The Lonely Minotaur

Music & Concert Reviews

Vampire Weekend Triumphant at MSG — September 8, 2019

Vampire Weekend Triumphant at MSG

The culmination of a decades worth of immense hype and hard work for the former Columbia University band was finally paid off in epic fashion Friday evening as Vampire Weekend took to the stage at a sold out Madison Square Garden. It was the band’s very first gig at the world’s most famous arena and they certainly rose to the occasion by performing a robust 32 song set that crisscrossed the groups already legendary discography. Some of the biggest cheers of the night were heard when Ezra Koenig and company ripped through VW classics such as  “M79”, “This Life”, “Harmony Hall”, “Diane Young”, “Walcott” and fan request “Ottoman”.

Also joining forces with Vampire Weekend on stage were opening act Angélique Kidjo during The Father of The Brides’ album closer “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin” as well as guitar virtuosity Steve Lacey for a cover of his own song “Dark Red” and Vampire’s “Sunflower”.  The band were in great spirits all night long and their adoring legions of fans ate it all right up. Sadly there was no surprise cameo by Danielle Haim during “Hold You Now” which is one of the real treasures from The Father of The Bride. One day it will happen. One day. In addition to being the hottest ticket in town Friday night, the band also streamed the event live on Twitter so that all who follow their music could enjoy the Garden party. Up next for the band are 53 more concert dates that will carry the band across the globe and into October 2020.

Sept. 6, 2019 — Madison Square Garden, New York

* “Bambina”

* “Unbelievers”

* “White Sky”

* “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”

* “Holiday”

* “M79”

* “One (Blake’s Got a New Face)”

* “Sympathy”

* “Unbearably White”

* “Step”

* “New Dorp. New York” (SBTRKT cover)

* “This Life”

* “Diplomat’s Son”

* “Hold You Now”

* “Harmony Hall”

* “Diane Young”

* “Cousins”

* “A-Punk”

* “Hannah Hunt”

* “2021”

* “California English”

* “Dark Red”

* “Sunflower”

* “Oxford Comma”

* “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin”

Encore

* “Big Blue”

* “Ottoman”

* “Obvious Bicycle”

* “Run”

* “Worship You”

* “Ya Hey”

* “Walcott”

Madison Square Garden and the Infinite setlist…. — August 7, 2018

Madison Square Garden and the Infinite setlist….

The Smashing Pumpkins reunion tour finally rolled into New York last night. It wasn’t a complete original lineup reunion because bass player D’arcy Wretzky still has extreme beef with Billy Corgan that doesn’t look to ever be resolved. Be that as it may, getting guitarist James Iha, drummer Jimmy Chamberlain and Billy Corgan on stage this summer for the first time since 2000 is a milestone event for the band and all their fans from their 90s heyday.

This was my first proper time seeing the Pumpkins. I had previous seen the short lived Zwan fronted by Corgan at the Y100 Christmas music festival back in 2002. That band was good, not great and left you wanting more. A lot more. Over the years I also turned down many opportunities to see the Pumpkins when it was full of replacement players, sometimes Jimmy on drums but always Billy at the front. Those lineups and incarnations of the band had no magic or spark. Just a revolving door of sidemen. It was Smashing Pumpkins in name only. It felt like a cash grab with an established rock brand to hide behind. I wanted to see the real thing. I wanted my 90s Pumpkins back for one more night of glory.

Well I’m happy to report that Thursday night I got exactly that, vintage, raw and loud Smashing Pumpkins. The setlist ran 3 hours plus, featured classics from their first 5 albums (plus new single “Solora”). There really weren’t too many opportunities to catch your breath, grab another beer or make a bathroom break. The hits just kept on coming. One after another like a never ending invasion of mid 90s alt rock radio staples: “Disarm”, “Today”, “Cherub Rock”, “Zero”, “Tonight Tonight”, “1979” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”. It was like Guitar Hero on steroids. Monster guitar solos, big drums and Corgan sounding exactly like he did 25 years ago. I was highly impressed with how unchanged his voice sounds after all these years.

The Pumpkins also played a diverse array of cover songs “Space Oddity”, “Landslide”, “Stairway To Heaven” and “Baby Mine”. The best cover being David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” with a full on glam rock interpretation. A clear highlight of the show and it suited Billy’s voice quite well. It was interesting to hear “Stairway To Heaven” live since not many of us caught Led Zeppelin live but the song felt very rushed and carefree. I’d have preferred more original Pumpkins material. Songs like “I Am One”, “Ugly” or even “Perfect”. With an enormous back catalogue why play any covers at all?

Besides the big hit singles that were played, it was a pleasure to have the chance to hear some deeper cuts I never imagined I would hear live (“Eye”, “For Martha”, “The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning”, “Soma”). Glad James Iha got a chance to shine by singing leads vocals on “Blew Away”.

There were definitely some odd ball moments throughout the night. I’m pretty sure Corgan started the night in a dress or maybe it was a kilt. Either way it looked strange and unflattering. The giant video monitor behind the stage showed mostly images and videos of Billy (a solid 95%) with some random shots of James and Jimmy. No traces of D’arcy. The video interludes were also puzzling. Mark McGraph of Sugar Ray fame involved in two of them. I would love to know the connection between the Pumpkins and Mark McGraph. Two polar opposite bands from the 90s for sure. Maybe he’s just a really really big fan like the rest of us? Who knows.

At one point during the show a religious shrine of some sort was paraded around the seating area on the floor. No idea what that was supposed to signify. It was never explained or acknowledged by the band. Speaking of that, the Pumpkins had very few words for the crowd all evening long. I expected more banter, especially from Billy. That guy loves to talk and he had 18,000 open ears.

The band didn’t really stick the ending like I wish they would have. The encore was a whimper. The new single “Solara” is just a standard loud rocker. It feels more like a Smashing Pumpkins song from 2007-2013 than the 90s version of the group. Also ending the overall show with “Baby Mine” from the film Dumbo was a peculiar choice. So many fans flooded for the exits. They really should have concluded the night with one of their biggest hits, a song like “Today”, “Tonight Tonight” or “1979”. Send the people home in their happiest state.

8/1/2018 – MSG

Disarm

Rocket

Siva

Rhinoceros

Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)

Drown

Zero

The Everlasting Gaze

Stand Inside Your Love

Thirty-Three

Eye

Soma

Blew Away

For Martha

To Sheila

Mayonaise

Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)

Tonight, Tonight

Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin cover)

Cherub Rock

1979

Ava Adore

Try, Try, Try

The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning

Hummer

Today

Bullet With Butterfly Wings

Muzzle

Encore:

Solara

Baby Mine (Betty Noyes cover)

Radiohead Are Happy To Serve You…. —

Radiohead Are Happy To Serve You….

Saturday, July 14th, marked the forth and final sold out show for Radiohead at Madison Square Garden this week. Each evening a little more unique than the previous. One never knows what oldie or rarity the band might unearth on any given night. Already in Chicago during the tour’s first stop, “Blow Out”, was performed for the first time since 2008. A real treat for those in the audience as Pablo Honey era songs outside “Creep” are rarely attempted. Could we be so lucky at MSG night 4?

The band came out of the gate like a slow lumbering beast, the gentle piano and keyboards of “Daydreaming” swirling and swelling to a crescendo of Thom Yorke pledging he is “Just happy to serve………you.”. Radiohead quickly flipped the script after the Neil Young tinged “Desert Island Disk” by transforming the entire arena into a giant pulsating rave party with “Ful Stop”. That is one of the many aspects I love about this band. The diversity in style and scope between one song to the next. They keep you on your toes at all times. A sensory overload for sure.

Highlights from the main set included a slower version of “Kid A” with drummer Phil Selway supplying a military like backbeat, the punky “2+2 = 5” with Thom spitting out pure venom, “Videotape” with a new backing keyboard by Jonny Greenwood, the rejected James Bond theme “Spectre”, the Romeo & Juliet inspired “Exit Music (For A Film)” featuring fantastic guitar noodling by Jonny and finally the Can infused “There There”. Each time I hear it live I become more and more convinced that this tune is one of their greatest masterpieces. The guitar solo finale by Jonny was absolutely savage. He was playing like a man with his hair on fire. One of my favorite moments of any Radiohead show I’ve ever attended. A song like this is very very hard to top, so naturally Radiohead one upped it by playing “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” which is an all-timer in its own right.

For me the encores at a Radiohead show are like unwrapping presents on Christmas Morning. What will the band give us tonight? What jaw dropping relic from the past or unreleased ditty could the band pull from their deep catalogue? At first it seemed the band were going to play it straight and simple with some old faithfuls like the always incredible “Idioteque”, the Ice Storm themed “House of Cards”, the sad guitar finger plucking of “Present Tense” and the rip roaring “Bodysnatchers”. However, the real gift in the first encore was the addition of “The Tourist”. It has only been played sparingly since the year 2000 but it seems the band have fallen back in love with the song as it has popped up several times since 2017.

Encore 2 began with just Thom acoustically and Jonny on his laptop working on vocal loops as the duo launched into the somber “Give Up The Ghost”. I was surprised the band next performed “Optimistic”. One of the finer moments from Kid A but to me it deserves placement earlier in the main setlist. Doesn’t really have the feel of encore type song. I’d have looked towards “My Iron Lung”, “Let Down” or “Reckoner” but that’s just me. With one song left to play on the night, you knew it was either going to be “Karma Police” or “Creep”. Maybe even both like the last time I caught Radiohead at the Garden in 2016. The band elected for “Karma Police” and it quickly became the biggest singalong moment of the evening. I love that when the song finishes Thom keeps strumming and lets the arena sing the chorus as the band slowly slips off stage one by one.

There have been a lot of whispers over the last few weeks that director Paul Thomas Anderson and Radiohead are secretly working on a tour documentary of this North American summer tour. I really hope that comes to fruition. It would be nice to see a spiritual successor to their previous documentary Meeting People Is Easy (1998). That film showed the pain and agony of becoming one of the worlds biggest rock bands. It would now be nice to cap it off with a celebration of all that Radiohead have accomplished over the last 25 years. It has truly been an extraordinary run, a run which hopefully has many more chapters yet to be written.

7/14/2018 – Night 4 

Daydreaming

Desert Island Disk

Ful Stop

2+2=5

Kid A

All I Need

Videotape

No Surprises

Bloom

Everything In Its Right Place

Lotus Flower

The Numbers

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

Spectre

Exit Music (For A Film)

There There

Street Spirit

Encore:

Idioteque

House of Cards

The Present Tense

Bodysnatchers

The Tourist

Encore 2:

Give Up The Ghost

Optimistic

Karma Police