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SPECIAL MUSIC MIDTOWN COVERAGE - June 10-12, 2005 - Atlanta, GA
The Veterans Rule Again - http://www.musicmidtown.com
| Music Midtown, one of Atlanta’s
rites of Spring, is as dependable as greening kudzu and roller-bladers
in Piedmont Park although it moved a bit into later Spring for the first
time and underwent a few other changes as well. Of course, there seemed
to be the usual slew of complaints about the event, although I contribute
this to the more cynical of Atlantans who are in denial of how good they
have certain things in this town (Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and the Braves
come to mind.) They have to remember that this is not called I Hear Tom
Petty In One Ear And Alan Jackson In The Other Midtown, or This Is The
Same I Pay For A Beer At Turner Field Midtown, or, Hey, Can’t Peter
Conlan Control The Weather Midtown. This is MUSIC Midtown. Music is the
reason that people still flock to this event...GOOD music that Conlan has
always acquired. That is why the event is still going strong, and many
of the veteran acts at the three day festival proved that they are still
around because they, too are all about the music.
FRIDAY, JUNE 10th
I have to actually give props to mainstream country radio for giving Cross Canadian Ragweed a pulpit for their music. The Oklahoma foursome are far more rock than any of the big hat country CMT darlings who spent more time studying Whitesnake videos than their power chords. They do have that slight twang that edges them into Southern rock, a sub genre that has had several resuscitation and modernization attempts by bands ranging from Brother Cane to the Old 97’s Face it; if you are Southern Rock the cutting edge rock stations aren’t going to touch you, and the other commercial rock stations aren’t going to spin you unless your first name is Lynyrd. Yet CCRagweed introduces a guitar heavy charge into their music that is obviously more from the Motley Crue school than Merle Haggard. The fold waiting to see the likes of Trace Adkins and Keith Urban got a dose of what real rock and roll is all about with a high energy show, and the reactions indicated widespread and deserved approval.
We have previously suggested to musicians that sex sells, and if you’ve got it - flaunt it! That may be a simple recipe, especially when you are Keith Urban. The adoring overwhelmingly female-dominated crowd packing the Hooters/Kicks 101.5 Stage were no doubt jockeying for position to catch a close up glimpse of the thirty-something Aussie heartthrob. Keith could have just stood there with a guitar and lip synched and the ladies would have still gone nuts, but he has integrity and, yes, talent to back up his popularity. If there are any doubts to this, you could look around the audience and see that nearly everyone knew the words to all the songs - including the highly outnumbered males in the crowd. For Keith Urban is more than just another pretty boy strutting his stuff in front of video cameras. He is a highly energetic performer, excellent guitarist, and powerfully emotive vocalist. His songs are more country rooted than CCRagweed, but still possess a true rock jolt that separates him from his big hat peers. (Keith doesn’t even wear a hat for that matter.) In concert, Keith is a ball of energy, not just physically but with the passion that he injects into his music and the interplay with his enthusiastic audience. With this well rounded package Keith could be one performer who breaks the mold that slew so many rock glamour boys of the 80’s (not to mention Billy Ray Cyrus) so that if some day his looks go south, he can keep his fan base intact by providing solid, enjoyable music and entertaining live shows
SATURDAY, JUNE 11th
Music Midtown turned into Music Mudtown on Saturday, with steady, soaking rainfall prevalent through most of the day. That didn’t deter most of the crowd in the least, nor did it sway the bands who especially on the 96 Rock Stage because of the direction that the rain was falling got nearly as soaked the fans.
When Robert Randolph took his seat in front of his dobro in mid-afternoon at the 96 Rock Stage on Saturday, the steady rainfall seemed to be aimed right at him. Watching Robert and the Family Band perform, I think they would have carried on if a tornado was churning through the back stage. It was obvious that Robert and his cohorts loved to entertain, and they did so in intense fashion, kicking loose a monster show of blues, soul and funk fueled rock. Albeit more blues-oriented, Robert showed prowess on the dobro that rivaled guitar deity such as Satriani and Vai. It was wildly entertaining, as this rising star proved that they may be the Parliament/P-Funk of the 21st Century.
Keane is one new act at Midtown I have to give definite plaudits to. Often placed in some critics’ de-evolution progression of sounds kind of like Coldplay who sound kind of like U2, Keane’s bare bones line up of vocalist, keyboardist and drummer manages to sound huge on stage. This trio’s music is driven by emotion, and in concert the emotion explodes from them, not with massive concussion and fireball. It is more like a delicate but mushrooming wall of power that envelopes you. Even with so many bands today hanging onto the coattails of U2 and Coldplay, the strength of Keane’s live performance could ensure that they will have the longevity to reach veteran status.
On the nearly hidden WABE/PBS 30 Stage, former Atlanta resident Dominic Gaudious finally had a spotlight at the city’s prime music event. A fixture in local venues from the tiny to massive for many years, Dominic had to overcome the horrid weather conditions just as the main stage acts did, He achieved this in stoic fashion, entertaining the soggy faithful with his indomitable expertise on his custom made double neck acoustic guitar, as well as some impressive work on the exotic Australian didjeridoo. Dominic’s performances are dependably captivating and are deserving of far reaching recognition.
Rock and roll can be a lot of fun, and it was obvious that no one has to convince John Fogerty of that. With a smile as seemingly permanent as Lisa Kudrow’s in HBO’s “The Comeback” but infinitely more genuine, Fogerty and his highly talented band ripped into an hour long set of mostly hits from the CCR days. Everyone knows these songs and could probably sing them at a karaoke night without the benefit of the lyric monitor. Yet seeing the enthusiasm Fogerty puts into these classic songs in a live performance is highly satisfying even if it seemed like a greatest hits show. Fogerty’s voice still has that dusky, soulful quality when crooning out tunes like “Midnight Special” and “Lodi.” A new song was also performed, an anti war plea that despite the video imagery from Viet Nam was obviously aimed at Iraq. This was the one point where the fun appropriately disappeared, to be replaced by introspective that rippled through the audience. Protest songs have always been an ingrained part of rock music, and when someone of John Fogerty’s talent and stature delivers one during his high powered live performance, it creates the proper effect. Hopefully, the proper thinking from more people as well.
I had a lot of expectations seeing Tom Petty for the first time. Everyone I know who has seen the Gainesville, Florida boy in concert has gushed about what a great show he and the Heartbreakers put on. I soon found out why, along with a huge throng of thoroughly drenched but ecstatic fans. No flashy light shows or pyrotechnics needed, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are one of those acts like the Black Crowes or Kings X that have that ability of pushing their music over the top in concert. Finding ways to rock just that much harder. With Petty and co., that means even the mellower vibed tunes like “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “Last Dance With Mary Jane” and “Free Fallin’” carry that much extra punch. Powering through a set of mostly hits, Petty returned to the stage at the beckon of the soaked disciples for a high octane encore. A blistering “Running Down a Dream” was followed by a rollicking take on Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35” - apropos on several levels. After a heartfelt and rousing tribute to birthday boy Bo Diddley with the song that bears his name brought the Saturday evening festivities to an end, one thing was apparent. Rock and roll may not always be pretty, but is sure was Petty that night.
SUNDAY, JUNE 12th
The moisture in the air on Sunday took the form of humidity, as the hot Georgia sun blazed over the festivities. It was not enough heat to dry the muddy areas from Saturday’s rain fall. Perhaps if they had channeled the heat about to emanate from the 96 Rock stage...
I have always thought if there was a list of ten people who personify the rock and roll attitude then Joan Jett needs to be on it. Under the sweltering humid conditions of the mid-Sunday afternoon, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts put on one nuclear-fueled show. A rocker who has blazed a trail for everyone from L7 to Veruca Salt and the Donnas - and maybe some guys as well, Joan stamped her foot on the accelerator and didn’t take it off for sixty minutes. With a raging beginning that included “Victim Of Circumstance,” the Runaway’s classic “Cherry Bomb” and her fiery version of Springsteen’s “Light Of Day” the audience was strapped in for the wild ride. Joan has always been a lady who not just performs rock and roll, but does so like she absolutely lives and breathes it. In concert, Joan and the talented and energetic Blackhearts infuse this feeling into the audience, even in an atmosphere as massive as an outdoor festival. After a frenetic ending of the hit triplet featuring “I Love Rock and Roll,” “Crimson and Clover” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” I don’t think anyone out there would argue that Joan Jett can out rock pretty much every lady rocker out there. And a lot of guy rockers for that matter.
This is the...well, almost losing count the number of times I have seen Def Leppard in concert. As a journalist I have to be objective, and while overall the hour long set by the boys from Sheffield was the usual enjoyable rocking experience, there was a bit of a weak spot. Joe Elliot, who has always been in the top echelons of rock vocalists was a bit off. The musicians in the band helped make up for this by wringing every ounce of rock power they could muster out of their instruments, contributing excellent harmony back up vocals as well. The sonic opening take on the Sweet’s “Action” launched the hit parade that featured most of the usual favorites, as well as a glimpse at their upcoming cover album with a fairly inspired version of Badfinger’s “No Matter What.” The massive crowd including moi was rocking hard enough to pump our fists furiously into the air during classics like “Rock Rock Til You Drop,” “Rocket” and the show ending “Pout Some Sugar On Me.” Maybe there are reasons Joe was not a hundred percent in the vocal department, although he was still the energetic frontman he has always been. My thought is that it was just another bump in the road, and Lord knows, this band has had enough of those to make the Jersey Turnpike look like Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the eve of Memorial Day. I don’t see it as a downward trend. I've already heard that at some of the follow-up concerts to Music Midtown, Joe's vocals have been right on so maybe he was just having a bad day and Lord knows we all have those. I have faith in the Leps. Always have, always will because they have always been about rocking no matter what.
I have faith in Music Midtown, too. It has survived the cynicism, criticisms and various problems both in its own house, and those that cannot be helped, such as the weather conditions. As long as this festival remains about the music, and the musicians and bands that perform there are of the same mind set as they proved to he this year, it will continue to flourish for many years to come
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Copyright 2005 by Music Morsels,
a Serge Entertainment Publication.
Editor: Sandy Serge
Mark E. Waterbury, Scott Turner