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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Black Keys destroy the New American Music Union

Cee-Lo gets crazy, possibly

CONCERT REVIEW: New American Music Union Festival
August 8-9, 2008
SouthSide Works, Pittsburgh

The Black Keys

In reporting on this festival, there really is no need to mention anyone other than Akron blues-rock duo the Black Keys. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney created an insane amount of noise and mayhem and blew everyone else out of the water, including the Raconteurs and Bob Dylan. They mellowed out briefly for a cover of Captain Beefheart's "I'm Glad," and then it was back to the face-melting solos.

I'd seen the Black Keys once before, opening for Radiohead, and wasn't impressed, but this time they absolutely killed.

Bob Dylan & his band

I love Dylan as much as anyone, but this show was so bad it makes me think Dylan should actually stop touring altogether. He doesn't even sing anymore; he just talks the lyrics, in completely unintelligible fashion. He opened with "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," and I didn't even recognize the song until the second chorus - the tenth time he said "stoned." That's how bad his vocals were.

On top of that, he never even touched a guitar. That's right, the electric guitar legend stayed on keyboards all night with his back to half the audience. I kept waiting for him to put on a guitar and move to the microphone that was sitting front and center, unattended, but it never happened. I'm stunned.

The encore was "Like a Rolling Stone," but again it was so mumbled that it was almost comical. The crowd sang the chorus, while Dylan made noises here and there that were supposed to be lyrics.

Gnarls Barkley

This show was a lot better than I expected. I've been chiding Gnarls for the fact that they haven't been able to score another hit besides "Crazy," but their live show had several standouts - including "Smiley Faces" and "Gone Daddy Gone," which featured Danger Mouse on xylophone. Cee-Lo was dancing up a storm in the beginning, then appeared to get winded and took it easy for the rest of the set.

As for their costumes, they wore the same bland mustard yellow suits they'd worn at Lollapalooza, which one columnist accurately described as "Century 21 salesmen suits."

The Raconteurs

This is an ensemble band, with all four members bringing their own talents to the group, but their live show is dominated by Jack White. His solos were the highlight of songs like the impressive "Blue Veins." Some of the smaller bands climbed atop their tour buses to witness Jack White go nuts.

The Roots

The way the Roots began their show was cool - band members walked onstage and began playing their instruments one at a time, so that the music slowly built up into a climax. Their combination of jazz, funk, and hip hop also featured more prominent electric guitars than I'd expected. The one slight let down was "The Seed 2.0," which was played at warp speed and without any hip hop elements at all. It felt more like a top 40 pop song.

Tiny Masters of Today

OK, they're kids so I should go easy on them. But... this honestly might've been the worst concert I've ever seen. These kids were awful. Ivan (age 14) could play a few chords on guitar, but Ada (age 12) was a statue, singing (off-key) her little ditties about cell phones and radios. I felt bad that drummer Jackson Pollis had to play with them. They closed with a ridiculous cover of House of Pain's "Jump Around," with Ivan rapping the lyrics but standing perfectly still, while expecting the audience to jump around. This reminded me of a band that should be playing a middle school talent show instead of taking part in major music festivals.

I hold out hope that someday the Tiny Masters will have a live show that matches their respectable studio recordings.

Other bands
The Duke Spirit
play sexy garage rock. The English band is fronted by the entertaining Liela Moss, whose harmonica added a nice touch to "This Ship Was Built to Last."

Spoon put on a decent show. It's hard to dislike Spoon, but there's also nothing about them that makes me want to jump up and down and shout. "The Underdog" lost some of its punch with keyboards taking the place of the filling in the brass sections.

NASA is a DJ duo that spliced together pieces of songs, but they didn't do it nearly as well as Girl Talk.

And we missed Black Mountain to attend a NAMU press conference. Sorry, guys.

EDIT: Video footage is now available on the festival's official website.



The Duke Spirit

For more festival pics, check out the Flickr group.


Eric said...

Looks like a cool festival. Great blog BTW... My wife is from central PA. Cheers.

Scott said...

Thanks... it was a fun weekend.

Anonymous said...

I thought Gnarls Barkley was great for the first half of the set, but the audience didn't give them anything back and the rest of the show was a bore. Their perfromance of Smiley Faces was just as lazy as their rendition of Crazy - I wouldn't call it a highlight.

Scott said...

You may be right. Smiley Faces is one of my favorites of theirs, so it was a highlight to me.

I thought Cee-Lo was satisfied with the audience response, though. They weren't bad for a Pittsburgh crowd.

puff said...

Overall it was a good first year. I couldn't help to think that if Girl Talk was there instead of NASA and RHCP played in the place of Dylan the South Side might have burned. Oh well, at least next year they'll have more time to select different acts due to the late kickoff.

Brian said...

I loved The Roots (who I'd never heard before) Throwing in Zeppelin and The Mars Volta riffs.. And Gnarls cover of Radiohead's The Reckoner was damn good. I was reeeally hoping Frusciante would make an appearance, but no cigar :(

Scott said...

Next year the Chili Peppers should headline. That would solve everything...

DJRainDog said...

Ah, Gnarls Barkley. I haven't bought the second album yet, but my appreciation for the first one grows every time I listen to it. I've been listening to it for awhile, now, and it will make the cut when I overhaul the contents of my iPod this weekend. I like "Smiley Faces", and I can't seem to get tired of "Crazy", but my faves have to be "The Boogie Man" and "Just a Thought".