Category Archives: Concert

Ten Inch Bamboo Cigarette Holder and Black Patent Leather Gloves

Today’s guest blogger – Word Masseuse, Countess Wrangler, Dilettante – Helena Hann Basquiat  explains how difficult it can be to give a proper musical education to the next generation. So what happens when indomitable will meets immovable object? Education never sounded so good!
Enjoy the post, and check out her blog at Memoirs of a Dilettante, and on Twitter.

TODAY’S MUSIC: Elvis Costello: Watching the Detectives

Penny doesn’t like Elvis Costello.

Well, that’s not entirely true, darlings. Thanks to me, The Countess Arcade has the most exquisite musical taste, and could therefore never utter such a heresy as “I hate Elvis Costello” without good cause. Penny doesn’t like Elvis Costello in the same way that someone who once got food poisoning from a bad hot dog doesn’t like hot dogs. She obviously likes hot dogs, otherwise she wouldn’t have gotten food poisoning in the first place, but now that she’s had a bad experience, she just can’t even stand the smell of hot dogs.

In the case of Elvis Costello, I’m afraid the fault lies with your favourite dilettante.

Mea culpa, darlings. Mea maxima culpa.

Shortly after Penny and I got our place together, as a sort of christening of the apartment, I set up an office for myself, and build my shrine of music — hundreds — literally hundreds of LPs, cassettes and CDs — certain albums I own on multiple formats because… well, just because. Penny laughed at the folly of me trying to organize them, and issued a bold declaration:

“There’s no way you could ever listen to all of this music!” She decreed. “Not in a million years!”

Challenge accepted, darlings.

But how to approach it? Well, silly as it seems, some Greeks and Latins (work with me here) and later Anglo-Saxons developed this system called the alphabet, and who am I to argue with a bunch of dead guys? So I decided that I would leave my collection in utter disarray, only shelving an item once I’d listened to it, and that the best way to do that was to listen alphabetically.

We made it through Ryan Adams, Laurie Anderson, Arcade Fire and Joseph Arthur, The Beatles, Bjork, Kate Bush and Bowie, and even the Bangles Greatest Hits (don’t judge me — like you aren’t right now, as we speak, looking up Walk Like an Egyptian on YouTube). Penny cheerfully endured Cake, The Clash, and even the Cocteau Twins — but then we got to Costello, Elvis.

I admit, I may be a little obsessive about Elvis Costello. I have every album, every bootleg I could get my hands on — hell, I’ve even made my own box set of various live recordings, organized by decade. What can I say — other than writing, all I ever really wanted to do was work for a record company.

So after about a week of listening to Elvis Costello and nothing but Elvis Costello, Penny finally conceded defeat.

“Enough! No more!” She cried, cringing. “I give up! Listen to something else! Anything else! I can’t stand it anymore!”

“How can you not love Elvis Costello?” I asked, aghast. “I mean, listen to the lyrics to Miracle Man, and tell me who he’s singing about.”

Baby’s gotta have the things she wants
You know she’s gotta have the things she loves
She’s got a ten-inch bamboo cigarette holder
And her black patent leather gloves

“God, Helena, is your personality completely manufactured?” Penny asked, as if that were an insult.

I acted wounded for her benefit, and then told her that fictional heroine Lizbeth Salander had called, and said that she needed her look back.

The Countess Penelope of Arcadia, which is apparently located in the heart of London, circa 1977, flipped me the V and spat Bollocks! and then pulled the needle off of the record that I was listening to and enjoying, and replaced it with The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks.

“Did you know that Elvis Costello’s infamous appearance on Saturday Night Live only happened because Malcolm McLaren forgot to get the Sex Pistols’ visas. It’s true. The Pistols were supposed to play, but Elvis filled in at the last minute. It was Elvis & The Attractions’ first big US television appearance. The drummer, Pete Thomas, wore a T-Shirt that said THANKS MALC in reference to Malcolm McLaren’s fuck up.”

“Gee, Helena, that’s really fascinating,” Penny said in her most patronizing voice, and then cranked the music up to an intolerable volume and yelled, “If I never hear the name Elvis Costello ever again, I’ll die happy!”

Imagine her delight tonight when I tell her who we’re going to see at Massey Hall in June.


Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into, just to say that she has.CIMG1123 

Her book, Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One was published April 1st, and is available in paperback HERE  (if it’s not available in your region, try HERE) or for Kindle HERE

For more Helena, go to

From The Ticket Stub Bin: Joe Cocker

Today’s Music: Joe Cocker. See below.
Days Til Spring: 58 (and it’s snowing like mad here, so I can’t wait for the warm!)

Soul, R & B. Rock and Roll. All those styles are alive and well. There are great new bands putting out incredible music, and it’s possible to step right in and enjoy it no primer needed.
But there are acts that came before that pushed the envelop. They broadened horizons and brought music no one knew right into our ears.

Joe Cocker is one of those acts.
So when he was paying the Beacon Theater, maybe 15 years ago, and Big Mike asked if I wanted to go, there was only one possible answer: Hell yes!

It was a typical concert night – meet in the city, grab a beer and some food, then head into the Beacon. Grab another beer or a soda, and head in to find our seats. The Beacon theater is a grand old room. Floor, Mezzanine, Balcony. Sculptured roof with gold gilding. Wide stage that extends almost the width of the hall. Semi comfortable seats, with almost enough legroom for someone six feet tall.

So we’re settled in our seats (floor level, towards the back), and the lights go down. No opening act, so this was for Joe. The crowd surged to its feet as the PA announced Joe Cocker!!! Out strode the band, taking their positions, and Joe followed right behind.

The band kicked in…
Joe grabbed the microphone..
And then…
He played, note for note, the entire Best Of Joe Cocker album.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a good show. And seeing Joe Cocker moving around onstage (he’d toned down the twitchiness a lot) was a sight to see. I mean, here was an important voice from the earlier days of rock and roll, who’s soulfulness bridged a gap from Black music to bring it, via England, to everyone in America. And once he did it, his influence was profound. Bands making that same sound popped up across the landscape.
To this day, when Joe comes on the radio, my head nods back and forth, my fingers tap, and there’s a little extra bounce in my step.
I think he’s a great singer, even as an older man because it added an extra gravelly-ness to a voice he still controlled well.
I’m glad I saw him, just to be in the same room and feel the music.
But overall, it was an average show, devoid of spontaneity and surprise. He still did a really good job with the songs, it’s just that he performed them exactly as expected.

One bright spot of the show – he did play my favorite Joe Cocker song:

Oh Joy. The 80s Live On…

Today’s Music: Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight
*Note on Today’s Music: Phil Collins? And Miami Vice??? Don’t get more 80s than that!

Up on the Concert Log/Music link at the top, you can see the quick mini review of Fitz and the Tantrums at Irving Plaza Sunday night.
They were fantastic.
But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

There were two opening acts. The first was Ivy Levan, who, I’m sorry to say, we missed. She only did a twenty minute set, and dinner was too good to rush (duck breast! braised short ribs! warm lava cake!).

My hair is richer than silly old lava cake.

My hair is richer than silly old lava cake.

We got there in time for the second act, and that’s the lead in to today’s post.

THE 80’s ARE OVER!!!

I’ve seen Duran Duran. They weren’t bad, and Rio has surprising legs this far down the road.
I’ve seen Depeche Mode, and while they aren’t my cup of tea (industrial angst? Really?), they did put on a good show.
I’ve seen Kiss, Psychedelic Furs, hell, I’ve even seen Heart and Huey Lewis and the News, and enjoyed them.
All in the last decade.

And a lot of 80s music is fun. In small doses, even the syrupy stuff is nice.
But I’ve never seen one band encompass everything wrong with 80s music in one shot.
Until last night.

Their name is Hearts. I haven’t been able to find out anything about them online at all.
And while some may think I’ve been letting this one fester under my skin until I could write this down, fortunately I have “of the moment” proof, courtesy of twitter.
I’m not sure what burned me about this band. I think it was the fact that there was nothing original. Every riff, every trope, every move was taken from bands that did it earlier, smoother, better.
I felt like I was watching a cheap imitation of something that had earned its place in our culture, and doing a poor job of it.
So here now, are the as-it-happened tweets of myself and TMWGITU under her twitter handle @FredWallaby:














I hope this suitably expresses how god-awfully 80s this band was.
If not, I’ll see if I can’t get Phil Collins to lay down a track to describe it.
As soon as Marty McFly brings his synthesizer sustain pedal back in the DeLorean.

Hey, Lay off, dude! I owe my career to the 80s.  And feathered hair.

Hey, Lay off Dude! I owe my career to the 80s.
And feathered hair.

From the Ticket Stub Bin – One Song

Today’s Music: See Below.

A hard ticket to get...

We’ve all heard covers of songs. Sometimes it’s almost a note for note cover of the original (Rascal Flats covering Tom Cochrane’s Life Is A Highway). Sometimes it brings the song to a whole new, previously unimagined level (Jimi Hendrix on Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower).
And sometimes you get to hear three different versions of a song that you never expected to hear live in the first place.

One year, I was lucky enough to see Eric Clapton, Tony Bennett and Tori Amos in concert. Not together (Though that would probably an incredible show!).
All three of them did Somewhere Over The Rainbow. From the Wizard of Oz.
Let me refresh your memory…

She sings it with a child’s wistfulness. It’s a beautiful song of innocence and aspiration. Really, you have to be pretty jaded to not feel anything when listening to it.

Tony Bennett was a contemporary of Judy. By all accounts, they were friends.
When I saw Tony, he led into this song by describing what a wonderful person Judy was, and how much he missed her.
That version seemed laced with sadness, perhaps regret.
The version below is more fun and playful. There’s hope, but Tony’s voice makes it seem more like a fond reminiscence of someone unavoidably detained…

During an encore set, Clapton came out with his acoustic guitar and launched into the song.
I think he does a great job with it. His version is interesting to me, because (by all accounts) he’s made it over the rainbow. I think he has a very fun take on the song, not least of which is “Really? Clapton is doing that song? Live?”
But he doesn’t turn it into a Clapton tour-de-force. There is plenty of room for the rest of the band to shine and fill, and his jazzy version really does sound good to me.

Tori has a…distinct style. Many of her songs I honestly find a bit disturbing. Which I think is what Tori is going for. She writes a lot about pain, and I think that carries through well in her music.
When I saw her and recognized the song from the intro, I expected it to be a creepy, bent version of a classic.
But what she did instead, for me, is unlock some of the true meaning of the song. She sings it with such heartache, such longing, that I, as a listener, could only hope and pray that she would make it over the rainbow.

One song. Three unique perspectives. Each a highlight of their show.
But of course, just for giggles, I have to throw this one in too. Just because it’s fun.

So a question for y’all: What song cover made you think about the original in a whole different way?