Tag Archives: Capitol Theatre

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Steve Winwood Prove He’s as Relevant as Ever at Space at Westbury

April 24th, 2015

Steve Winwood – the Space at Westbury – April 23, 2015

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“He’s still got it!” You hear people say that all the time, but so often it’s nothing more than wishful thinking or wistful nostalgia. But when everyone at the Space at Westbury had that thought last night, it was because it was as true as ever for Steve Winwood. With a groovy organ and an Afrobeat feel from his stellar rhythm section, he opened the show with the Spencer Davis Group hit “I’m a Man.” There’s old school and there’s old old school, and the 1967 classic is in the latter category. You have to wonder how many times Winwood has sung the song. Yet, in what would be the prevailing mood of the set, he made it feel as relevant as ever, making it sound like it was the best version ever.

From the opening tune through the end of the encore, the performance was like a long drive on a beautiful night with the radio set to the classic-rock station and every song that comes up is even more of a favorite than the previous one. Winwood described the set list as “predominantly vintage,” and he didn’t hold back on the hits. “Can’t Find My Way Home,” played early on, delighted the sold-out crowd, Winwood’s strong vocals transcending the inevitable sing-along and phone videos to provide a chills-inducing moment. The show’s centerpiece featured a powerful triplet of “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” “Glad” and “Light Up or Leave Me Alone.” “Low Spark” was naturally long with a meaty guitar solo and maybe a touch of irony in the lyric “the man in the suit has just bought a new car with the profits he made on your dreams” sung to a room with at least a couple of guys wearing suits (who may or may not have just gotten new cars). The instrumental “Glad” didn’t show its age at all, still feeling fresh and exploratory with a nice moody outro section centered on the organ, flute and congas. “Light Up” was the big, long rocker of the night with solos abound for everyone—pure, classic, good-as-it-gets rock and roll.

Throughout the show, Winwood elevated the time-tested material: His voice sounding unchanged by the decades, and his excellent organ and guitar playing showing plenty of kick. Winwood’s band was equal to the task, keeping the spirit of nostalgia in the material while bringing new sounds into the mix. The all-killer-no-filler set finished with perhaps the most audience-pleasing song of the night, Winwood’s merely old school ’80s hit “Higher Love,” which had many in the place feeling three decades younger, for sure. And while the whole set had the “big guns” feel of an encore, Winwood did have a couple of rounds left in the chamber after a well-earned ovation from the crowd. He displayed his guitar-rocking skills on “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” with what felt like three distinct show-stopping solos. But before the fuzz faded, Winwood returned to his organ and returned to where it all began—not just the show, but his career altogether—leading the band in a rousing version of “Gimme Some Lovin’,” everyone in the room thinking, “So glad we made it.” —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(Steve Winwood plays the Capitol Theatre tonight and tomorrow and State Theatre on Monday.)

 

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An Acoustic Solo Citizen Cope Show at the Capitol Theatre Tomorrow

April 3rd, 2015

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Clarence Greenwood has been doing business as Citizen Cope since the ’90s. But after his major-label debut on Dreamworks in 2002, Cope further made a name for himself in buying out his contract and self-producing the follow-up, the eclectic The Clarence Greenwood Recordings (stream it below), filled with roots, rock, reggae, dub and hip-hop. Now a decade later, Citizen Cope (above, doing a solo rendition of “Bullet and a Target” live in the Bing Lounge) is known for his high-energy live shows, done solo or with a full band. And tomorrow night at the Capitol Theatre he’ll perform an intimate solo acoustic show. (Plus, it’s for a good cause with $1 of each ticket sold going to Turnaround Arts to purchase musical instruments for middle schoolers in Lame Deer, Mont.—a community on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Lame Deer is part of Turnaround Arts, a President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities program that uses arts education to help students succeed.)

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A 75th Birthday Bash Full of Smiles and Classic Rock

March 17th, 2015

Phil Lesh – Capitol Theatre – March 16, 2015

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead and, if you haven’t noticed, their music seems to be everywhere, a constant presence that transcends genre, age and geography. Part of that constant presence has been the band’s bassist, Phil Lesh, who, remarkably, turned 75 on Sunday and is celebrating (how else?) with a run of jam-filled shows at the Capitol Theatre. Monday night’s band of Lesh’s friends included Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule on guitar and vocals, Eric Krasno of Soulive on the other guitar, and longtime Lesh running mates John Molo and Rob Barraco on drums and keyboards respectively. The evening began with a session of noodling: free-form, aqueous improvisation that featured all five musicians interacting with the others, like wolves licking their chops before devouring helpless prey.

The set proper bounced back and forth between the Dead’s repertoire, older blues-based material like “Dupree’s Diamond Blues” and “Cosmic Charlie” interleaved with later-era groove-rockers like “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Alabama Getaway.” Of course, the songs themselves were merely starting points for various shades of space-outs and left-turn excursions. The walls of the Capitol Theatre were populated in tie-dyed fractal explosions that seemed to open up wormholes to past eras, 20, 30, 40 years back. Krasno’s clean-toned guitar played counterpoint to Haynes’s gritty licks, but Lesh was the constant force, running circles around his younger crew. Each measure of bass playing was a snowflake— clear, defined crystal, beautifully unique. The first set ended with an optimistic spring theme: “Here Comes Sunshine” brought a projected sunrise to the theater’s walls with Lesh pushing Haynes and Molo while Baracco glued together the sonic collage, segueing into the Allman Brothers classic “Blue Sky,” the ceiling turning a bright indigo as Haynes ceded the floor for Krasno and Baracco solos before shining his own big, Allmans-y turn.

The second set picked up where the first left off, another round of free jamming, Lesh slithering through multiple THC-soaked themes before charging through a few more covers: Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” and later Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” the band cracking open classic-rock radio and lacing it with LSD-inspired psychedelia. There’s often a concern with the various Dead-cover outfits about who will sing which song, but really it’s not a problem because the guy next to you will (probably) know most of the words and sing it out, loud and proud. The smiles and the twirling dancers were as integral to these shows as the weird set-list variations like the traditional “Help on the Way” > “Slipknot” > “Franklin’s Tower” being split up by “Just a Little Light” and “Uncle John’s Band” as the quintet mostly pulled off Monday night. Krasno shined best during the closing section, finding comfort in build-up solos and going toe-to-toe with Haynes. A supercharged ovation brought back the band for an emotional “Stella Blue,” Haynes belting it out as those in the smiling audience sang along, many swaying in one another’s arms. But no smiles were bigger than the constant one on the 75 year old leading the way. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(See Phil Lesh play the Capitol Theatre on Thursday night.)

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Three Nights of Gov’t Mule with John Scofield Coming Our Way

March 6th, 2015

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Warren Haynes is one of the hardest working musicians in show business. He’s been a solo performer in addition to his work with a variety of groups, including the Dickey Betts Band, the Allman Brothers Band, the Dead and, of course, Gov’t Mule, the blues-rock power trio he founded with bassist Allen Woody and drummer Matt Abts back in 1994. Following Woody’s tragic death in 2000, the band used a rotating group of bassists (including Andy Hess for five years) before settling in as a four-piece with keyboardist Danny Louis and bassist Jorgen Carlsson. In 2014, Gov’t Mule kicked off a 20th-anniversary celebration with a series of live recordings highlighting their impressive two decades of work. The most recent archival release, the stellar Sco-Mule (stream it above), out earlier this year, was recorded at two 1999 shows in Atlanta that featured dazzling jazz-rock guitarist John Scofield. And while the album is terrific, Scofield and the Mule have hit the road together bringing their cool, unique live sound to the masses. Their tour is now winding down, but you can still catch them on Sunday at the Space at Westbury and then their two final shows, next Friday and Saturday at the Capitol Theatre.

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North Mississippi Allstars and Anders Osborne Put on Marathon Show

February 27th, 2015

NMO – the Space at Westbury – February 26, 2015

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It was a night of beginnings at the Space at Westbury on Thursday. With a stage packed with two drum kits and more guitars than fingers to count them with, the marathon show officially began with Luther Dickinson and Anders Osborne as a duet, playfully matching slide guitars in each other’s faces, singing “Let It Roll.” As the two hugged and Osborne left the stage to applause, Dickinson announced the evening as the “North Mississippi Anders Osborne Experience” before inviting his “brothers,” Cody Dickinson and Lightnin’ Malcolm, to kick off things once again with a few North Mississippi Allstars songs. But things didn’t really get rolling until Luther coaxed everyone out of their seats, filling in the space in front of the stage and in the aisles while the trio matched the energy with their bread-and-butter material, including “Shake ’Em on Down,” “Drinking Muddy Water” and “KC Jones (On the Road Again).” The trio flexed their Delta blues–rock muscles with Luther strutting his superlative slide playing and Cody shuffling along in time.

Throughout the night, one song’s ending was another’s beginning, and as the NMA mini-set closed, the entire trio banging away on a drum as Osborne and the rest of his trio—Carl Dufresne and Brady Blade—hopped onstage with their own percussion in hand, Cody Dickinson got the party started, singing “Granny Does Your Dog Bite” and getting the audience to sing along. Before long, the six musicians were on the floor marching through the crowd like New Orleans was on Long Island. Again, it felt like things were coming to an end, but the night was just pushing off from shore as NMA ceded the stage to Osborne and with a soulful moan in his voice and his slide, he took the helm. It seemed like the volume was raised a couple of clicks for this portion of the show with Osborne’s trio in fine form. Antics and marching bands are all in good fun, but the audience certainly was hungry for some red-meat rock and roll, which Osborne delivered. The highlight of the night featured his band rounded out to a quartet with Luther on acoustic guitar for a bang-bang-bang stretch of “Mind of a Junkie,” “Back on Dumaine” and “On the Road to Charlie Parker.” Again, each tune bubbled up out of the predecessor’s ending. The first featured a narcotic Neil Young–esque slow-burn guitar jam with Osborne as soulful as ever. “Dumaine” dissolved into a hair-raising improv with Osborne’s guitar channeling Jerry Garcia and Luther matching with an almost-Latin flair of acoustic guitar picking. Finally “Charlie Parker” was a powerhouse of New Orleans–infused rock and roll that easily could’ve ended the night, but, naturally, they were still just getting going.

From there, it would take a slide rule and a spreadsheet to properly keep track of the permutations of musicians and instruments. There was a trio version of the classic “Junco Pardna,” the Dickinson brothers and Osborne doing justice to the source material. Oh, did they mention that they have a new album out together? Finally, after about 90 minutes of soul-warming Southern rock, they got around to playing material from the new release, Freedom & Dreams, like everything else leading up to it had been a rehearsal. Combined as a massive six-piece, looking and sounding a bit like an updated version of the Allman Brothers Band, NMO proper began their night. “Back Together” stood out here, featuring count-’em three overlapping and interweaving guitar solos. Before the night came to a real, honest-to-goodness close, Cody Dickinson took a washboard solo, complete with wild flashing white lights that seemed to turn the band inside out, Malcolm ending up on the drums, Dufresne on the guitar and Luther on the bass. At one point earlier in the two-plus-hour show, Osborne mentioned the writing of a new song, “Westbury Blues,” joking it wasn’t ready … but maybe for the “next album.” From the sounds of it, for NMO, this is only the beginning. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(North Misissippi Allstars and Anders Osborne play the Capitol Theatre tonight.)

 

 

 

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North Mississippi Allstars and Anders Osborne Team Up to Make Music

February 25th, 2015

Brother-duo North Mississippi Allstars (above, doing “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” for Jam in the Van)—Luther Dickinson (vocals and guitar) and Cody Dickinson (drums and vocals)— combine their Delta blues–based rock with guitar aficionado Anders Osborne (below, performing “Lean on Me” and “Believe in You”) and his soulful New Orleans rock (by way of Sweden) to form the exciting new musical venture NMO. The trio put out a full-length album, Freedom & Dreams (stream it below), just last week. And it’s safe to say that recording the LP was an easygoing affair. “Freedom & Dreams is extremely honest and captures NMO’s relaxed chemistry so well, most of these songs did not even have a proper count off or beginning,” said Luther Dickinson. “We were interested in combining Anders’ singing and songwriting with NMA’s groove and aesthetic to create something unique that neither of us could do without the other—a type of modern Southern folk rock.” For his part, Osborne was equally enthused: “I loved every minute of this recording session! Surrounded by such an amazing group of people, filled those four days with nonstop creativity, love and good food! And the record came out sounding just like it! So good.” Now out on the road, NMO are playing highlights from each catalog, both acoustic and electric, in addition to their new, shared material. And you can see them on Thursday at the Space at Westbury and on Friday at the Capitol Theatre.

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Three Hannibal Buress Shows Tonight and Tomorrow

February 6th, 2015

Hannibal Buress was born in Chicago, but he’s made a name for himself in comedy in New York City, writing for and appearing on local shows like Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, Broad City and High Maintenance while building up his standup career to the point he stars in his own comedy specials and travels the country as a headliner. And this weekend, Buress brings the Comedy Camisado Tour back home to perform at the Space at Westbury tonight, both early and late, and at the Capitol Theatre tomorrow night.

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An Impressive First Night of PhilRAD at the Capitol Theatre

December 30th, 2014

PhilRAD – Capitol Theatre – December 29, 2014

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About 80 minutes into their first set last night at the Capitol Theatre, PhilRAD finally paused and the audience let out a collective sigh that was easily translated to “What just happened!?” The band—consisting of four-fifths of the upstart Grateful Dead cover outfit Joe Russo’s Almost Dead with Phil Lesh leading the way on bass—had just opened their sold-out three-night run with a twisted jam-filled expedition that on paper looked like “Truckin’”“Jack Straw” > “Estimated Prophet” > “Eyes of the World” > “Crazy Fingers” > “King Solomon’s Marbles.” It was like watching a kid get a new bike with training wheels for Christmas and in the course of an hour or so go from wobbly beginner to look-ma-no-hands to X Games medalist. The stretch was full of highlights: Russo on drums cracked open the jam in “Truckin’” like an egg as Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger played a runny-yolk two-guitar jam; Marco Benevento led a glorious jam in “Jack Straw” on the grand piano; five guys seemingly played at five different tempos but all somehow fit together in a feeling-out-each-other-moment in “Estimated”; Metzger crafting a peak-upon-peak solo in “Eyes”; and, of course, Lesh playing the adult in the room with his beautiful, exploratory bass playing. If it was sloppy at times, the music seemed to benefit: This material longs for looseness and the surprises that come with imperfection.

Everyone had a moment to shine, individually and in the group dynamic. Russo was in fine form, a firm hand on the back of the bicycle seat that knew exactly when to let go and when to rein in things. A first-set highlight was the jam out of “Crazy Fingers,” which under Russo’s guidance went free then beautiful then funk-rave until finally crashing into “King Solomon’s Marbles.” The crowd reveled in each moment that was half nostalgia, half groundbreaking. There were sing-alongs for their old favorites and revelations at new discoveries in decades-old material that lurked unknowingly beneath the surface.

The second set, which alternated between straight-up guitar rocking, out-there space-drifts and shall-we-dance? grooving, was somehow even looser, and the surprising second song could sum it up. “Throwing Stones” formed out of a free-flowing underwater jam lead by Benevento that finally coalesced around the up-tempo theme. Metzger, sounding every bit like Bob Weir on vocals, led the crowd in a fist-pumping sing-along before turning in on Russo for a climactic, crowd-pleasing guitar solo. After another verse, Lesh and Hamilton bounced on a theme that as much Sly and the Family Stone as the Dead, which Russo somehow brought back for a short bit before things went into space-funk-fusion for an unexpected segue into “Dark Star.” That tune was a platform for some of the most inventive exploring of the night, ceding way to a raging-under-the-red-lights cover of “All Along the Watchtower,” plus a jam-fueled “The Wheel.” Sure, they occasionally lost track of where they dropped the breadcrumbs along the way, but that was OK, Lesh or Russo eventually brought them back to where they began. PhilRAD rounded out the superlative set list with “Terrapin Station” > “I Know You Rider” before encoring with a heavy-boogie version of “Shakedown Street,” white lights whirling around the Cap like the band had set off a fire alarm. As great as the show was, there was a definitive just-getting-warmed-up feeling in the room. Two more nights of jams, surprises and, I’m sure, people in the crowd looking at each other wondering, “What just happened!?” —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Let Music Be Your Guide on Halloween

October 31st, 2014

Halloween, like New Year’s Eve, is one of those nights that can bring out the worst in people. So rather than getting stuck in parade traffic or stepping in puke on the sidewalk, let live music be your guide tonight. Sohn at Music Hall of Williamsburg and Phil Lesh & Friends at the Capitol Theatre are already sold out, but no worries, because we’ve still got plenty of other options for you:

1. At Mercury Lounge, Booga Sugar hosts their Boogaween Costume Ball, alongside Lead of Foxes and Blubba Brothers.
2. Mercury Lounge also has a late show, obviously, with Park Slope five-piece Bernardo.
3. Brooklyn Bowl has electronic duo Capital Cities with Sneaky Sound System and Night Terrors of 1921.
4. The Bowery Ballroom will have some instrumental illness with Texas quartet This Will Destroy You, plus Future Death and Silent Land Time Machine.
5. Rough Trade NYC welcomes the legendary Meat Puppets and the funny, talented troubadour Cass McCombs.
6. And Terminal 5 plays host to the Royal Family Halloween Ball featuring Lettuce and Soulive with Branx opening.

In other words, we’ve got something for everyone. So get involved.

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A Modest Mouse Lovefest at the Capitol Theatre

August 6th, 2014

Modest Mouse – Capitol Theatre – August 5, 2014

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

A love for Modest Mouse is one that runs deep. My own unscientific assessment of this leads me to believe that an unusually high percentage of the band’s fans also have Modest Mouse tattoos. And at the earliest indicators that the group was about to take the Capital Theatre stage last night—as the road crew wrapped up tuning guitars, the house lights dimming—just about everyone in the building screamed at the top of their lungs. That screaming would carry on for the rest of the night. Most artists tend to see their muse as something external, but Isaac Brock’s seems to live in his belly. It’s as if he’d swallowed his muse whole many years ago, and it’s been trying to fight its way out ever since. It’s a battle that seems to take place as he performs: As “King Rat” began, Brock countered with his signature howls of “Well!” like the muse was acknowledging its creation.

It’s been five years since Modest Mouse have released new music, and while there were some new songs sprinkled into the two-hour set (previously played “Sugar Boats” and “Lampshades on Fire”), the night was mostly a nonstop Modest Mouse retrospective. With a touring band up to eight, possibly nine members, songs weren’t spared a single sonic embellishment. Some even ended up sounding more polished than when they were first recorded. With three people covering percussion, “Bukowski” took on an almost-marching-song tempo. An added string arrangement on “Cowboy Dan” made an already epic song that much more colossal.

The set featured practically the entirety of Good News for People Who Love Bad News, in addition to old favorites like “3rd Planet,” “Out of Gas” and “A Different City.” At about the moment when you might have thought, “Have they left any time for an encore?” the band left the stage but returned to play through six more, “Black Cadillacs,” “Wild Pack of Family Dogs,” “Broke,” “Paper Thin Walls,” “Fly Trapped in a Jar” and “Spitting Venom,” with hardly any breaks between them. With too many great songs to choose from, Modest Mouse did their damnedest to squeeze in as many as possible. How they’ll pull this off when a new album is added into the mix will certainly be a challenge, so better see them before it comes out. Or just see them then, too. A Modest Mouse love knows no bounds. —Dan Rickershauser

 

 

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Phil Lesh and Friends Freely Jamming Without Ego at Capitol Theatre

April 11th, 2014

Phil Lesh and Friends – Capitol Theatre – April 10, 2014

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Phil Lesh treats his band’s lineups much like the jams those groups end up playing: There are (probably) themes, riffs and improvisations underlying some grand design. Of course, some work better than others and stick together longer, but in the end, most of them deliver. This week at the Capitol Theatre, Lesh seems to have once again found magic, this time with his current group of Friends, running the gamut from Jackie Greene’s soulful, smooth vocals and blues-rock guitar to Marco Benevento’s indie-pop groove jazz keyboards to John Kadlecik’s singing and guitar playing, which ooze the Grateful Dead ethos for which Lesh continues to be the standard bearer. Bill Evans, who drifted on- and offstage at a rate of about every other song, added a saxophone to the mix. In between, Lesh and drummer Joe Russo formed a two-man Rosetta Stone, deciphering, decoding and interpreting so that the musical conversation formed a coherent dialogue.

Last night, the band got off to a rollicking start with the crowd favorite “Truckin’.” There were notable solos galore, too many to catalog, although I will note that Benevento particularly shined on the keys, which, in Lesh’s band, often has trouble finding moments in such a heavy guitar-bass-drums environment. Throughout the night, there were subtle pairings of musicians, conscious couplings with, for example, Benevento bantering with Kadlecik or the two guitars playing off each other. But the best parts were when everyone melded into a single entity, freely jamming without ego. There were two such moments in the first set, first a gorgeous, atmospheric noodle coming out of a cover of former-Friend Ryan Adams’ “Let It Ride.” The second was a highlight improv in the middle of “Cassidy,” spontaneous composition without a net

Often the best Grateful Dead moments weren’t the songs, but rather the spaces in between them, with the jam dividing “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider” a favorite historical example. On Thursday, Lesh took this to the extreme, placing not just a big jam in between those two songs, but the entire set. It was like looking at your fingernail beneath a microscope and discovering an altogether new universe. Along the way, the band hit on many themes and genres. There was the funk chunk of “Shakedown Street” led by Lesh’s elegant bass playing, with Greene eventually leading the band to an impromptu vamp on the Meters’ “Cissy Strut” and then a fantastic slide-guitar solo. There was the catchall rocker “New Speedway Boogie,” which contained its own multitudes, jams within jams, everyone getting their chance at the wheel. The high-paced “Caution” had Lesh and Russo banging out the theme while Greene did his best Pigpen imitation. The set ended in grand fashion, “Caution” leading into a charged version of the Dead’s take on “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” Kadlecik shining as he did all night, before the band moved into a wonderful “Terrapin Station,” Russo taking complete control of the Dead opus. Finally, the show closed with the predetermined sing-along “I Know You Rider,” like a wanderer returning from a journey around the world, none the worse for wear. —A. Stein

(Jackie Greene and Rich Robinson play Webster Hall on 6/15.)

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Two Nights with Galactic This Weekend

February 13th, 2014

NOLA-based instrumental-funk outfit Galactic are bringing their shake-your-hips music our way this weekend. Although they began as an eight-piece with Theryl DeClouet (House Man) as their singer, over the years, they’ve paired down to five and parted ways with DeClouet. But no doubt, they still bring the funk: Witness their most recent album, the Mardi Gras–themed Carnivale Eletricos (stream it below). Of course, when Galactic (above, doing “Dolla Diva” with Maggie Koerner) come to play it’s rarely alone, and this visit is no different: They’ll feature talented New Orleans singer Maggie Koerner, and they’ll be joined by the blues-funk-rock-soul group JJ Grey & Mofro (below, doing “Brighter Days”). And the good news is that you’ve got two chances to check out this fantastic lineup, tomorrow at the Capitol Theatre and on Saturday at Terminal 5.

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The Pixies Are Still the Real Deal

January 21st, 2014

Pixies – the Capitol Theatre – January 19, 2014

(Photo: Charles Steinberg)

With interruptions and turbulence a regularity throughout the Pixies’ nearly 30-year history, the group has reunited to tour in recent years, reinforcing their influence and affirming their legacy. And on Sunday night at the Capitol Theatre, they put on a retrospective show that ran the gamut of their visceral and bizarrely seductive collection of punky, surf-rock hits. Not much has changed in their approach to playing music since their mid-’80s beginnings. The raw scraped-knee energy is still intact, and so are frontman Black Francis’s agonized vocals, which spar with and then soften to linger over Joey Santiago’s shrill guitar textures. Drummer David Lovering still reliably supplies the amplification, together with new bass player Paz Lenchantin, who slid in seamlessly.

Of course the no-nonsense attitude is still central. The Pixies eschew aura and flair. Dressed in black and lit from behind, they punched out songs with restrained angst, letting the weight of their music take center stage. Toeing the line between atonal cacophony and loose, twangy melodies, the comprehensive set included all of the songs that have defined the Pixies. Classics like “Bone Machine” and “Wave of Mutilation” got the crowd involved early, and after mixing in a couple of new songs, the band geared up for the heart of the show. “Carribou” elicited bellows from the crowd singing along in fervor, which continued into the chorus-driven “Here Comes Your Man.” During “Vamos,” Santiago indulged in a full-on guitar monologue, punctuating and interjecting the steady, up-tempo drum rhythm with shredding, discordant flourishes.

Attention and anticipation built with each song, and in a stroke of calculated brilliance, the performance entered the final act with the epic “Where Is My Mind” and concluded with “Gouge Away,” making a sudden stylistic transition into the scintillating “Debaser.” Throughout their tight professional delivery, there remained a rough rehearsal element that has long marked the Pixies’ style and has always appealed to a large portion of their fan base. But most of all, they proved to be the genuine article. In the current alternative-rock climate of new bands coming and going, searching for identity, the Pixies are a true example to follow. They stepped up and laid it down, showing how it’s done: no fuss, no introduction needed, confident of the path they’ve paved. —Charles Steinberg

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Joe Russo’s Almost Dead: The Legend Grows

December 30th, 2013

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead – the Capitol Theatre – December 27, 2013

(Photo: Scott Harris)

Last January, NYC drummer Joe Russo gathered some of his best friends for a one-off night of Grateful Dead music at Brooklyn Bowl. It seemed like a lark: buddies riffing on Dead tunes. But it just so happens that Russo’s friends—Tom Hamilton, Scott Metzger, Marco Benevento and Dave Dreiwitz—are also some of the best musicians in the city, and the gig, billed as Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, became the stuff of legend before you could say, “What a long strange trip it’s been.” Naturally, an encore performance was in order, and the long-awaited second gig on the much grander, steeped-in-Dead-history stage of the Capitol Theatre took place on Friday night. Expectations were obviously higher, but in the end, I think, the legend only grew.

It seems impossible to say this, considering that the raison d’être of the Grateful Dead canon is loose improvisation and noodling jams, but JRAD stretched and explored the repertoire like few have. The marathon two-set show stripped off layers and layers of old fraying wallpaper from the catalog, sandpapered through coats of paint and found the raw surface of the music. From the ripping, rocking opening couplet of “Cream Puff War” > “Truckin’” to the lilting melody of “Row Jimmy” to the split-level groove of “Shakedown Street,” JRAD proved to be expert innovators. With these guys, familiarity breeds content: They’ve played countless gigs together in various permutations and it showed as jams zigzagged across multiple themes with ease. From behind the kit, Russo controlled the action, pushing and pulling his pals in various directions, letting things drift into uncharted waters and then bringing back the energy into focus. Hamilton shone on guitar and lead vocals, charging through jams and singing with a comfortable confidence.

Of course any Deadhead worthy of the tie-dye on his back knows the real action is in the second set. JRAD did not disappoint, opening with a racing wet-noodle jam before breaking into the fan-favorite pairing of “Scarlet Begonias” and “Fire on the Mountain.” Dreiwitz bounded through the bass parts here, one foot in Phil Lesh’s shoes, the other firmly anchored in his more familiar, ragged rock-out roots. Metzger, Hamilton and Benevento were mouse, cat and dog, chasing one another through multiple levels of jamming, half homage, half sledgehammer. The set was one jaw-dropping jam after another, peaking with an ambitious rendering of the full “Terrapin Station” suite. With classic skeleton-and-roses iconography spiraling across the Cap’s ceiling, the band raised “just some friends hanging out” to an art form, perfectly hitting every subtle change and movement of the suite while still taking it to new, exciting places. Just like the Dead would’ve done after a superlative show like that, JRAD encored with the heartfelt harmonies of “Brokedown Palace,” Russo and Co. proving they can match the soulful depths of the source material as well as the ecstatic peaks. And as they wished the audience a “fare you well,” we could only guess when these pals would get together next, hoping they’d be kind enough to invite the rest of us. —A. Stein

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We’ve Got You Covered on Halloween

October 30th, 2013

Let’s face it: Halloween is one of the biggest amateur nights of the year. So rather than trying to fight your way through a parade or going to a costume party surrounded by people who think they’re supposed to drink as much as they possibly can, let us do the heavy lifting for you, because we’ve got five stellar shows on All Hallows’ Eve. Grateful Dead guitarist Phil Lesh brings his traveling group of Friends—guitarists Grahame Lesh, Anders Osborne and Luther Dickinson, keyboardist Jason Crosby and drummer Tony Leoneto the Capitol Theatre; New York City’s own Holy Ghost! bring their post-disco dance party to Terminal 5; Avan Lava, mixing electronic music, rock and R&B, will have the Music Hall of Williamsburg crowd moving in unison; another hometown band, post-punk five-piece Crystal Stilts, will think global and rock local at The Bowery Ballroom; and taking a break from playing Madison Square Garden, English crooner Ed Sheeran (above, performing “Wake Me Up” for Live from the Artists Den) plays Mercury Lounge. Tickets for that show go on sale—only online—tomorrow at noon.