Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

New Steve Hackett Album – Wolflight

February 18th, 2015

Steve Hackett has a new album called Wolflight due this spring. It is set to drop on 7 April here in the States. In advance of the release he has posted a trailer for the album. There are no whole songs included but I like what I hear in the excerpts and was surprised to find banjo ringing from my speakers.

Rhiannon Giddens on Letterman

February 18th, 2015

Rhiannon Giddens was on Late Show with David Letterman last week where she performed “Waterboy” from her new album Tomorrow Is My Turn. She’ll be here in Madison on 27 April at the Capitol Theatre.

Show #271: She’s So Unusual – Cyndi Lauper

February 17th, 2015

Today we have my next show featuring music by an artist profiled in Gillian Gaar’s She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll and that artist is Cyndi Lauper.

lauper84 Show #271: Shes So Unusual   Cyndi Lauper
(Photo found here.)

I recall very well the days when one couldn’t escape “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. It was all over the radio and MTV. One thing I do not recall, however, is Lauper being lauded as a feminist icon or as a symbol of feminine strength. It seemed that Madonna received all of those accolades with her frank sexuality which she seemed to be completely in control of. Gaar, on the other hand, notes that Lauper was featured in the January 1985 “Women of the Year” issue of Ms. magazine. Plus I suppose that a song celebrating masturbation, “She-Bop”, was a bold move back in 1983. To top things, off, Gaar says Lauper was avowedly feminist referring to remarks made toRolling Stone:

It was all traditional: the church, the family, the government. And you know what I learned? Those are the three biggest oppressors of women that will ever come along.

Apparently my memory is either failing me here or I never really paid that much attention to her career. My guess is that it’s that latter because I was not a fan of Cyndi Lauper’s dance pop with its synth bass, anemic guitar, and dopey faux percussion sounds. Her synth-pop was all that was wrong with 80s music to my mind. Plus her persona was of a quirky girl next door who liked to go out and have fun and not of a woman telling listeners “Hear me roar!”

Before I make a final decent into being a nattering nabob of negativity, I have to say that reading about Lauper in Gaar’s book elevated my opinion of her. I had considered her to basically be an airhead pop songmistress but came to appreciate what she did. I still don’t like the music, but think more highly of her approach. Plus I have learned that she mentioned Planned Parenthood at her concert here in Madison back in the fall of 2013 and that PP had a stand in the lobby.

The show today is Lauper’s concert from 2 May 1984. It took place at The Metro in Boston, MA at the birthday party concert for a local radio station, WXKS. This performance was broadcast on the radio, not surprisingly.


When You Were Mine
I’ll Kiss You
All Through the Night
He’s So Unusual
Yeah Yeah
She Bop
Time After Time
Money Changes Everything
Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Download show

Cyndi Lauper

Here’s Lauper doing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” live.

You Won’t Have to Hit the Road For These Shows

February 6th, 2015

alabamashakes 2015 You Wont Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found at MTVHive.)

Alabama Shakes have booked their first Madison tour date ever. They will be at Overture Hall on 17 March. Tickets (at $39.50) went on sale today. Opening will be Nashville’s Promised Land Sound who apparently sound like country, rock’n'roll, and soul. I shall have to check out their new album which is due soon.

therev 2015 You Wont Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found at KEXP.)

The Reverend Horton Heat are coming to the High Noon Saloon next month on the 6th. Tickets are $20.

You’ll Have to Hit the Road For These Shows

February 6th, 2015

While there are some good bands coming to Madison this spring and summer, there are other tours that will be avoiding Madison like the plague, unfortunately.

rush 2015 Youll Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found here.)

Rush is embarking on their R40 tour to celebrate 40 years of something. The band started in the late 60s, Neil Peart joined in 1974, and so I’m not really sure what it’s the 40th anniversary of this year. Anyway, this is slated to be their final large-scale tour and the closest stop is at the United Center in Chicago on 12 June. Perhaps if they do only smaller tours in the future, they might actually return to Madison.

primus 2015 Youll Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found here.)

The Primus and the Chocolate Factory tour contiues in 2015. Again, Chicago is the closest stop with the band playing at the Chicago Theatre on 10 April. Perhaps with The Fungi Orchestra onboard, an extra large venue was required.

farrar hunt 2015 Youll Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found here.)

Lastly, Jay Farrar has hit the road as well and he’s bringing Gary Hunt with him. Surprise, surprise! The closest stop is yet again Chicago with a couple of dates at the Old Town School of Folk Music on 25-26 April.

Minstrel in the Gallery is the Next Tull Remix

February 4th, 2015

The Jethro Tull remixes just keep coming. Next up is Minstrel in the Gallery.

minstrel remix cover <i>Minstrel in the Gallery</i> is the Next Tull Remix

There will be a single CD version, vinyl, and a “La Grandé” edition which features 2 CDs and 2 DVDs. Here is the tracklisting:

01. Minstrel In The Gallery
02. Cold Wind To Valhalla
03. Black Satin Dancer
04. Requiem
05. One White Duck
06. Baker St. Muse
07. Grace
08. Summerday Sands
09. Requiem
10. One White Duck
11. Grace
12. Minstrel In The Gallery-BBC Version
13. Cold Wind To Valhalla-BBC Version
14. Aqualung

01. Introduction
02. Wind Up
03. Critique Oblique
04. Wond ring Aloud
05. My God
06. Cross-Eyed Mary
07. Minstrel In The Gallery
08. Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day
09. Bungle In The Jungle
10. Aqualung
11. Guitar Solo
12. Back-Door Angels
13. Locomotive Breath

Other highlights from this multi-disc set include the obvious adds:

– Original album and seven bonus tracks (six previously unreleased), two mixed to 5.1 surround, and all to stereo by Steven Wilson
– Flat transfers of the original LP mix at 96/24 (plus Summerday Sands )
– Flat transfer of the original quad mix of the LP (plus Summerday Sands )
– An eight-minute film of the band performing Minstrel In The Gallery in Paris from July 1975

In contrast to the band’s previous deluxe edition remix extravaganza’s, Minstrel contains precious few studio outtakes. It looks like we’re getting alternate takes of “Requiem”, “One White Duck”, and “Grace”. Apparently there were no unreleased tunes sitting in the vault. Tull performed a few songs live from Monte Carlo where they were recording the album for the BBC. Abbreviated versions of “Cold Wind to Valhalla” and the title track appeared on Tull’s 20th anniversary box set as well as the 2002 Minstrel remaster. Here we get full versions of those songs plus “Aqualung”. Oddly, “Requiem” from that performance is absent.

CD 2 contains what I presume to be most of the band’s concert at the Palais des Sportes in Paris from 5 July 1975. “Critique Oblique” appeared on Tull’s 25th anniversary box set. The show was also filmed with a snippet of “Minstrel in the Gallery” being featured on the box set’s accompanying video release. Here we get the song in full on one of the DVDs. I don’t know what the setlist that night was and it could have been abbreviated for filming but the CD here is missing a few songs that were standard parts of the set. A lengthy excerpt from “Thick as a Brick” is in absentia as is “Ladies”, “SeaLion”, “WarChild Suite”, an instrumental version of “Reasons for Waiting”, plus soloing by Barriemore Barlow and Martin Barre. It’s early days and there’s no word as to why the entire concert video was not included.

I need to get a 5.1 surround system because I think that “Minstrel in the Gallery” and “Baker St. Muse” would sound fantastic.

Does anyone know how many other remixes are planned even if not done by Steve Wilson? “Velvet Green” would be amazing in 5.1.

Rhiannon Giddens to Release First Solo Effort

February 4th, 2015

giddens timyt cover Rhiannon Giddens to Release First Solo Effort

Carolina Chocolate Drops frontwoman, Rhiannon Giddens will release her first solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, next week on the 10th.

When the CCD were here last year Giddens mentioned a forthcoming solo album and the band played “Shake Sugaree” by Elizabeth Cotten which appears on Tomorrow Is My Turn. She related that much of the impetus for doing a solo project came from T Bone Burnett who heard her performance at the Another Day, Another Time concert in New York. He was quite impressed with Giddens’ voice and also with the audience’s reaction and so suggested she do an album to showcase her singing. Giddens agreed and Burnett produced.

You can listen to Tomorrow Is My Turn in its entirety at NPR Music.

While I hope that Giddens doesn’t leave the Chocolate Drops, she deserves whatever solo success comes her way. I would also opine that, should she depart, the remaining members should fill the vacancy and continue. CCD has reached the point of being less about who is in the band and more about exploring American musical traditions through an African-American set of lenses.

UPDATE: a tour stop here in Madison has been announced: 27 April at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets go on sale 13 February.

Madison. Cannot. Wait.

February 4th, 2015

swlive2013 Madison. Cannot. Wait.
(Photo by Amused to Life.)

This I did not expect. Steve Wilson will bypass Milwaukee on his American tour in support of his latest album Hand. Cannot. Erase. and instead play here in Madison at the Barrymore Theatre on 6 June. Tickets are $38 plus a $4 convenience fee. It is a general admission show. King Crimson did the same thing last year but I assume that was because Biff Blumfumgagnge needed a mid-tour conjugal break. Wilson is doing two shows in Chicago this time around so perhaps he didn’t want to do another only about 80 miles away. Still, you’d think he’d do the Chicago gigs and head out west to bigger venues. Well, whatever the case, I shan’t complain.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. comes out on 3 March here in the States. Here’s the title track:

And here is “Perfect Life”:

Wilson tends not to tackle pleasant, happy themes and Hand. Cannot. Erase. is no exception. He explained the concept behind the album thus:

“The basic story, or concept of the record – it’s about a woman growing up, who goes to live in the city, very isolated, and she disappears one day and no one notices,” he kicked off, noting that such a description is the briefest one possible and that “there’s more to it than that.”

Focusing on what inspired him to take such a road, Wilson noted that it all began after “seeing a film about this woman who died in London – it’s a documentary called “Dreams of a Life” about a woman called Joyce Vincent, who was found dead in her London apartment, and she’d been there for three years.

“Now, what’s really interesting about this story is that your initial reaction when you hear a story like that is, ‘Ah, little old bag lady that no one notices, no one cares about.’ [Vincent] wasn’t [like that]. She was young, she was popular, she was attractive, she had many friends, she had family, but for whatever reason, nobody missed her for three years.

Uff da! I like the two songs that have escaped via YouTube. They’ve got a sound that’s different from the jazzy/70s Crimson feel of Wilson’s previous album.

I hope to see you Madisonians at the Barrymore in June.

hce cover Madison. Cannot. Wait.

Show #270: Out on the Road, in the Direction of Black Earth

February 3rd, 2015

It’s been a long, long time…

g77 2015 Show #270: Out on the Road, in the Direction of Black Earth

I start every year with a Genesis or Genesis-related show and for 2015 I am kicking things off (a bit tardy, I admit) with Genesis’ performance here in Madison from 9 February 1977.

The band rolled into the Dane County Coliseum fairly early in the North American tour in support of Wind and Wuthering. Genesis were on the road for basically the first half of the year trying to consolidate the success of their previous album, A Trick of the Tail. Commercial success came slowly. If memory serves, each Gabriel-era album did slightly better than the last. After Gabriel left in 1975 the band reorganized and proved they weren’t dead yet with ATofT which sold better than any album before it. WaW kept the momentum going. The album would eventually place a few spots higher on the American charts and a few spots lower in the UK. However, “Your Own Special Way” charted at #62 here in the States and this show took place at about the time the began its ascent.

The band seemed to be playing wherever they could as this tour had about 50% more stops than that for ATotT. This probably explains why they stopped here in Madison in between Minneapolis and Milwaukee dates.

When I began collecting Genesis boots back in the mid-80s, the Wind and Wuthering tour seemed to be very well represented. You had a few FM broadcasts and many an audience recording to choose from. It was really fun for me to hear these shows because I was so familiar with Seconds Out and I think this experience was really why I got into collecting in the first place. For starters, recordings like this one give you a chance to hear the songs in the order they were played. While the sequencing on Seconds Out is by no means intolerable, I rather do like to hear new songs interspersed with old ones instead of having them all clumped together on either end of the album. Another great thing was that, sinceSE had only one WaW song on it, “Afterglow”, I actually get a chance to hear the band performing the then-new songs. Plus you get to hear song introductions and get an idea of Phil Collins’ stage presence. For instance, his intro to “Supper’s Ready” is the story about Romeo and Juliet at the drive-in and you have Mike Rutherford introducing his “hit single”, “Your Own Special Way” while Steve Hackett prefaces “Firth of Fifth” with a few comments.

With the profligate number of shows available from this tour, I got burnt out at some point. Years later, however, I am enjoying concerts from ‘77 once again. It was, after all, Steve Hackett’s final tour with the band but also Chester Thompson’s first. In a sense, you get the best of the old and the new on this tour. Hackett’s unique style and sound would be gone before the end of the year while Thompson’s playing added some swing and has a very loose feel in contrast to that of Collins and Bruford.

As for this show, it finds the band in pretty good form though Collins seems a bit hesitant with his intros. “All in a Mouse’s Night” was played at the UK dates in January but didn’t make it across The Pond while “Inside & Out” was still three months away from being added to the setlist. There is a funny moment at about 3:30 into “Supper’s Ready” when you can hear the taper or someone near the taper take a couple big hits from a joint. From people I know who saw many shows at the Coliseum in the 1970s, this was perfectly common and reputable behavior.


One for the Vine
Robbery, Assault, and Battery
Your Own Special Way
Firth of Fifth
Carpet Crawlers
…In That Quiet Earth
I Know What I Like
Eleventh Earl of Mar
Supper’s Ready
Dance on a Volcano/Drum Duet/Los Endos
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway/The Musical Box (closing section)

Download show


Famously in Genesis circles there exists a promo video called Seconds Out which about a half an hour of the band’s performance in Dallas on 19 March 1977. It’s easy to find and is on YouTube as well, although I couldn’t find the whole nine yards in one video. This is the “Lamb/Musical Box” medley which closed the show. Here you can get a glimpse of lighting rig the band invested in for the tour. There were 50 jumbo jet landing lights above the stage and I believe they also had some lasers too.

As for the rest of the video, “Firth of Fifth” is here and the “Dance on a Volcano/Drum Duet/Los Endos” medley is here.

Too Old to Rock’n'Roll?

October 22nd, 2014

ianderson2014 Too Old to RocknRoll?
(Photo found at Get Ready to Rock.)

Earlier this year prog stalwarts Yes and Ian Anderson both released new albums. Both went on tour in support of their new works. Interestingly, Yes played only a couple of new songs most nights on their tour while doing both Fragile and Close to the Edge in their entirety. Anderson, however, performed the whole of his new work Homo Erraticus for the first leg of his tour (it’s down to seven songs or about half the album now) and then played classic Tull tracks during the second. This got me thinking about how “relevant” new material from established artists is and about how fans react to it. Since this notion popped into my head, U2, formerly one of the most critically revered and most popular bands on the planet, has released a new album which has been, as far as I can tell, almost universally panned with many saying they need to hang it up.

I ran into an interview with Steve Howe from 2012 in which he was asked if he’d ever play on another Yes album. He responded (in part):

You take bands like Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones, bands bigger than anything I’ve been in, and they make new records and nobody really cares. The people want to hear “Satisfaction.” That goes with Yes as well, because people want to hear Close to the Edge. We like playing it. We love it, too. We love the new music but it doesn’t have the familiarity. It is questionable what effect a new album has on well- established bands. Sometimes, you have to step back and ask yourself what you should be doing. I think The Who had one of the most disappointing results when they put out that last album. It was practically ignored and they are The Who.

Howe makes some good points but his comments also raise questions.

Take The Who’s Endless Wire. It reached #6 here on the Billboard charts and #9 in the UK. If you look at setlists from 2006-07 you’ll see that the band were playing 9 songs from the album. (They were also performing “Real Good Looking Boy”, a newish track from 2004 that nonetheless dates from the Endless Wire era.) I’m not sure about the criteria the album charts used in 2006 but the Internet changed so much that you cannot judge an album’s performance in 2006 to that of one in 1976. How do you judge the success of an album in the Internet age?

I’m not arguing that Endless Wire was as big an album as Tommy and I don’t think anyone is expecting a rock album by a well-established act to be as big as the albums from their prime were. I just don’t think it was ignored quite as much as Howe thinks it was.

And what role do artists have these days in getting attention for an album? I think Yes do themselves and their fans a disservice by performing so little new material. In 2013 they played The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, and Going for the One. This year only 3 songs from Heaven and Earth were performed live. Before being dropped early on, “To Ascend” alternated with “Believe Again” while “The Game” was usually in the set. This means that Heaven and Earth was represented by only 1 or 2 songs per show. Fly From Here was much better represented on 2011-12 tours.

On the flip side you have Ian Anderson. Tull tours during the aughts had the occasional new song but mostly rehashed the same tunes from the back catalog with more recent albums being ignored. Then Tull dissolves. Audiences got to hear the whole of TAAB2 back in 2012 and this tour – at least the first leg did – features all of Homo Erraticus. As a fan, I view this as Anderson having confidence in his new material as well as in the audience to engage with it. Heck, fans may even investigate the new album knowing that they’re going to see and hear the whole thing performed before their very eyes. (Of course, some fans may decide to stay away because of a perceived lack of classics.)

yes2014 Too Old to RocknRoll?
(Photo found at Billboard.)

Yes does not seem to have confidence in Heaven and Earth nor in audiences to be receptive to it. Having seen them this past summer, both “Believe Again” and “The Game” were very warmly received which leads me to believe that their faith in audiences rejecting new songs was misplaced. At some point today’s classics were new and were performed in front of audiences who were not familiar with them. Here in 2014 Thick as a Brick is a beloved classic but in October 1971 fans were getting a taste of it in concert almost 5 months before the album hit store shelves. Similarly, Close to the Edge is widely considered to be the quintessential Yes album and, as Howe points out, fans want to hear it. But imagine being in Dallas on 30 July 1972 and hearing the unfamiliar strains of “Siberian Khatru” to open the show – Close to the Edge was still more than a month away from hitting stores.

Older bands will always have fans attending their concerts who only want to hear old songs, the songs they got stoned to in high school. So, to be sure, fans have to be willing to give new material a chance. This whole endeavor is a two-way street. But it can be done. If we rewind back to 1987, Jethro Tull had a new album and was hitting the road. There were lots of fans there who wanted to hear “Aqualung” and “Thick as a Brick”. And they got those songs. But they also got new material. I would argue that at least 2 of those new tunes, “Farm on the Freeway” and “Budapest”, became Tull classics that have, more or less, joined the ranks of “Aqualung” and “Thick as a Brick” in the minds of fans. It’s the rare Tull/IA tour since 1987 that doesn’t feature at least one of these songs and, when one or both is missing, “Jump Start” and/or “Steel Monkey” was usually there to fill in the gap. Even in 2014 Anderson is performing “Farm on the Freeway”.

As a fan of Yes who enjoys the music they made prior to The Yes Album and after Going For the One, I can sympathize with Howe’s view. I saw Yes this past summer and, while I enjoyed the classic material, I was rather hoping for more tunes from Heaven and Earth and songs that haven’t already been played a billions and billions of times before. I’d also have loved to have heard something from Drama since Geoff Downes is again in the band as well a song or two from We Can Fly.

After the tour in support of We Can Fly Yes then went on tour playing three classic albums in their entirety. And on the tour which just finished, the album was ignored. What message does this send? The one that comes through loud and clear is that the band doesn’t have much interest or confidence in that album. Howe rightly points out a lack of familiarity with the newer songs; so why don’t the band play more of them to help overcome it? Repetition is the key. If you play a few new songs for a while and then drop them for subsequent tours, it’s no surprise that people are unfamiliar with these songs.

Back in 1973 Yes performed Tales from Topographic Oceans in its entirety – before the album was released. Yes (and other well-established bands) need to regain some of that confidence. I’m not saying Yes needs to be out there performing all of Heaven and Earth but rather that it would be more interesting for them to mix the old and the new more evenly. Give long-time fans who stopped caring about new Yes albums in 1979 something but also give a clutch of the newer songs a chance.

thewho2014 Too Old to RocknRoll?
(Photo found at We Rock.)

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