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Concert Reviews

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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Rock and Roll royalty took the stage Sunday evening just as the sun was setting on Atlanta’s newest, and arguably best, outdoor venue.  The man who sings, “it’s good to be King, at least for a while,” looked more like Southern rock’s CEO, dressed in a black three-piece suit with embroidered cowboy lapels and a blazing red tie.  Set amongst lush opera house curtains, one of rock’s greatest hit makers showed once again that he (and the Heartbreakers) are to be counted amongst its finest live performers.

After the opener Petty smiled and said in that unmistakable languid drawl of his, “we’ve got so many songs to play for y’all tonight, so we’re just going to jump right into it for ya.”  So many songs, so many great songs- it occurred to me that a man who has sold over 60 million albums is understated, underestimated and underrated.  Part of a pantheon that includes legends like the Allman Brothers, RL Burnside, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and more recently R.E.M. and Widespread Panic, Petty has carved out a special place in rock and roll history;  remaining true to his north Florida roots, yet transcending the “southern rock” label and having universal appeal and success.

“Aw Atlanta,” he said in nasal moan, “it’s great to be back in Georgia.   We’re going to play some of the deeper tracks for ya.”  Most city based shout outs are sycophantic Spinal Tap-esque platitudes.  In this case, Petty clearly meant it.  Petty and the band paid homage to popular pioneers of an ever-evolving genre with a killer cover of Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man,” and a tip of the hat to the ultimate Texas troubadour, J.J. Cale, with “Travelin’ Light.”

In an almost spoken word intro to “Spike”, the master storyteller cleverly revisits his Gainesville roadhouse past telling the tale of a juke joint rife with “killers, thugs, robbers, shrimp boat captains and guitar thieves.” He explains, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  True indeed for a man who once called Harrison, Orbison, Lynne and Dylan brother.

Petty dedicated the arena anthem sing-a- long “Freefallin’” to “anybody who’s ever had their lover screw them over, but they rise again.”   Like his fabled shrimp boat captain, Petty casts a wide net with this one, yet it seems especially poetic in the city that literally arose from the ashes.

The two-hour mega set climaxed with an encore of crowd pleasers Mary Jane and American Girl.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers delivered a phenomenal show, ending just at 11, as per the custom in sleepy Alpharetta.  If only we could have taken his last song’s advice.

“Oh yeah.  All-right.  Take it easy baby.  Make it last all night.”

photos © 2012 Emily Kelsey

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Concert Reviews

Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Lilypad

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Jonah Parzen-Johnson has an innate ability to make the baritone sax sound like bagpipes, and maybe that’s why I cried.

Mostly I cried because Jonah tells radiant stories with his saxophone and analog synth, working the brass and pedals to recreate the framework which surrounds his album Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow: Parzen-Johnson wanted to make “something of myself that’s for everybody else.”

Jonah opened his set with “Stay There, I’ll Come to You,” showcasing the harmony between synth and sax right off the bat. With haunting lilts, the two combined into a ribbon of melody, pulsating inside the ear as well as the heart. Much like the song’s title, Jonah was the one approaching the audience as an experimental troubadour of tête-à-tête.

The back stories and thoughts behind each song tied in so well with the raw, almost throaty sax, developing such strong, emotional resonance with the musical layers. The skeleton shook.

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Concert Reviews

Speedy Ortiz “riiiiise above and gliiiiiide away” at The Sinclair

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The Sinclair was a packed house Wednesday night for the Speedy Ortiz CD release party; as a hometown gig for the Northampton, MA-based band, kinetic warmth buzzed through friends and fans alike as Sadie Dupuis and crew played their freshly-release Foil Deer track-by-track.

What’s a party without some guests, though? That’s where Krill and Mitski come in.

Krill kicked off the night with some tracks from A Distant Fist Unclenching, other goods from Lucky Leaves. Lead singer/bassist Jonah Furman brought to mind early (read: good) Billy Corgan, which I’m not sure he will appreciate. But I think he’ll appreciate this: I couldn’t stop laughing because then I kept thinking about Marilyn Manson telling Billy Corgan that he looked like Charlie Brown.

Opening with “Theme from Krill,” the Boston trio has a knack for rhythm and melody that burrows into your brain. The dreamy bleakness of “Purity of Heart.”  The discordant garage rock and hiccupping guitar and warbly Scooter-ness of “Foot.” Krill’s sound is a good, comfy noise that keeps you wiggling and all that good stuff. Be sure to catch the band at Boston Calling.

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Concert Reviews

Years & Years at Royale Boston

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During winter storm Juno, UK electro pop group Years & Years were forced to cancel the first show of their two-night stint in New York City back in January. After the snow finally melted, they made the rounds again this past March, playing several shows in California, South by Southwest before finally landing in Boston.

Due to popular demand, the show was moved from The Sinclair to the Royale in downtown’s Theater District.

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