Saturday, January 17, 2009

Foo Fighters: Live at Wembley

Written by Fumo Verde

I liked the Foo Fighters when I first heard them, but didn’t know Dave Grohl, the drummer for Nirvana, was the leader. Grohl formed the Foo Fighters in the wake Nirvana’s tragic end, and since then the Foo Fighters have become one of those bands that have worked hard to silence critics and win over fans. Seeing this DVD will prove it.

Wembley is one of the largest stadiums in the Europe holding 90,000 seats, all under one roof. It is a football arena, home to England’s national football team, and it holds the main English domestic football finals. To play to such a crowd the roadies set up the stage at one end of the field with a runway extending from one end of the stadium, through the stage itself, and finishing at the other far end of the stadium. With this added stage area fans have a chance to see Grohl as he runs down the platform playing his guitar. For fans on the stadium’s floor this is a chance to get close to one of their favorite performers. If you haven’t seen the Foo Fighters live, like me, then this DVD will make you want to. I know I do.

The show opens with Grohl strolling down the runway, with house lights on, tuning up; the rest of the band comes on stage. The opening song is “The Pretender” as Grohl and the audience slowly and softly sing together, then with a howling shout from Grohl, the switch goes on and the crowd goes ballistic. “The Pretender” has the fuel to start the fire with guitar licks charging like Speed Racer. To keep the fans in that moment, the band goes into “Times Like These;” its distinct guitar strumming lead-in powering up the crowd even more, and Grohl takes off running down the runway stopping here and there to play a few chords for those in the area. Right here is where you can tell Grohl is having the time of his life and he wants everybody involved as he invites them all to sing along.

The next few tracks hold the super-conducted energy, and it blows my mind how athletic this band has to be, because every song is at mach speed. Every song considered “slow” for this band may bring down the tempo a little bit, but the passion holds the crowd on its feet. There are 18 tracks that play out like an emotional rollercoaster with songs like “My Hero,” “Skin and Bones,” and “Everlong,” another slower tempo song, but not the way they play it for this show. Grohl heads midway down the runway where a microphone is set up. He plays this song alone, almost; he does have some 86,000 backup singers. The crowd is in frenzy but under Grohl’s control. Then comes the hurricane: the drums roll, the band joins in, and we’re are back to mach one in the blink of an eye.

This show is fantastic but what makes it even better for me are the final two songs, both by Led Zeppelin: “Rock and Roll” and “Ramble On.” And here’s the kicker, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones come out and play with the band. On “Rock and Roll” Grohl jumps on the drums and drummer Taylor Hawkins sings, while Page and Jones play their parts. For a Zeppelin freak like me, it was icing on the cake, and really good fucking icing. I said I like the Foo Fighters when I first heard them, but I never went out of my way to pick up their albums, now I will. Foo Fighters - Live at Wembley must have been an awesome show to be at because the DVD is unreal.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ween: At the Cat’s Cradle, 1992

Written by Fumo Verde

Ween fans will dig this one. At the Cat’s Cradle, 1992 is a two-disc set, the first a CD recorded live at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on December 9, 1992. At this time the band included Gene Ween (vocals & guitar) Dean Ween (vocals & guitar) and at bass and drums Yamaha Digital Audio Tape Deck. That’s right, Ween fans, with Kirk Miller as live sound engineer and Paul Monahan as tour manager, this was one of the first tours after signing with Elektra Records and the band were still just Dean and Gene. The second disc is a DVD, which is one hell of a bonus. It contains shows caught live at Vera in Groningen, Netherlands and Staches in Columbus Ohio. There are also two fun clips of the guys filmed while in a studio at WTSR Radio in Trenton, New Jersey.

Disc one is a great show, twenty-one tracks starting with warm-up song “Big Jim” followed by one of my favorites, “Never Squeal On Th’Pusher”. Other favorites of mine on here are “Mango Woman” with its funky tropical sound. Also “Pork Roll, Egg and Cheese” which has more of a basic rock ‘n’ roll sound to it. The words are sung in a manner you might have heard in the early fifties. Right after that tune comes “Cover It with Gas and Set It on Fire.” Now here is where vocals add texture. As Dean snarls out “He’s the hobble with the wobble at the gang rape,” Gene screeches his words out wickedly, “cover it with gas and set it on fire” while the Hendrixesque guitar riffs and cowbell give this song an LSD twinge. You know, kind of groovy yet freaky at the same time. You don’t know if you should really be rocking out to this song, but it’s got a great beat and you just can’t help yourself. The guys use their voices to express more than just the words they have written; they can use them as other instruments. Other fan favorites such as “You Fucked Up” and “Nan” are here along with “Captain Fantasy” that sounds like a twisted Queen symphony. This song was also caught live on the DVD.

For Ween being anti-pop culture musicians was about getting their ideas out there and having fun doing it. And having fun on stage for Dean and Gene means a fun show for the now hundreds of thousands of Boognish worshipers around the world that appear at Ween shows. You can hear this in the CD. The audience in the background, small then compared to the crowds they get now, is enjoying not only the music, but also the interaction with the guys. The liner notes by Dean lay out a base of what they faced on stage every night before the band was as known as they are today. The true Ween fans will understand this because this is one of those bands that you either get or you don’t.

Disc two presents many of the same songs from the first. From their performance in Vera, we get: “Captain Fantasy,” “You Fucked Up,” “Tick,” “Boing,” “Cover It with Gas and Set It on Fire,” and “Don’t Laugh (I Love You)” just to name a few, and while from the Staches show: “REGGAEJUNKIEJEW,” “Common Bitch,” and “Marble Tulip Juicy Tree.” There are seventeen live clips of the boys playing music that well documents the talent and power of Ween.

The energy they pour out to their audiences can be heard on the CD, but can be better seen on the DVD. The lighting at Vera drifts between blue and complete darkness at times where the lighting at Staches show how young the guys were when this was recorded. The sound is great and the video especially at Staches comes in clear. The two clips at the radio station are a fun little shot of the guys behind the scenes.

Yet if you really want the full Ween experience then one must bow down to the god Boognish and get a ticket and go to a show. If the economy is too tight right now or if Ween is not headed your way any time soon, then this two-disc set will have to hold you over till Boognish answers you offerings with an appearance by Ween.