Thursday, November 17, 2016

Barns Courtney, Fitz and the Tantrums, and a quick R.I.P. for Leonard Russell

So after seeing no live music for most of the year, last night was my fourth concert in about 5 weeks, and the third at The Paramount (which I guess is a credit to their booking people).

A few things about last night's show -- for one, I guessed right that the average age of the audience would be about midway in between those of the audiences for Squeeze and Sleeping With Sirens. I guessed wrong that there would be a men's room attendant, like SWS and unlike Squeeze. Not sure if it says anything about the audience, or if maybe men's rooms attendants are just rare happenings at the Paramount. Also, it was a pretty good crowd, but not quite as packed to capacity as it had been for Squeeze and SWS.

Denise and I got there right before the opening band went on. When they led us to our seats, it turned out that Denise had accidentally bought two seats on bar stools, not good for either of our backs. Making it worse, mine was right at the top of the staircase. I asked the young fellow acting as usher if we could be moved, and he said he'd check with his manager. A few minutes later he returned, and told us that we and the middle-aged guy in the Ramones shirt sitting next to us could all sit an unused luxury box, which was incredibly kind of them. So instead of at some point in the night hurtling down the staircase to certain injury or death, I had to make due on some soft cushy seats with plenty of room on both sides. It's a rough life, but somebody has to live it! (Many thanks again to the Paramount management staff).

Now, this was a concert Denise had picked out and bought the tickets for. She's a big fan of Fitz and the Tantrums. She loves funk, and music you can dance to.  I like them OK, but not as much as she does. I didn't love "The Walker", their big hit from their last album (you know, the whistle song, the one that starts with the guy whistling?), but I liked most of the rest of the album. I'm so-so on their new album, but it does have a few songs I like, particularly a song called "Complicated".

The opening act was someone I had never heard of before last week, a singer/guitarist named Barns Courtney. He's allegedly a Brit, but one with no trace of a British accent. (I looked him up on Wikipedia before writing this blog entry, and it turns out that while he was born in the U.K., and went back their to live at age 15, he spent most of his childhood and his early teen years in Seattle, so I guess that's why). He was backed up by a bass player and a drummer. (Barns, btw, is short for Barnaby. I've only ever heard of three Barnaby's in my whole life: The Long Island band Barnaby Bye, the TV character Barnaby Jones, and the mustache-twirling villain from March of the Wooden Soldiers. Just a little trivia for you).

Courtney's set was loud (I could feel the bass vibrating through my body), but good. His voice reminded me of David Bowie's when he's singing in his lower range, and maybe a little of Springsteen when he takes it up a little. Denise felt that he was a mix of Chris Isaak and local favorite Neil Cavanagh. I can see it, but he's much higher energy than Chris Isaak. He did a full set of pretty strong material, including a decent song called "Glitter & Gold" and a song called "Hobo Rocket" that he said was about being so poor that he had to eat sardines everyday (which sounds like it's still going on for him). He closed his set with the song I'd seen him do on YouTube when I checked him out this past weekend, a quick-and-steady number called "Fire".

I liked him enough to hit the merch stand after his set, but it turns out he doesn't have an album out yet. Which is probably why he's still eating sardines everyday. Barns, dude, get with the program -- you had a room full of people psyched up and ready to buy your music, you've got to have some music for them to buy. These kids!

By the time Fitz came on, the dance floor below was pretty full and ready to rock. Unfortunately, I was a little distracted in the first part of their set, texting on my cell phone to make sure my daughter got picked up from her night class. (It's usually my job, but last night she was supposed to get picked up by a friend who bailed. Luckily, we had her aunt ready as a backup plan. But I couldn't really relax and enjoy the show until I knew she'd been picked up and was safely on her way home.)

Anyway, Fitz and the gang did a high-flying set. Denise was bopping like a madwoman the whole time. She pulled her chair right up to front of the V.I.P. box for maximum exposure (we were sitting upstairs on the right side of the stage). I won't bore you with all the details, but someone posted their full setlist on (a pretty nifty little site, by the way, especially if you've got a concert coming up and you want to catch a sneak peek at what the band's been playing during their current tour). Here's the page address: .

The setlist above should give you the idea. Basically, they did all of their hits, and the crowd dance. A lot. The two front people, Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, are incredibly energetic. (Denise was impressed at how well Ms. Scaggs can dance in some very high heels). And special props go out to their sax player, a little short dude named James King who plays a big sax.

Naturally after a set like that, the band got called out for an encore. They opened it with their current single, "HandClap", went into a song called "6AM" and closed with "The Walker".

Now here's one other point of interest. They're rocking along on "The Walker". Everybody in the house knows it's their last song. So they get within about 15 seconds of finishing out the song, and Boom! Cannons on both sides of the stage shoot off, firing thousands of little white papers about the size of gum wrappers into the air, and as the band finishes up and takes their bows, these little papers flutter back to earth.

Now I like pyrotechnics as much as the next guy. Sleeping With Sirens had some nice fiery pyrotechnics shooting out of cannons behind the singer at several points during their set. But as I'm watching these little gum wrapper papers float back to the ground, I'm thinking of how I'd feel if I was the cleanup crew. I mean, the show was all but over. Everyone had been entertained, the band was happy but exhausted, we were at the very last stage of closing the deal, and some clown has to make an extra hour or so's worth of work for the cleanup crew just to have a little bit of a bigger finish. And I just know that the guy who shot off the cannons isn't going to be pushing a broom around after the show. And I know the crew is sitting there thinking, "You mother___er!"

And as Denise and I traipsed down the outer stairs down to street level, somehow even those stairs were full of those little white gum wrapper papers that must have gotten stuck to people's shoes. So instead of thinking about the great show I just saw, all I can think about is that poor cleanup crew.

Oh well.

So anyway, that should be my last show for the year, at least as far as national acts go. So between Squeeze, The B-52s, Tonight Alive and Fitz & the Tantrums, it turned out to be a pretty good year for live music after all.

Just very quickly, Leon Russell died this week. I don't have too much to say about him. I did like his song "Tight Rope" a lot. I guess we're just at a point now where that whole first wave of '60s and '70s rock stars are going to start leaving us one after the other. Sad to say, but man how they changed the face of popular music. I think that in most ways, music changed more from my parents' generation of crooners in the '50s and early '60s, to the rock revolution these guys started, than it has from the '60s until now.

So to Leon and all of the rockers of his generation who have already left us, and those still to leave, R.I.P. buddy. My life would have been so much less fun without you all.