Posts Tagged ‘Kirsten Ferguson’

LIVE: Steely Dan @ SPAC, 8/31/14

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

SteelyDan2

Review by Kirsten Ferguson
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Steely Dan dubbed their latest tour – which came to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on August 31 after travelling across North America for much of the summer – the “Jamalot Ever After Tour.” No real subtlety there – assuming that by “Jamalot” they meant their big band of wizard-proficient musicians and vocalists would stretch way out on jazzified, solo-filled versions of their songs, which were culled primarily from the group’s ‘70s studio recording heyday.

But “jam” also implies an element of spontaneity and, no, this was a carefully scripted affair, based on a fairly predictable formula and set list honed over the group’s last several tours – heavy on the (admittedly brilliant) tunes from the multi-platinum Aja (“Black Cow,” “Aja,” “Josie,” “Peg”) and FM staples like “Hey Nineteen,” “Reelin’ in the Years,” “My Old School” and “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number.”

Steely Dan masterminds Donald Fagen (keyboards and vocals) and Walter Becker (guitar) now embrace touring in a way they never did in their more studio-focused early days, but given their reputation as control freaks in love with extreme precision and technical proficiency, it’s no real surprise that they would approach their live show the way they do now – with a highly polished band of pros who showcase their jazz-pop prowess by taking solos throughout the night, lit under a rotating spotlight.

Concert-goers were still making their way to their seats as the 11-piece backing band – minus Fagen and Becker – opened with the Latin-flavored instrumental cover of Ray Bryant’s “Cubano Chant.” Then the two somewhat curmudgeonly looking lead guys arrived – Fagen taking his hunched seat behind the keyboard for “Black Cow” and “Aja,” the latter song featuring a Fagen keytar solo, a sax solo by Walt Weiskopf and a drum solo by Keith Carlock.

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A Few Minutes With… Larry Kirwan of Black 47

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Black 47

Larry Kirwan (right) and Black 47

Interview and story by Don Wilcock
Photograph by Kirsten Ferguson

Facing death straight in the eye clears one’s head in a heartbeat. If it’s the possible death of your child, the focus is even sharper. “You think, holy shit, you make a wrong move, and your kids are gonna die. That’s a big one,” says Larry Kirwan, leader of the Celtic rock band Black 47 performing Saturday afternoon at the 18th annual Irish 2000 Festival of Music & Arts at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds in Ballston Spa.

Black 47 takes its name from the worst year of the Irish potato famine, 1847. Their instrumentation includes uillean pipes and bodhran, and they address issues relating to Irish as well as American politics. They are one of the few contemporary rock bands that don’t blink when it comes to the politics of war. “When we were doing the Iraq album and playing it during the war, we’d do a lot of colleges or a certain amount of them during the course of the year and for three years, 2003 to 2006, it was a nightmare in bars and everything. Even colleges didn’t give a fuck (as long as) they could dance to it. They really didn’t.

“The only way I used to get a rise out of them is I’d off-handedly say, ‘I’m sorry, but the draft is coming back in this afternoon. It’s gonna be tough on you guys.’ Then I’d go into the next song. And this rumor would spread through the crowd. It was wildfire. It was like everyone was listening to what you were gonna say on the next song.”

Black 47’s core audience includes those men and women who choose the military as an occupation at a time when facing death is a gamble they feel is worth the effort in a world of limited life options. Kirwan is not a war monger, but he separates his judgments towards our fighting men and women from those about politicians who make the decisions to go to war.

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Parade o’ Shoes: Keith Streng of the Split Squad

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Parade of Shoes: Keith Streng

One of the best dressed men in garage-rock history…

The man who always matches his shoes to his shirt…

And now a two-time Parade o’ Shoes honoree…

Keith Streng of the Fleshtones, playing with the Split Squad at the River Street Pub, Troy, 8/3/14

ALSO READ:
LIVE: The Split Squad @ River Street Pub, 8/3/14
Parade of Shoes: Keith Streng

LIVE: The Split Squad @ River Street Pub, 8/3/14

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
The Split Squad

The Split Squad

Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Kirsten Ferguson

Three men in horizontally striped shirts are referring to each other as “Jackson”; their instruments are buzzing with volumes atypical of a mellow mid-summer, mid-afternoon in the middle of Troy. It’s Sunday, it’s the Knyghts of Fuzz, and they are only just getting warmed up.

The River Street Pub has its AC set for polar, but the frenzied heat of the garage rock has been winning out since Ian Carlton (guitar), Frank Novko (bass) and Brian Goodman (drums) opened with the blues stomper “I’m Not Talking” and a full-tilt “Hide and Seek” that features all three on vocals. Goodman’s eyes bug out as he pounds the skins and sings his guts out during a cool cover of the Jefferson Airplane’s “3/5′s of a Mile in 10 Seconds” and the original composition “Genny.” Carlton’s a live wire on the Electric Prunes’ “Get Me to the World on Time,” singing and playing at a tempo that leaves him drenched in sweat and the growing crowd howling for more. Novko’s bass rumbles like a D & H freight train during his take on “Hey Sha Lo Ney”; Carlton breaks two strings in the process, “a first” he declares while retrieving his spare guitar.

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LIVE: Justin Timberlake @ the Times Union Center, 7/16/14

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

JustinTimberlake2

Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson

Maybe it was seeing Justin Timberlake so soon after Paul McCartney, who had electrified the sold-out Times Union Center crowd 11 days earlier with three emotionally powerful hours of Beatles, Wings and solo songs.

But something about the first portion of Justin Timberlake’s sold-out show at the Times Union Center just felt flat, even though the devoted JT fans who filled the arena were primed to scream every time the pop heartthrob glanced out into the audience or busted a flashy dance move. Yes, it was an estrogen fest.

The show started with Timberlake and his army of musicians, singer and dancers rising up from underneath the stage — in front of JT markers that looked like gravestones — for the soulful first number, “Pusher Love Girl,” the opening track from the singer’s latest release, The 20/20 Experience.

Although he followed with “Rock Your Body” and “My Love” — two surefire club hits — they both felt surprisingly lethargic. A too-dark stage set maybe, or an arena show performed too many times without variation. Or maybe Timberlake’s slickness just felt less than genuine after having seen McCartney, who sang “The Long and Winding Road” with heart-choking emotion, as if he wrote it yesterday. Totally unfair comparison, I know.

The show did pick up right before the intermission, during the light-hearted “Summer Love” and the love ballad “Until the End of Time,” the latter featuring Timberlake at a white grand piano on the lip of the stage, as the arena lit up in a sea of cellphones.

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LIVE: Wussy @ the Low Beat, 7/24/14

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Wussy (photo by Ross Marvin)

Wussy (photo by Ross Marvin)

Review by Ross Marvin
Photographs by Ross Marvin, Al Goldberg and Kirsten Ferguson

As great as it was, the music was almost beside the point at the Wussy show on Thursday night at the Low Beat. Four members of the critically-beloved Cincinnati band were given tickets for marijuana possession before they could even get out of Ohio, and Johnny Law absconded with their entire stash. Not a great way to start a tour, though it sounds like it could make a pretty good Wussy song. Something about how driving a shitty tour van draws the attention of the cops, but Willie Nelson’s deluxe ride cruses right past the sirens, even though that bust would be a sure thing.

It was 11:30pm by the time Wussy got to Albany, and the crowd at the Low Beat ran out to their van to grab amps, guitar pedals and merch boxes to help expedite the set-up. One fan even lent her handwriting talents to the band, helping to copy the setlist. By 11:49pm, the band hit the stage, forgot about such petty things as a sound-check, took a shot of tequila in honor of National Tequila Day, and dug-in to one of the most incendiary performances that will grace Captial Region stages this year.

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LIVE: SAW Barn Bash @ Salem Art Works, 6/7/14

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
Mark di Suvero: For Euler, 1997

Mark di Suvero: For Euler, 1997

Story and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson

The restoration of an old barn into an impressive new gallery and performance space was cause for celebration at Salem Arts Works’ recent barn bash. SAW founder Anthony Cafritz – whose vision has turned the formerly fallow dairy farm in Salem, New York, into a 119-acre sculpture park, gallery, artist residence and teaching space – was on hand to lead tours to the top of Cary Hill Sculpture Park, where a stunning vista looks out past several massive orange Mark di Suvero pieces to the Green Mountains of neighboring Vermont. SAW is currently at work repurposing over four miles of former logging trails into public hiking and biking trails (with an artistic view).

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LIVE: Fishbone @ Putnam Den, 6/21/14

Friday, June 27th, 2014
Fishbone

Fishbone

Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson

Chatting with a fan at the bar before last Saturday’s Fishbone show at Putnam Den, laid-back Fishbone bassist John Norwood Fisher showed off a cellphone pic of the large crowd the band faced the day before at a Quebec music festival. Following the Saratoga gig, he mentioned the band had to get up unusually early to head toward Buffalo for a concert with Primus in Gratwick Park.

By comparison, the crowd at Putnam Den was modest by the time Fishbone finally went on near midnight, but the long-running band didn’t let that dampen their effort. In fact, frontman Angelo Moore had to stop to towel off several times as the sweat dripping from his face got in the way of his manic saxophone playing. It would be hard to find a frontman as hard-working and eternally energetic as Moore. The guy does it all: blows a mean saxophone, warps sound waves with a theremin, recites spoken word in between songs, surfs the crowd and generally hops around the stage like a crazed man.

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