Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Joseph Arthur - Live at The Triple Door, Seattle, WA 2008/07/22

Joe's performance at The Triple Door last night was brilliant, although that much is a gimme due to the dozens of tiny lights twinkling behind him. The Triple Door is an unusual venue, not just for it's star-like backdrop, but for the dinner theater vibe, complete with candle-lit tables and waitstaff whisking appetizers, entrees, and expensive wine to patrons (formerly known as "the crowd"). Joe even addresses this later in his set: "“It’s really nice here. I don’t even mind you all eatin’.”

Joe's on-stage arrival was not as intense and focused as it was in Portland yesterday, as he had to stop a few seconds into 'Chicago' to fix a self-inflicted sound glitch, but he went on to do an amazing set of songs for the sold out crowd of 300. Aside from my secret wish for the quiet euthenization of a couple of irritating geezers up front who laughed loudly in all the wrong places (such as during "Invisible Hands", when Joe sings that he needs Jesus to come back and die for him again), it would be hard to ask for a better crowd; I don't think I heard one person beg for either "In The Sun" or "Honey And The Moon", and that's saying more than you might know.

As he did the night before in Portland, Joe offered to take requests, and he was immediately greeted by a cacophony of sounds. “You all gotta calm down," he replied with a grin. "All I hear is 'WHAAA-AAA'! I don’t got a song called 'WHAAA-AAA!’”

Highlights included the delicate "A Smile That Explodes," frenzied energy on "I Donated Myself To The Mexican Army", and an encore that included worthy crowd participation on the sing-along "One By One".

By the end of the show, Joe had pronounced this his favorite gig of the tour. “Hey, don’t tell New York I said this, but Seattle is the best.”

Photo: Eric

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Joseph Arthur - Live at the Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR 2008/07/21

Last night's one-man show at the Doug Fir was excellent, relieving my concerns about hearing that Joe was leaving the JamMan loops at home for this tour. It was exciting to see him open with an intense version of the soon-to-be-released 'Temporary People' and kick over the music stand holding the binder full of cheat sheets for new songs. Initial reviews of the tour characterized his setlist and performances as being a bit rigid, so perhaps he was making an intentional effort to loosen up a bit. Having a room full of longtime friends and devoted fans undoubtedly help him do just that, and he was soon bantering back and forth with the crowd about spiked water bottles and the Portland art scene (separately, of course), as well as jokingly thanking us for coming "to the dress rehearsal" while the club sorted out some sound problems with the monitor speaker.

The 80-minute set was full of new and obscure songs, the finest of the bunch probably being 'Turn You On' (which will be on the forthcoming Lonely Astronauts cd in September). Against expectations, he then actually opened the floor to requests this time out. Closet classics like 'Favorite Girl' and 'Ashes Everywhere' were quick to be called out, as well as requisite fair-weather fan favorites like 'Honey in the Moon' and 'In The Sun'. Joe wended his way through them all, and by the encore he had recovered and brushed off his notebook to do the forthcoming 'All the Old Heroes,' a wordy, Dylan-esque folk ramble that is clearly near and dear to him. I've got a feeling this one might drop out of the setlist (or be radically reformed) once the Lonely Astronauts join him for the next leg of touring.

Check out a few video clips from this show (courtesy of bombers66 and Woody):

Slide Away
Turn You On
Electrical Storm
Favorite Girl

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Foreign Girls and beyond

Or "Underwater", as it seemed to be code-named on when the actual title could not be located for a week. Either way, this is the fourth (and last) of the ambitious ep series that Joseph Arthur embarked on this year, and it's a worthwhile spin despite being the most uneven of the bunch. There are some gems that sparkle here, the two brightest of which are 'The Killer' and 'New Satisfaction'. This pair of retro-rock-flavored cuts (hint: the last track's title is a knowing reference) build up an exciting momentum, but then leave you at the end of the disc wanting for more.

A simple reordering of the tracks would have helped a bit, but no matter how you shuffle the deck, 'Foreign Girls' would be a bit uneven, with weaker songs like the dopey title track and the innocuous but forgettable 'Stay' siphoning the ep's energy. The lo-fi but lovely track 'Candy & Cars' is wedged in between these, but dig it out -- it's a sleeper.

Taken as a set, the 2008 eps have seen Joe widen his range of styles to include the electronic elements that were first (absurdly) hinted at on "Puppets" from 'Our Shadows Will Remain', and have even seen him skirting territory that was trail-blazed by Prince. Combined with the many unreleased tracks that he has posted on Bag Is Hot, as well as the full-length disc with The Lonely Astronauts that drops next month, there's no denying that the man is as amazingly prolific as ever. The fact that he hasn't become a household name and ended up being played ad nauseum on radio stations everywhere is an act of criminal negligence, but I suppose America has worse to answer for these days.