarly uplifting, rafter-rattling version of this track, but nothing compares to experiencing this sonic baptism for yourself.

As the perspiration and inspiration flow, it’s easy to imagine we’re all experiencing time-travel to a Motown or Memphis of yesteryear. But Mike Farris feels like the real deal, a bonafide blues rocker who gave-up his Jim Morrison-caliber drug-and-alcohol demons to create with sax and axe an entirely new testament in an old school style: a Jesus-at-the-juke-joint Christian jam-band.

After telling his own flood tales, Farris marked the moment in middle Tennessee by covering Tony Joe White’s “Out Of The Rain.” The lyrics about crossroads and canyons, of course, speak as much of the spiritual storms and dark nights of the soul that so many of us must endure. Tonight a testimonial to Nashville’s tenacity, this song might endure well in Farris’s repertoire as a healing and hopeful anthem to his brothers and sisters in recovery.

After the show, Farris told me that the ritual of the “Sunday Night SHOUT!” may or may not return. I’m thrilled to have caught this one. With a handful of tour dates scheduled and a new studio album next on the agenda, Farris’s future seems bright.

Nine days before the Farris set, I caught another rocking Nashville gospel singer in the comparably inspired Ashley Cleveland. With her charismatic stage presence as rootsy, raspy, and real as it gets,  Cleveland shared several songs from her recent records like “Queen of Soul” from Before The Daylight and “Sampson And Delilah” from God Don’t Never Change, as well songs from her excellent and extensive back catalog.

Cleveland took her time to tell stories before many songs, including an incredibly amusing tale of her son Henry’s younger days before the track “Henry Doesn’t Care.” Just days after the deluge of rain that wrecked so much of Nashville, Cleveland shared how moved and impressed she was by how our communities came together to provide immediate assistance and relief. These words built up to a boot-shaking, hair-raising, guitar-scorching, and heart-swelling version of “Gimme Shelter.” This and many other tracks showcased the stellar guitar-work of Cleveland’s husband Kenny Greenberg.

Cleveland cites  Neil Young and Aretha Franklin as her greatest influences, and it amazes me how well her modern gospel revelations embody a faith-filled interpretation of the great vast river of folk, rock, and soul from which she emerges.

As a spiritually inclined human and avid music fan, I have listened to lots of Christian music over the years, especially during certain periods of my life. I’m going through one of those periods today, and I must confess that some contemporary Christian music really fails to move me, especially in the rock genre, with too many bands sounding like bad B-grade Coldplay copycats.

The musical integrity and spiritual authenticity a listener immediately gets from the likes of Ashley Cleveland and Mike Farris provides all the hand-clapping, knee-slapping, and arm-waving we require, reminding of some of Christian rock’s more emotionally potent forebears like Keith Green or even Bob Dylan in his born again phase. It was a slow train coming that brought me back to God (even though I always loved gospel music), and I’m glad to have such sweet sounding voices calling out the names as we share this ride.

–by Andrew William Smith, Editor

Mike Farris photos from the Station Inn by Andrew William Smith. Ashley Cleveland photo from 3rd & Lindsley by Cindy Gray. For more information please visit: http://www.mikefarrismusic.net/ or http://www.ashleycleveland.com/

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