Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Election Day Bob Dylan Listening

'Tis that time of year. More specifically 'tis that DAY of the year. Vote. For real. Do it. Today.

As I have stated numerous times in this space, my Election Day listenings always go to Bob Dylan. Why? Probably has something to do with his being the most enduring American voice of the last half-century and more. A voice more often than not for freedom, for empathy and for understanding.

So that's why, I think. And today (Have we done this before? Seriously, I am asking - I've spotlit a lot of Dylan songs here and can't recall if I've done this one yet...oh well. I'm doing it anyway) I choose one of his most perfectly written songs. A song that remembers the forgotten, pities the afflicted, speaks for the voiceless and lifts up the persecuted. It is such a magnificent piece of writing that it's almost a shame that he had to put it to music.

Almost.

Read these lyrics. And go vote. And keep them chimes of freedom flashing.

Far between sundown's finish an' midnight's broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
And for each an' every underdog soldier in the night
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the city's melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden as the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin' rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an' forsakened
Tolling for the outcast, burnin' constantly at stake
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
And the poet and the painter far behind his rightful time
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an' blind, tolling for the mute
For the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chained an' cheated by pursuit
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud's white curtain in a far-off corner flared
An' the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
And for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an' laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an' we watched with one last look
Spellbound an' swallowed 'til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse
And for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Love Is Blue (and a bit blind)

I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say something along the lines of "music used to be so much better." I've heard old people say it, I've heard young people say it. I remember hearing it back in the 80s, for pete's sake, and music was pretty freakin' spectacular in the 1980s.

Don't get me wrong, I love the old stuff too. And, yeah, it's hard to argue that the 1960s weren't an insanely fertile time for music. That pretty much goes without saying but, hey, we'll say it anyway. And if the shadow it's cast over subsequent decades is somewhat unfair and obscures the fact that the 1970s and 1980s each have solid claims to be at least as good, in terms of output, as 60s, well, that doesn't change how great the 60s really were.

But if you want to rebut the whole "things were better back in ye olden days," take a look at 1967.

So 1967 was, by pretty much any measure, a darn good year for music. Here are just a small handful of the fine songs from that fine year:

“Respect,” “Light My Fire,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “Purple Haze,” “Waterloo Sunset,” “Somebody to Love,” “Soul Man,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Nights in White Satin,” “The Letter,” “Waterloo Sunset,” “I Can See for Miles,” “My Back Pages,” “White Rabbit,” “Dance to the Music,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Happy Together,” “Tears of a Clown,” “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” “Penny Lane,” “The Dark End of the Street,” “I Second That Emotion,” “You Keep Me Hangin' On,” “Cold Sweat,” “Get Together,” “Different Drum,” “Chain of Fools,” “I Never Loved a Man,” “Sweet Soul Music,” “All You Need Is Love,” “The Letter,” “I'm A Believer,” “Ain't No Mountain High Enough,” “I Can See for Miles,” Let's Live for Today,” “Soul Man,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Happy Together ,” “Hello Goodbye,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You,” “Carrie-Anne,” “Ruby Tuesday,” and even a little song called “A Day in the Life.”

And there are at least a handful of other songs from most of those artists which could just as easily have made the list.

And yet. Know what the second-best selling single of the entire year was? Thanks to Tom Breihan's The Number Ones, his amazing column exploring every #1 single, I now know it  was this gem:


Don't get me, that's a very likable tune. I've always been fond of it and can hardly imagine getting tired of it. But...I mean...not exactly "Waterloo Sunset" or "Purple Haze" or “Strawberry Fields Forever” or "I'm Waiting for the Man," now is it? And yet it not only went to #1, it stayed there for five weeks. "Ruby Tuesday"? One week. "Penny Lane?" One week. "Respect?" Two weeks. "All You Need Is Love?" One week. "Love Is Blue?" Five weeks. Five damn weeks.

So, yeah, the good old days could be awfully good. But not always, and that part gets overlooked far too often.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Shostakovich Prelude and Fugue no. 17 in A-flat Major

I am gobsmacked and beyond delighted to find one of my favorite YouTube channels, the utterly delightful smalin, has a new video out—its first to feature not only the greatest of Soviet composers, Dmitri Shostakovich, but a piece from my absolute favorite work of his, 24 Preludes and Fugues, op 87, performed by the greatest of Soviet pianists, the brilliant Sviatoslav Richter.


Monday, October 8, 2018

96 Tears

Of the oh so many amazing things about Aretha Frankin, one of the most astonishing is that it took nearly six years of making records before she really hit the big-time. Six years and 10 albums before the world at large took notice of the Queen of Soul. And the incredible thing about it is that all the record companies really had to do was get the hell out of the way and let her do her thing—rather than try to shoehorn her into some updated version of Judy Garland, simply let Aretha be Aretha.

As though any proof of her greatness is needed, her she is taking that garage band proto-punk classic, "96 Tears" by ? and the Mysterians and indelibly stamping it with her own genius.



Obviously, having the likes of Spooner Oldham and Roger Hawkins behind you doesn't exactly hurt. But while the bass of the great Tommy Cogbill can only help, in the end—and the beginning and the middle—it's all about Lady Soul.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Favorite Song Friday: My Life

So I was reading this recent interview with the late Sir William Joel of Long Islandington. And a few things hit me.

One was the understated badassness of this bit:
I remember the show at the Garden after the Charlottesville riot when you wore a Star of David. How do you decide when you want to make your beliefs known?  
Wearing the Star of DavidAt his show on August 21, 2017, Joel sported a Star of David on his jacket. At the same concert, Joel had images of Trump officials like Anthony Scaramucci and Sean Spicer — as well as James Comey and Sally Yates — projected behind him as he and guest Patty Smyth performed Scandal’s “Goodbye to You.” wasn’t about politics. To me, what happened in Charlottesville was like war. When Trump said there were good people on both sides — there are no good Nazis. There are no good Ku Klux Klan people. Don’t equivocate that shit. I think about my old man: Most of his family was murdered in Auschwitz.The story of the Joel family’s experience with Nazi Germany is told in full in the 2001 German documentary The Joel Files.The story of the Joel family’s experience with Nazi Germany is told in full in the 2001 German documentary The Joel Files. He was able to get out but then got drafted and went in the U.S. Army. He risked his life in Europe to defeat Nazism. A lot of men from his generation did the same thing. So when those guys see punks walking around with swastikas, how do they keep from taking a baseball bat and bashing those crypto-Nazis over the head? Those creeps are going to march through the streets of my country? Uh-uh. I was personally offended. That’s why I wore that yellow star. I had to do something, and I didn’t think speaking about it was going to be as impactful.
The other was how very much criticism has taken its toll on him over the years. He denies it...again and again and again. He has to, because he very noticeably keeps bringing it up again and again and again. And that sucks. Because someone who's accomplished as much as the late Sir William Joel of Long Islandington has should really be delighted with their life.

As one of the guys who's sometimes publicly mocked him ever so gently and lovingly, allow me to take a moment to talk about one of the many Billy Joel songs I really truly love and the thing about it which never ceases to impress me, no matter how many times I've heard it.

"My Life" is quintessential Billy Joel, with a lyric that aims for John Lennon, with perhaps some of Chuck Berry's braggadocio, but falls short (mainly in the second verse, which starts great but fizzles into empty albeit rhyming platitudes). Meanwhile, musically, it's a composition of which Paul McCartney himself could be proud, insanely melodic and with a plethora of hooks, including a few which are strictly instrumental and never actually translate to the vocal line.


It's got a compelling (and not entirely dissimilar to "Silly Love Songs") intro that starts quietly and builds until the whole band kicks in and delivers the first hook, just before the second hook is introduced—and again it's only this second hook which will actually turn into a vocal line and even there only as a faint vocal in the outro. Who does that? A guy who can produce the kind of melodies that the late Sir William Joel of Long Islandington can, that's who.

So the song is pretty standard, from a structural point of view. With one exception, but it's a pretty big one, and that's what always strikes me about this one. It's not that the verses and the chorus share the same chord changes and melody, although that is kinda interesting, especially given that the intro and outro—which normally would share either the verse or chorus changes—are different. It's the placement of the bridge and the treatment of the second chorus, as well as the way he repeatedly goes to the intro/outro music, using it almost as a substitute for a guitar or keyboard solo.

The song goes:
  • intro
  • first verse
  • intro/break
  • first chorus
  • first bridge
  • second verse
  • intro/break
  • second chorus
  • second bridge
  • intro/break
  • third chorus
  • outro
For the second chorus, though, he has Liberty DeVitto bring the drums down to half-time, lending (or trying to) gravitas, to the first two lines. Then things kick back in and we go to the break section. Then back to the chorus for a third and final time...but only half of it. And then we're into the extended outro, which is just the intro/break section, but with vocals this time, singing the keyboard hook from the original intro.

It's an odd construction. There are only two verses, he keeps going back to the intro music, and the song gets heaviest almost right before it closes it out—and then once it does get ready to close out, it hangs around for a surprisingly (and pleasantly) long time. It's...weird. It feels like a standard 8-bar pop song, structurally, but it's really not. It's slightly, or maybe even more than slightly, askew, but you don't really notice the first few dozen times you hear it, as you're just caught up by Joel's phenomenally catchy melodies and compelling lyrics.

But he's the late Sir William Joel of Long Islandington, a guy who's a master of songcraft, so he undoubtedly knows what he's doing. Which makes it even more perplexing and, for me, at least, appealing.

Well done, good sir. Well done indeed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Mrs. Robinson

This is one of the greatest things I've ever seen.


I have to believe that Lulu was in on the joke, that she's well aware of how she's completely trampling—in an ever so delicate and effervescent and utterly funk-free way, of course—the point of the lyric.

The way she euphorically sings "any way you look at it you lose" as though she's singing "and flowers make me ever so happy." The way she spins and whirls, so carefree, as she coos about the bleak state of the union, the marital discord and infidelity, the titular character perhaps being locked away in a psychiatric institution.  It's all so gloriously wrongheaded that I have to believe she believes she's representing poor Mrs. Robinson herself, or perhaps Mrs. Robinson's psyche, drugged out of her gourd and beyond reason.

Any way you look at it, it's sublime.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ramble On

Restraint. Knowing when to lay out. Knowing what not to play. As Miles Davis famously advised John Coltrane, sometimes it’s best to just “take the horn out of your mouth.”

Which brings us to, incongruously, John Bonham.

Bonzo. Led Zeppelin’s monster drummer. The man who, more than any other, raised the bar on what it meant to be a rock and roll drummer. Of his peers and predecessors, only Keith Moon was as influential (although his stock has dropped precipitously since his death, while Bonham’s has, if anything, continued to rise) and only Ginger Baker as technically advanced.  Bonham’s technique, his style, his sheer overwhelming volume and speed and most of all power, were mindblowing at the time and, perhaps because of his remarkable influence continuing to this day, don’t sound dated.

From the first very, he amazed. Literally: the first track off their first album has Bonham doing things with the bass drum never before heard in rock and roll. Check out the bass drum triplets he starts playing about five seconds in here—since you’re probably listening on little computer speakers it might be a bit hard to pick up, but for drummers at the time, what he was doing with the bass drum was astonishing.


              "Good Times, Bad Times" outro

Later he, more than any other drummer, would go on to popularize that bane of 70s concert going experiences, the interminable drum solo. Sure, he was a star and a stud…but really? 30 minutes for a drum solo? That’s how long the entire Beatles concert at Shea Stadium was. Even the great Bonzo couldn’t make a solo of that length transcendent.

But when you have a drummer as powerful and inventive and plain musical as Bonham, you overlook such trivialities. (Also, you head for the beer stands.) I mean, you could go through any Led Zeppelin album and find who knows how many amazing Bonham moments. The way he takes songs like “Misty Mountain Hop” or “The Song Remains the Same” or “Trampled Under Foot” or “Kashmir” or “Achilles Last Stand” which are already moving forward like a crazed elephant and somehow manages to shove things up a few notches is just unsurpassed. But just check out these intros:


              "Rock and Roll" intro


              "The Crunge" intro


              "D'yer Mak'er" intro


              "When the Levee Breaks" intro

There's little there that's terribly difficult—but that's one of the points. Simplicity is often best and usually more difficult. And play any or all of those for any serious rock fan who grew up in the 70s or 80s and probably even later and they’ll be able to tell you the name of the song those come from, sing the riff that’s just about to kick in and likely even pinpoint where each song belongs on each album. How many other good drummers have that many signature moments in their careers? ‘cuz those four examples? Are just from two albums. Crazy.

Which brings us, in my meandering way, to “Ramble On.” Off their second album, the song’s notable for several things: it’s perhaps the earliest rock and roll song with Tolkien allusions—especially ironical, given that making Lord of the Ring references is shorthand for mocking geeky prog rock groups, while Led Zeppelin is generally the coolest of the cool when it comes to rock bands, and yet they’re by far the most prominent offenders. It’s good to be the king.

Then there’s lovely bass playing by Led Zeppelin’s secret weapon, John Paul Jones, contributing the most melodic, catchiest element of the music, as well as the odd percussive sound during the verses, Bonham tapping on something which has never been conclusively identified.

And finally we have the point of all this, which is Bonham’s playing. Check it:


                           "Ramble On" 

Notice how tasteful and tasty his playing is? That five note drum riff he plays each time his drums enter? The way he plays half a measure, then pulls his snare out for the next half measure, filling the space with a quartet of syncopated bass drum kicks, and then comes back in on the snare double time for a measure. And then he does the whole pattern again. Chorus over, he again lays out for the verses.

When it comes to the brief instrumental solo section he plays it straight, with a nice smattering of syncopated semi-ghosted notes on the snare before a tiny fill leads into him dropping out for the final verse. Another few runs through the chorus and we’re out.

See what he did there? Or rather what he didn’t do? Four and a half minutes and the world’s greatest rock and roll drummer, the spiritual (if not literal) inspiration for the muppet drummer Animal, the most notorious wildman in the most notorious rock and roll band of wildmen, doesn’t even really play a single drum fill. Instead he simply sticks (no pun intended) to his pre-composed drum part. That is, to quote Luke Skywalker, improbable. And yet there 'tis.

It’s this side of Bonham which often gets overlooked in the justly deserved praise for his power. It’s the fact that Bonham wasn’t just an insanely powerful drummer—although he most certainly was that. But he was also a monster musician sharing an unlikely philosophy with the likes of Steve Cropper, Paul McCartney and Miles Davis: just because you can play something, it doesn’t mean you should.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

American Girl

If the slowed down, stripped down cover of an uptempo classic has become more than a little clichéd, well, it's for a reason: it works.


This isn't going to cause anyone to forget the Tom Petty original but it's (almost) always nice to hear one major artist paying tribute to another major artist and putting their own stamp on things.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Thursday, August 16, 2018

RIP Aretha Franklin

The greatest American singer of our lifetime? The greatest female singer of our lifetime? Or simply the greatest singer of our lifetime? Pace Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon and Prince, it's pretty damn hard to argue that the Queen of Soul wasn't just the first two but all three—certainly until yesterday she was the greatest living pop singer in the world.

But she was also a brilliant artist, who knew how to make the most of her spectacular instrument, turning in mind-blowing performance after mind-blowing performance. Taking "Respect," a song already done fantastically by its writer, Otis Redding, and blowing his version away by adding a bridge and her pipes and transforming it into a feminist anthem should not have been possible. And for the Queen, it was a day's work, and a life's triumph.

And if that was all she had done, her place in history would have been assured. But of course that's just the tip of the iceberg.  "Chain of Fools," "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman," "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," "Think," "Do Right Woman - Do Right Man," "Rock Steady" and dozens of others don't even begin to scratch the surface of her contribution to popular music. And that's without even getting into her importance to the civil rights movement.

For many of us suburban white kids, her incendiary performance in The Blues Brothers was our first conscious introduction to Aretha, although of course her music had been in the air since we'd had ears.

I was deep in my hard rock Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Aerosmith phase the first time I saw the film, and this kind of soul music was not in my wheelhouse. And yet I remember being utterly transfixed from the moment she began singing, barely breathing until the song was over. I've probably watched it two dozen times since then and it's never lost one bit of its power.


Steven Hyden wrote about her performance at Montreux:
If you’re like me, it’s impossible not to compare what she’s doing to what Art Garfunkel did. In the Simon & Garfunkel version, the part when Garfunkel sings “…and pain is all around” always chokes me up. He’s a friend offering solace, but you can tell he’s not exactly in the best way, either. He’s trying to be strong, but he can’t help but expose his inner pain.
Aretha does not sound weak. She is not praying to God for deliverance. She is the voice of God.
When Simon & Garfunkel perform “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the final “sail on silver girl” verse seems superfluous after that “pain is all around” verse — the song’s emotional peak has already been reached. But when Aretha does it, that last verse feels like a legitimate climax. As a listener, you feel yourself ascending toward the divine. She’s reaching out, extending herself to give all of humanity a big bear-hug. “Your time has come to shine / all your dreams are on their way,” she sings, and you believe her, because her voice has automatic authority when it comes to such matters. She sounds immortal, and this is a relief, because what is immortal can’t ever die.

Damn skippy.

That performance also features some sweet damn piano playing from Ms Franklin, something which brings to mind her takeover of Elton John's "Border Song."


Again, that fantastic piano is courtesy the Queen herself, a reminder that had she wanted to go in that direction, she absolutely could have beaten the likes of Elton or Billy at their own games—hell, she could have been a leading studio pianist without even ever opening her mouth. And while I've never actually heard him say it, I like to think Elton John (an avowed fan) had the same reaction to hearing her cover of his song as Otis Redding did (with admiration) when he heard her version of "Respect": "that woman stole my song."

And yet the recording I keep finding myself going back to is this, for reasons which I suppose are pretty obvious.


As with the recent losses of Prince and David Bowie and B.B. King, there's a gaping hole in the soul left by their absence. But those holes are only there because those brilliant artists made room in the soul, stretching and pulling and pushing and enlarging, through their art in the first place. And for that we should be eternally grateful.

Rest in peace, Queen. And thank you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Time Song

I'm trying to wrap my head around having this song, this recording, in your vault and thinking, "nah...not quite good enough."


As if anyone required further proof of just how great the Kinks were...

Monday, July 16, 2018

Five Days in July

So I heard this at our local pizza joint the other day. I've been listening to a lot of Neil Young recently, so the opening harmonica immediately grabbed my attention, sounding as it does like an amalgamation of several different NY tunes, most especially "I Am a Child" and "Comes a Time," but shifted into the minor.

I couldn't hear very well, but enough to grok that it wasn't ol' Neil on vocals, and then some of the harmonic movement made it clear that if the song was written by Mr Young, it wasn't one I knew.

But then came the solo at the end I thought, damn, if these boys don't have the Neil Young aesthetic down pretty cold.


I've embedded this oh so pretty version of the song rather than the official video because the official video is about half the length and doesn't have the guitar searage.

Turns out Blue Rodeo was founded in the early 1980s and I'm only listening to them now. Seems about par for the course.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

I'll Be Your Mirror

See, I'm funny in some ways.

Not necessarily funny in a "ha-ha" way, although, well, I like to think that I am? ("Not to brag, but Reader's Digest is considering publishing two of my jokes.")

Anyway. I'm funny sometimes in what I like and what I don't like. More to the point, I'm funny how I seemingly have the ability to like and dislike things at the same time. Like David Lynch movies, mayhap? I really like what he does but really don't like watching it? Does that make sense?

Dan...please...can you just get on with it?

OK.

Here's what I'm talking about today. The song "I'll Be Your Mirror." Written by Lou Reed and produced by Andy Warhol for Velvet Underground's seminal first album with Nico in 1967. This is such a gorgeous song and one of my favorite pieces of music. It is such a lovely little tune. I mean, look at these spare, delicate and oh-so-lovingly intricate lyrics.

I'll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don't know
I'll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door that shows that you're home.

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you.

I find it hard 
To believe you don't know the beauty you are
But if you don't, let me be your eyes,
A hand in your darkness, so you won't be afraid.

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you.

I'll be your mirror.

That is just so unceasingly beautiful, isn't it? Lou sure knew how to be a poet, how to channel his inner William Blake and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, when he wanted to.

But. Then, on that amazing first record, Nico sings it. It's one of the three spectacular songs that she sings (along with "Femme Fatale" and "All Tomorrow's Parties") and, I'm sorry and others may disagree with me, but she butchers them all. I just cannot listen to her angular, toneless voice and be entertained. Or moved. And I don't think that I'm alone here.

So. One of my favorite songs ever and I can't listen to it. Dammit.

But maybe I can! Like here:



I believe that's Doug Yule singing lead and Lou on the harmonies from the classic Max's Kansas City show that I used to actually have on a double-sided cassette tape back in college. It's not perfect, but it gets to a little more of a delicate nature of the song.

Then there's this from the alt-country corner, which is getting warmer:




Now, I think it could use a bit more range on the vocal side, and could really benefit from a harmony over the chorus, but there's more of an earnestness here than I hear on the original or even the VU 1972 version, so I appreciate that.

Moving on, now we hit the sweet spot on all levels:




There are quite a few words I could use to describe this. "Stunning" comes to mind - my God, those angelic harmonies! "Near-perfect" is another. This version is so faithful to the original yet also, somehow, so Beck's own. I love it more and more every time I hear it. And could not imagine a version I adore more.

Only then my girl Susie shows up and changes the game once more:




I mean. I MEAN.

Funny thing is (there's that word again) I didn't even know this version existed until a few days ago. Apparently it's not even technically a Susanna Hoffs song, but rather a guest vocal she did on some pre-Bangled early 80s project. And it leaves me breathless each time I hear it. Yes, I am aware that Beck's version is likely the definitive one here, but my blind spot for Susie will never ever go away.

So. To hell with the original. May the great covers of this great tune keep coming. And get better every time.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

She's Always in My Hair

There are so many things to be said about this performance: what an amazing singer Prince was, what a phenomenal guitarist, what an unsurpassed bandleader, how physically graceful he was. We could discuss what an odd choice it was to put that huge symbol right there, frequently obscuring his guitar playing. How interesting it was that he veered towards hard rock towards the end of his career.

But one thing kept leaping out at me as I watched—or, really, listened to—this performance and that was that there is absolutely no reason for a band like The Eagles or even R.E.M. to bring so many extra backing musicians on tour. Two guitars, bass, drums and keyboard—that's clearly all that's required for the richest, most massive of sounds. Those five musicians create an elegant sufficiency of the numerous harmonic and melodic delicacies; any more would be an unsophisticated superfluity.