It's a dream of mine to photograph musicians fulltime, mainly because I go to a lot of shows and it'd be really awesome to get paid to go to them instead of vice versa. But until that happens, I'll continue to enjoy live music and capture it with whatever type of camera the venue allows me to bring in. Below are two sentence reviews of concerts I've attended recently.
Although slightly pretentious, Scottish singer/songwriter Alexi Murdoch writes the most heartbreakingly beautiful songs that I dare you not to tear up to at least one of them. Somber, serious, and gentle in concert, he seems to evoke the spirit of Nick Drake and leaves his audience in a swell of emotions.
I was surprised with tickets to Lady Gaga - who needs absolutely no introduction - first in Chicago (above photo) and then in Louisville (below photo) and all I have to say is: WOW. Regardless of whether you're the littlest of Little Monsters or the oldest of old, jaded cynics (me), Gaga will win you over with her voice, theatrics, and self-affirming message to her fans.
Philly boy Kurt Vile has one of my favorite records of the year so far - "Smoke Ring for My Halo" - but I was pleased that his setlist consisted of some of his older, equally-amazing work. He has a natural ability to make music that is simultaneously beautifully melodic and hardcore grunge - and he's also just a really nice guy.
J Mascis, who is best known for his work with Dinosaur Jr, allowed the crowd at Subterranean to see a softer, more sensitive side of himself. Armed with just an acoustic guitar, he played a good mixture of old songs, as well as new ones from his recent (and beautiful) album, "Several Shades of Why."
Little Scream caught me by surprise - I got to the Sharon Van Etten show early and watched her set, which I found impressive. She's not your standard female singer/songwriter (and I sincerely appreciate that); her sound is at times atmospheric and sweet and other times edgy and muddled, but what I liked most about her was that she didn't take herself or the music too seriously.
Sharon Van Etten has mad harmonium skills and she sure knows how to write break up songs that avoid the usual clichés. She's fun, grounded, and pretty in concert - and has the smallest feet I've ever seen.
Anyone who knows me knows that Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) is one of my top 5 favorite musicians - hell my first blog entry ever begins with a Tweedy quote - so it's no surprise that I once again thoroughly enjoyed his annual Chicago charity concert series. Actually, I'll go so far as to say it was the best solo show I've seen of his yet: he was both hilarious and prolific, as usual, and his voice sounded strong and rested throughout his 30+ song set.
Tame Impala is literally the first psychedelic rock I've enjoyed since seeing Phish a half dozen times in '95. And while they don't have the stage presence (or mind-blowing lighting) of a band like Umphrey's McGee, for example, they still manage to get their whole audience to bob their heads in unison for 90 minutes.
There's no denying the fact that Arcade Fire is one of the greatest live acts around right now. This was not the first nor will it be the last time I see them in concert: the level of musicianship that all members of the band possess coupled with the heart and soul (and sweat) that they put into their shows guarantees it.