Saturday, December 20, 2014

Billy Idol's autobiography adds depth to new album

Among the glaring omissions in the list of 2015 Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees announced earlier this week is Billy Idol, especially given the upcoming induction of second wave (or third, depending on who you ask) punks Green Day. I understand that some of my other favorite influential early punk rockers may not have the cultural notoriety or mainstream hits of the latter day favorites who certainly grew beyond its punk beginnings, but that's not true of Idol who has had a long, hit-filled career  nearing its 40th year.

Idol has a habit of recurring. Every decade or so I feel like he pops back up in my life in a big way. In 1981 he was one of the first faces I saw on my TV screen when my parents brought home the little brown cable box that brought MTV into our lives. The bloody finger of "White Wedding" was both horrific and fascinating to a 6 year old girl, but no matter how strange the images, I couldn't turn away from the infectious guitar rock.

A decade later he'd conquer MTV again with "Cradle of Love" and "L.A. Woman," but my true love for Billy Idol didn't really hit until another decade had passed. I was living in Arizona when VH1 released his "Behind the Music" special in 2001. My sister and I went to see him and Steve Stevens play live at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and it is hands down one of the best concerts I've ever seen. Part of that memory is that I was standing ankle deep in a pool by a man-made beach in a crowd that was reenacting an MTV Spring Break special. But it was also Idol reveling in the performance. I was clued into deeper cuts and lesser hits I'd never heard before and new material stood up to the old. You can watch one his other Mandalay Bay concerts here.

Fast forward another decade when my children discovered Idol, unearthing not only hits like "Dancing With Myself" but absorbing his 2005 album "Devil's Playground" and his work with his late `70s British punk band Generation X.

In October Idol released his autobiography, "Dancing With Myself" and new album, "Kings and Queens of the Underground." I wasn't completely sold on the album until I'd read the book. I think part of that was that the opening track "Bitter Pill" is a bit of a mid-tempo, reflective start that lacks punch and I'd grown accustomed to the punkier sound of "Devil's Playground" and Generation X. "Kings and Queens" is a more diverse record that plays on some of the earlier influences Idol covers in the book that - once he points them out - you start noticing throughout his catalog.

Knowing the stories behind songs like the title track adds depth as well. The bulk of the book covers Idol's early years growing up both in the US and UK and his membership in the group of Sex Pistols' followers known as the Bromley Contingent, which birthed not only Idol but my beloved Siouxsie and the Banshees. I get a kick out of reading about an era that made such a big impact on me as a fan.

Idol appears to have written the book without the aid of a co-writer. You can hear his voice in it as he recollects about these early years in great detail. The latter section is less detailed. When his longtime girlfriend Perri Lister (star of those `80s videos) finally leaves him after hearing him on the phone with his mistress over their son's baby monitor, you wonder if he really recalls it or if he read it in Rolling Stone like the rest of us. I wondered if the fog of drugs he was admittedly under makes this period in his life all blur together. Or maybe he just remembers it less fondly and doesn't want to dwell.

That's not to say the latter portion takes away from the strength of the book as a whole. It's one of the better music biographies I've read (the Carter Family's 2004 being the best - it reads like a soap; Lemmy's "White Line Fever" being the most disappointing for it's lack of intimacy).

As for the album, there are thought out musical and lyrical links both to the book and Idol's earlier years. During "Kings and Queens" (the song) I picture a young Siouxsie, Banshees' bassist Steven Severin, Idol, Lister, and those other characters of the scene. On "Kings and Queens," "Love and Glory" and, to a degree, "Bitter Pill," Idol illustrates his strength as a crooner, which we've heard throughout his career. It comes naturally to Idol. He is 59 (my son likes to remind me of this) so before he discovered rock n' roll he grew up with Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Elvis. Time hasn't hurt his range either.

"Save Me Now" and "Can't Break Me Down" (featured in the video above) are two of the more rocking tracks. Knowing Idol's father preferred the former as he was lying on his death bed earlier this year also gives it more weight. It's my kid's favorite too, which I guess speaks of its cross-generational pull. "Postcards from the Past," a phrase Idol ends the book with, is a heavier rocker that includes musical references to "Rebel Yell," "White Wedding" and his Cyperpunk days. "Eyes Wide Shut" obviously references "Eyes Without a Face."

The album has grown on me. It's now a staple in our car. It helps that the kids love him too, of course. But if you're on the fence or just want to expand your understanding of the record, I recommend checking out the book too. Although I'm still surprised by the level of functioning drug addict role models that my childhood had to offer (he did not look like an extra from "Trainspotting" even at his worst), "Dancing With Myself" gives new respect for Idol's work and career - a career that should garner him a place in rock n' roll history.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

This week's hot concerts

Traveling Wilburys Tribute and Benefit
Friday  9 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E 36th St., $10,  
Ancient Cities, Elonzo, Sam the Lion, and the Sammies join members of the New Familiars, Reeve Coobs Band of Men, the Midwood Horns, Hectorina, the Shana Blake Band, the Bleeps, Heywire, the Near Misses and the Hot Gates to raise money for Levine Children’s Hospital. In its fourth installment, the fundraiser pays tribute to the beloved, yet short-lived super group.(The above clip is a preview from the Lou Reed tribute benefit concert last winter). 

Frontier Ruckus
Friday  10 p.m., Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave., $8,  
Avett Brothers’ manager Dolph Ramseur was onto something when he released this Michigan quartet’s second full-length in 2010. Dubbed “gothic Americana” by Rolling Stone - depending how you see it, the outfit plays charming indie rock like a harmonizing band of forest dwellers or harmonious string music like a bunch of hip, indie rockers. It works either way.

Angie Aparo
Saturday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $12-$15,
Since his 2000 modern rock hit “Spaceship,” this Atlanta songwriter has stayed under the radar writing songs for Faith Hill (the Grammy winning “Cry”), Tim McGraw, and Miley Cyrus, while continuing to tour and release his own albums. He remains a stunning vocalist whose performance will stop utterances of “one hit wonder” in their tracks.

Bubonik Funk
Saturday  10 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $8-$10,
The Charlotte jam-funk band finishes up what’s likely been the biggest of its eight years together, having played New Orleans Jazz Fest and released its new album, “Oddfish Volume 1” earlier this year. The colorful crew returns to Chop Shop for what it’s calling Winter Wondercod with Batsheet and Viva La Hop.

The Hawthornes
Saturday  10:30 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $6-$8,  
With new vocalist Ade` Herbert on board, this versatile Charlotte combo whose 2014 debut album “More Than Eyes Can See” was built on soulful grooves, lyrical, classic rock inspired guitar work, and shades of jazz and funk, is prepping their first single with the New Orleans-bred singer.

K. Michelle
Sunday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $40-$80,  
On her just-released second album, “Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart,” the VH1 reality star taps guitar rock (“Love `Em All”), James Bond (“Judge Me”), dramatic balladry, and dreamy Autotuned dance music for a cohesive and addictive album of modern R&B that shifts from motivational and inspirational to the female version of Usher.

Fat Face Band
Wednesday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., Free,  
Let this Charlotte trio of trumpet/melodica, guitar and tuba score your Christmas Eve with its mix of New Orleans jazz and avant-garde as you wait for Santa’s arrival. Having toured Europe earlier this year and played the Democratic National Convention in 2012, the trio is sticking close to home as Snug’s December artist in residence.

Plaza Midwood Christmas
Thursday  8 p.m., Petra’s, 1919 Commonwealth Ave., $
Charlotte pop singer-songwriter Jon Lindsay hosts this intimate Christmas night get together that should fill the void after packages are opened, family has departed, and bellys are full. The lineup includes Lindsay, Wilmington’s Free Clinic, Brooklyn/NC’s Spirit System, and Charlotte’s Bless These Sounds Under the City, Toleman Randall, and Perry Fowler and Slade Baird from Sinners & Saints and Amigo, respectively.

`80s Charlotte punk band celebrates 30 years with one-off reunion

The holidays are a time to reminisce and if you were a punk fan living in the Southeast in the `80s then you may want to jump on this rare post-Christmas concert. Misguided Youth was a Charlotte punk band during the mid to late `80s. The lineup of Lee McCorkle, John Lomax, Jimmy King (of Drat and the Aqualads), and Sam Michaelowski will reunite Saturday, December 27 with a show at Snug Harbor (1228 Gordon St.) to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

I wasn't around for Misguided Youth's `80s run. I met McCorkle when we worked at Record Exchange. I'd taken a semester off work for an internship and when I returned he was working the register at our new East Blvd. location. He'd just put out his "Nappy Superstar" solo album (a good record, by the way) and was promoting it heavily to customers from behind the counter. I remember thinking he talked a lot about his band. If I'd known his history, I may have been more impressed.

Misguided Youth was McCorkle's first band and between 1984 and 1989 it played with what are now punk and hardcore legends like the Ramones, Lords of the New Church, Circle Jerks, Agnostic Front, 7 Seconds, the Exploited, Corrosion of Conformity, and Dead Milkmen.

Antiseen's Jeff Clayton produced the band's first EP, "Lawrence Welk's Death Polkas on Black Vinyl." It also recorded a full-length called "United States of America," which McCorkle says was only distributed in the regional scene.

McCorkle describes the band's sound as "Give 'Em Enough Rope" era Clash meets the Sex Pistols and adds that former Antiseen member Tom O'Keefe joked that they were just a little too early to be Green Day, which means if the cards were dealt differently the Rock Hall might be inducting them next year.

Misguided Youth will be joined by That Guy Smitty, the Chalkies, the Poontanglers, and AM/FMs Saturday. The show starts at 10 p.m. and admission is $5.

(Photos courtesy of Lee McCorkle. Top -Misguided Youth during its 25th anniversary at the Milestone. Bottom - Youth in its infancy).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

This week's hot concerts

Circa Survive
Friday  7:30 p.m., Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St., $20-$23,
Following the release of its well-received fifth album, “Descensus,” and one of the most disturbing music videos of the year (watch the clip for “Schema” where singer Anthony Green boxes an overgrown baby), the Pennsylvania quintet delivers its angsty, atmospheric and expansive metallic emocore. With Title Fight, Tera Melos, and Pianos Become the Teeth.

Black Keys/St. Vincent
Friday  8 p.m., Time Warner Cable Arena, 333. E. Trade St., $48.25-$91.95,   It’s been a good year for both former underground artists. The Black Keys were nominated for three Grammys (rock album, song and performance) for this year’s “Turn Blue,” while opening act Annie Clark is up for Best Alternative Rock album for the self-titled record that Entertainment Weekly just named album of the year.

Wink Keziah’s Christmas Bash
Friday  9 p.m., Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave., $8,
The storytelling songwriter and Charlotte bred band leader celebrated the release of his third album “Cowbilly” earlier this year. Although he divides his time between Charlotte and Austin, he’s back for a honky tonkin’ holiday with Kevin Marshall and the J-Walkers and Kelly Mullen.

Friday  9 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $12-$15,   
With the recent release of its third album, the hard touring improvisation-centered jam band returns mixing keyboard-laden funk, jam rock style, spacy psychedelics and a trippy laser light show. Experimental funk rock tour mates Tauk make heavier, progressive jam rock that’s equally grand and spacy in scope.

Me Myself & I Fest
Friday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $3, 
This annual celebration of one man bands features frisky founder Your Fuzzy Friends,  Plaza Midwood staple Bo White going solo without his Orquesta, Hectorina frontman Dylan Gilbert, regular area attraction Human Pippi Armstrong (aka Nathan Hemphill), and Jared Draughon’s Must Be the Holy Ghost.

David Benoit Christmas
Saturday  8 p.m., Halton Arena, CPCC, 1206 Elizabeth Ave. $45-$70,
The award winning contemporary jazz pianist who inherited Vince Guaraldi’s spot creating music for later “Peanuts” specials, pays tribute to the composer and revisits the unforgettable songs from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with students from Trinity Episcopal School. The show closes out the Carolina Jazz Concert series for 2014.

Saturday  9 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 36th St., $25-$30, 
On the funky up-tempo numbers, blatant pop, and belted ballads of her new album “Strong as Glass,” the underrated R&B singer takes cues from the classic `80s and `90’s pop R&B of Janet, Whitney, and Mary J. without abandoning her unique voice and the quirky originality that’s made her one of contemporary soul’s more interesting artists.

Monday  7:30 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., Sold Out,  
It’s been well over a decade since WEND 106.5 brought Gavin Rossdale and company to town to headline the annual End of Summer Weenie Roast during its peak. The station’s tapped the grunge-era Brits again - this time to ring in the rock (and the season) at the annual Not So Acoustic Xmas concert with Airborne Toxic Event and Twin Atlantic.

Monday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $22-$25,  
Whether playing in Moscow or the deep South, this Mexican rock quartet’s potty mouthed messages of hip-hop, rock, punk and funk translates to a party starting good time that’s garnered it five Latin Grammys. With its 20th anniversary approaching next year, it’s here combining the holiday season and its first studio album in seven years on the “Agua Maldita Navidad Tour.”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

This week's hot concerts

The Balsa Gliders
Friday  8:30 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $10,  
Few acts are as nostalgic for the `90s sound that almost made Chapel Hill the next Seattle as this tri-city sextet (its members hail from DC, Charlotte, and the Triangle). On its new album “Courteous Americans” it tackles the jangly lo-fi guitar anthems of the era of Archers of Loaf and Velocity Girl with added nods to the Smiths and the Replacements.

Brian Setzer Orchestra
Saturday  4 p.m., Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd., $62.48-$73.88,
Since “Boogie Woogie Christmas” in 2002, the former Stray Cat has embarked on a decade of holiday tours and released two more Christmas albums (one live). But fans don’t just get the modern rockabilly legend’s take on “Jingle Bell Rock” and “The Nutcracker Suite,” they get solo and Cats’ hits and more spirited big band-aided covers.

Saturday  9 p.m., Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave., $12,
This marks the Charlotte band’s first hometown show since losing founding guitarist Joe Young to a heart attack in May, which means it is also guitarist Mad Brother Russ Ward’s local debut with the band. It’ll be interesting to see if Ward gives notorious frontman Jeff Clayton competition in bloodshed. He’s been known to play so hard his hands bleed, so he’ll fit right in.

Crushed Out
Saturday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $5,
Although a roots rock duo at its core, the married New Hampshire couple draws from lesser tapped pools of Americana - surf guitar and `60s rock and country, and - on its latest album “Teeth” - high lonesome spaghetti Westerns. Its influences blend so seamlessly they remain secondary to the strength of the songs.

A Johnnyswim Christmas
Monday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 35th St., $22-$32,  
The much buzzed-about married duo of Nashville songwriter Abner Ramirez and Donna Summer’s youngest daughter Amanda Sudano - who are expecting their first child in February - lend their unique union of polished soul and roots attitude (plenty of charging, rhythm and harmony heavy sing-alongs) to the holidays with a new Christmas EP and tour.

Jessie J/Nick Jonas
Tuesday  7 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $38.73,
Even in its earliest years, there was something about the versatile youngest Jonas Brother that suggested he had the chops and brains to break out as the Timberlake of the crew. Now he’s a solo artist starring in Direct TV’s “Kingdom” and co-headlining the annual Kissmas Concert with British pop sensation Jessie J and Bebe Rexha.

Trampled By Turtles/Nikki Lane
Tuesday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 35th St., $22,
On its latest album the Minnesota quintet mixes the high lonesome feel and fast picking of a bluegrass band with the psychedelic folk-rock scope of bands like Phosphorescent or My Morning Jacket. It’s paired with rising Greenville, SC-raised/Nashville-based country singer Lane, whose caused quite a stir a an atmospheric throwback to Patsy and Loretta.

Jessica Lea & David Mayfield
Wednesday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 35th St., $15-$18,  The acclaimed siblings - both solo artists that grew up playing in their folks’ bluegrass band - wowed audiences two Decembers ago with its Sibling Rivalry Tour, which they revisit reaching back to their childhood repertoire and doing unique renditions of their own material. The music is stunning, but their chemistry is gold as well.

Steel Panther
Wednesday  7:30 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $33.58,  
From Sunset Strip satirists to playing for 100,000 fans at the Download Festival, the hair metal parody has made a full-fledged career out of fun and Aquanet opening for the acts it sends up - Guns n’ Roses, Judas Priest, and the Crue and headlining clubs. This marks the over the top comedic rock group’s first time headlining Charlotte.

David Broza
Thursday  7:30 p.m., Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St., $36-$54,  
With his mix of flamenco, fingerpicking, folk-rock and reggae, this Israeli singer-songwriter and guitarist is considered Israel’s answer to Springsteen but by advocating and campaigning for peace between Israel and Palestine on albums like 2014’s “East Jerusalem West Jerusalem,” he’s more like Bono-meets-Neil Young.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Charlotte's Pradigy GT premiers new video and single

Charlotte rock band Pradigy GT premier the video for its latest single "She's Got It," which you can watch above. It shows a different side to the versatile group than last Spring's "Refresh," which demonstrated its knack for rocking hip-hop-laden club jams. "She's Got It" is a pop-rock track that juxtaposes slow burning verses with amped up guitar rock choruses. And the video doesn't really take you where you think it's going to.

"She's Got It" is the second single from Pradigy GT's upcoming album "Refresh." Check out more on the group here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

This week's hot concerts

Kat Dahlia
Friday  9 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $10-$12,
On her single "Gangsta" the Miami-based, Cuban-American artist comes off as a sassy rapper and a deep folk singer with a touch of Shakira. On the lighter, swagger-heavy single "Crazy" (No. 3 on iTunes’ Latin chart) she’s more Michelle Rodriguez-meets-Nelly-Furtado. Her full range will be revealed when her debut album drops in January.

Groove 8 After Thanksgiving Party
Saturday  5 p.m., Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave., $12,  
The Charlotte jazz funk octet (whose members have gone on to play with Prince and Fleetwood Mac) celebrates its tenth anniversary with an eclectic concert and potluck that promises surprise guests and new songs. Moonshine Racers, the Josh Daniel/Mark Schimick Project, New Car Caviar: A Jamgrass tribute to Pink Floyd, Coddle Creek, and the Chemist also play.

Anna Rose
Tuesday  9 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $20,
With a flowery name, you might expect a demure folkie or Disney princess (her dad is Disney songwriter Alan Menken). But the confident New York rocker is a gritty guitarist and soulful singer slinging funky electric riffs and belting hard rock, blues, and adult pop on her latest album "Behold a Pale Horse." With Howie Day.

French Montana/Jeremih
Wednesday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $33.58, 
The Kardashian connection has probably done more to make him a household name than his many guest raps ever will, so Moroccan-American rapper French Montana is striking while his name is hot. He headlines the Set It Off Tour with another go-to collaborator, Jeremih. Both are anticipating the release of new albums.

Death (DTA Tours)/Obituary
Thursday  7 p.m., Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave., $22-$25,  
The death of founding vocalist Chuck Schuldiner from brain cancer in 2001 put an end to the influential death metal stalwart, but some of the surviving members formed this live tribute to continue his legacy. Death to All teams with fellow sunshine state death metal vets Obituary, who is celebrating its well-received new album "Inked in Blood," Massacre, and Rivers of Nihil.

Valient Thorr
Thursday  8 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $10,
The globetrotting Carolinians are one of the best bands touring in any genre. It’s still building its audience at home, wowing crowds with over-the-top evangelical metal, squealing guitar solos, rapid fire riffs, and blatant hooks that aren’t afraid of a little cheese. Scowl Brow, the Bleeps, Hungry Girl, Animals and Swell Friends make for a strong bill.

Alexz Johnson
Thursday  9 p.m., Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave., $10,
The Canadian TV and film star of “Final Destination 3” and “Instant Star” (where she wrote much of the music in addition to starring in the series) raised $50,000 toward her fan-funded new album "Let `Em Eat Cake," which is a darker, bluesier, broader and more polished record than the Brooklyn transplant’s previous work.

Thursday  9 p.m., The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd., $8,
The New Jersey post-rock combo’s expansive new album "Bloom & Breathe" plays like an emo Explosions in the Sky. Guitar lines climb and intertwine like musical ivy against dynamics-driven, swelling masculine angst, and stop/start tempos. Fans of Charlotte’s defunct HRVRD should take note.