Category Archives: Rock Elders late-career DVDs
Wonderful concert DVDs from old faves in their later years
Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light
Laurie Anderson wrote a loving, joyful letter to the local paper this week, offering an intimate glimpse of Lou Reed in his final days and moments; the rich companionship they shared sparkles from these words. Sounds like a near-perfect death: immersed in natural beauty, in the company of his loving partner, reaching into and through the moment in the practice of his spiritual discipline. Wonderful.
To our neighbors:
What a beautiful fall! Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light. Water surrounding us.
Lou and I have spent a lot of time here in the past few years, and even though we’re city people this is our spiritual home. Last week I promised Lou to get him out of the hospital and come home to Springs. And we made it!
Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air.
Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.
– Laurie Anderson
his loving wife and eternal friend
PS: Laurie later wrote a longer, incredibly beautiful piece for Rolling Stone; don’t miss it! Here’s a little taste:
We tried to understand and apply things our teacher Mingyur Rinpoche said – especially hard ones like, “You need to try to master the ability to feel sad without actually being sad.”
As meditators, we had prepared for this – how to move the energy up from the belly and into the heart and out through the head. I have never seen an expression as full of wonder as Lou’s as he died.
Telling the earth how you feel
This really inspires me; what a powerful act! Em Strang shares a deep moment at this year’s Uncivilisation gathering in the UK:
One of the highlights of the weekend for me was Tom Hirons’ rites of passage workshop. After talking about his own experience of a wilderness rite of passage and introducing the ideas behind it, Tom sent us off into the woods for half an hour. We were asked to choose between two ‘tasks’: either to walk through the woods praying (silently or out loud) or to dig a hole the size and shape of your face, about 6 inches deep in the earth; to lie down with your face in the hole and scream. ‘Whichever of the tasks is more challenging to you,’ he said, ‘choose that one.’ I chose the hole. What a strange, ridiculous, hilarious, powerful, emotionally overwhelming thing to do! It took me a while to lie down. I felt self-conscious and daft. Someone had followed me into the thicket. I spent a few minutes making the hole a ‘more perfect’ shape. But when I lay down on the earth and screamed into the hole I’d made, I almost immediately ‘lost’ my sense of self. All around me in the woods, other men and women were howling and screaming into small, earthy holes. More than anything else, I wished that everyone in the world would give themselves permission to do this, to let go, to express themselves at a most fundamental level. It sounds unlikely, downright odd even, but screaming into the earth opened in me a profound sense of compassion. After a while, I realised I wasn’t screaming but making a kind of whale-song and my lungs seemed to have quadrupled their capacity; I could hold a sound for what seemed like minutes.
Anyone who hasn’t done this, or something similarly wild and strange, might be tempted to reject it as hippie nonsense. All I’d say is, try it for yourself and see; or better still, sign up to one of Tom’s workshops. I heard that one man had scribbled a sign on a piece of paper and laid it next to him while he howled: ‘I’m OK!’
For more about the weekend: Charlotte Du Cann shares a richly woven “postcard from the woods” about the festival, and here’s a recollection with images from Jeppe. Below, an image by Jeppe, Funeral for a Species:
Elton rocks it at 60
I’ve been slack about filling out the BBB category of “rock elders late-career DVDs.” But tonight I’m back on the case after getting a bit of an Elton jones after seeing Brandi Carlile and her really good (and a bit crazy) band last night – Brandi’s worked with Paul Buckmaster, you see; and whatayaknow, Elton encouraged her, and Stills, too!
So, anyway, this DVD been on my shelf waiting to be written up for awhile now. In 2007, Elton celebrated his 60th birthday by playing his 60th show at Madison Square Garden. But this wasn’t a typical Elton concert, and certainly not the show he’s settled into in his residency in Vegas. The three-hour extravaganza dug deep into his early catalog, with only 8 of the 33 songs originating after 1975 (and 17 from Don’t Shoot Me and earlier), making this a great treat for those of us who love the classic Elton-and-Bernie years, but haven’t found much use for the later Elton (but note: The Captain and the Kid is worth a listen, and this electro remix album with Pnau, sampling from his whole career, hit #1 in the UK this summer).
The band features his old mates Nigel Olsson on drums (“Nigel! Outasight!”) and Davey Johnstone on guitars and mandolin; the arrangements are laced with cello from Martin Tillman, along with a huge youth choir. Elton’s vocal commitment and intensity shines throughout (though his range has definitely shifted lower since his heyday), and his playing is rich and rollicking. Rarely performed old gems include Where to Now St. Peter, Ballad of a Well-known Gun (“we haven’t played this one for maybe 30 years…”), High Flying Bird, and (yes!) his beautiful ode to New York in the early 70’s, Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters. Here’s a taste, picking up in the climax of Holiday Inn, with maybe my favorite jam of the show: cello, mando, piano (sorry, Flash-less tablet viewers; YouTube’s time-stamp embed doesn’t work with their html5 code; skip to 1:50!):
Other highlights include the great revolutionary anthem Burn Down the Mission (by turns majestic, angry, longing, and determined) and a nice guitar/piano/cello jam at the end of Levon.
The Horse is loosed upon the land
Four guys. Full on. With a tale to tell, in a language all their own. Well, I suppose the language isn’t unique – bass, drums, rhythm guitar, lead guitar in 4/4 time – and truth be told, it’s a pretty darn simple set of phonemes. In the hands of Neil and Crazy Horse, though, the playful, propulsive thrash of garage band chaos opens into a mythic tunnel of glorious noise, a Primal Rock and Roll Orchestra.
On Friday night under a star-spangled sky laced with moon-glowing clouds, a few thousand New Mexicans were lucky enough to be at the unveiling of This Year’s Model—or call it This Decade’s Model, their first time on stage together since 2004. The show commenced with several minutes of roiling, pounding, searing jam (jump on in, the water’s fine!), then Neil swung to the mic, his voice layered atop the instrumental waves, the story beginning to be told:
Long ago in the book of old
Before the chapter where dreams unfold
A battle raged on the open page
Love was the winner there, overcoming hate
Like a little girl who couldn’t wait
Love and only love will endure….
Yowsa! What an opener! And on higher:
Spirit come back to me
Give me strength and set me free
Let me hear the magic in my heart
Love and only love will endure
Hate is everything you think it is
Love and only love will break it down
After settling us down just a mite with his enigmatic Powderfinger, a classic for any of us who’ve ever found ourselves in a bit over our heads (it’s the tale of a younger brother left home while dad and big bro were out and about, whose fate it was to futilely face down some mysterious gunship on the river), Neil then proceeded to toss a slew of brand new songs at us, each one a gem:
Neil Young’s ode to veterans
Ah, another real surprise from my Netflix streaming queue! Tonight, I clicked on CSNY Deja Vu, Neil Young’s movie of the 2006 tour that came together in the wake of Neil’s album, Living With War, expecting to find a concert film with a few topical touches around the edges. Woah, Nellie, was I off base! Instead, the four old hippies play supporting actor roles for a slew of Iraq and Vietnam war veterans and family members in a pean to the hearts and souls of those who’ve followed their leaders into battles that, in the end, just didn’t make sense. Neil even got Mike Cerra, a CNN reporter who spent three tours with a unit in Iraq, to “embed” with the tour and provide a documentary-within-the-movie about how people reacted to the tour, in the midst of that heated “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” period in America.
I suppose this shouldn’t have been such a shock. While Neil’s album got the most attention for two rousing anthems, Let’s Impeach the President, and Looking For a Leader (presaging the 2008 primaries: “…maybe it’s a woman, or a black man after all…”), at its heart were five moving songs honoring the sacrifices and eternal burdens of our men and women in uniform. One was a sung from the point of view of a soldier who didn’t return, wishing he could be with his family (clip on YouTube); the title track sang for the internal and external wounds, “I’m living with war….every day…in my heart…..in my mind; I take a holy vow, to never kill again, to never kill again…” (clip on YouTube; also not available for embed)
With the movie, Neil took this theme and moved it front and center, creating a moving portrait of the costs, and the folly, of war, and celebrating anti-war veterans from the 60’s and the 90’s. The songs become interludes, a thematic backdrop to the human story; we generally hear just a verse or two of most of the tunes, both new and old. At the movie’s climax, “Find the Cost of Freedom” is transformed from a hymn of resistance into a requiem for every soldier killed in Iraq up til then, vets singing along, moms in tears….and as on the album, the encore during the fade-out is David, Stephen, Graham, and Neil bringing their celestial harmonies to bear on “America the Beautiful.” These old songsters remind us, and the younger generation, that the hippie vision was always about the deep, true heart of the dream of what American can, and should, be.
Wowser. Nicely done, Bernard Shakey.
Musical elders: Yusuf’s Cafe Session
Over the past few years, a bunch of our old musical faves have released DVDs that capture their “mature” artistry in the (recent) prime time when they’re infused with the wisdom of the years, yet with their musical chops still fully at their disposal as well. Click on over on the “Rock Elders late-career DVDs” category on the right to see others as they’re added.
The first one I wanted to share has flown totally under the radar, and will be a delightful – and heartful – discovery for anyone who was into Cat Stevens. And in the early 70’s, who wasn’t? Tea for the Tillerman was the first LP I ever bought (while on a band exchange trip), and for a few years there, he was one of the purest voices of the gentle, spiritual search of the generation. After spending 25 years out of the music business and in the heart of England’s Islamic community, he returned to performing in 2006. His new studio albums have been mixed affairs (though Footsteps in the Light, originally only released in the UK, with some old tunes and some devotional tunes, is a real treasure). But in 2007, he performed an intimate concert at London’s gorgeous Porchester Hall. Here’s the opening sequence:
The concert is a treat from start to finish. Twelve musicians create a gentle, rich tapestry on which Yusuf’s songs find new wings, a flying carpet of heart and soul. First among them is Alun Davies, seen above, who must surely be one of the most selfless musicians we love and don’t know: the half-hour BBC documentary that accompanies the concert on this disc reveals that Alun has been there at Cat’s side through all the years, his guitar weaving together with Yusuf’s to create that “Cat Stevens sound.” Who knew??
Among the many highlights of the show is a Zulu-infused Wild World, a couple of riveting Islamic vocal passages, and a surprising bluesy interlude. And just try to keep a dry eye during “Father and Son” if you, like me, have crossed over from one side of that story to the other….
The documentary is great, with a glimpse of his wild London 60’s years, which led to him falling deeply ill, living at his dad’s house, out which emerged the gentle Cat we knew and loved. Seeking refuge from fame in foreign lands, he soon left the music world, and the film offers an illuminating perspective on the role he played as one of the leaders of the London Islamic community (he did far more good work than we knew, having heard little more than the widely publicized and misinterpreted comments on Salmon Rushdie).
So start your Musical Elders DVD collection today by seeking out this gem at your local music store (I wish!), or here at Amazon.