Tag Archives: Music

How to turn a song from decent album track to holy-shit-amazing live performance (by Sara Bareilles)

My family and I saw Sara Bareilles’ concert at Radio City Music Hall last night, and she did NOT disappoint, at all. Okay, maybe a tiny bit: I was hoping to hear her absolutely exquisite version of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” which, alas, didn’t happen. But other than that? Totally amazing. And yes, Sara, you’re right on two counts: (1) It IS completely appropriate to dress like an eight-year-old ballerina on special occasions like, oh, selling out Radio City Music Hall; and (2) the tutu totally goes with the electric guitar.

Speaking of which: Here, in case anyone is wondering, is how you take a song from being pretty good on CD to being white-hot incandescent onstage. Just turn this:

Into this:

Et voilà.

We’ve only relatively recently become Sara Bareilles fans, but the more I hear from her, the more I’m impressed by her sure sense of pop craftsmanship (er, craftswomanship), her obvious reverence for older genres, her musical adventurousness, and her ambition. I’m really looking forward to digging more into her discography, and to whatever she comes up with next.

Her opening band, Harper Blynn, were no slouch either. Actually, more than no slouch; their luminous power-pop melodies were amazing, and further confirm my conviction that the state of creative, exciting music being made in the world is just fine. Check out the gorgeous musical buildup in “Bound to Break” and the driven (and slightly sinister) “Go”:

One more: check out the lovely, uplifting choruses in “Long Way from Home.”

And that’s it. Oh, heck, why not: I’ll throw in Sara Bareilles’ take on “Yellow Brick Road.” Here’s hoping she keeps it at least occasionally in rotation.



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“How wonderful life is”: Listening — always! — to Elton John

Still on an Elton John kick — and I suspect I will be, for a while, since I’ve just gotten tickets to see him for the very first time ever when he comes to Madison Square Garden this December. His songs have been a fundamental part of the soundtrack of my childhood; “Rocket Man” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” absolutely captivated me with EJ’s musical melancholy — and, of course, lyricist Bernie Taupin’s evocative stories of the lonely astronaut in the soul-aching emptiness of space, the rich men rising and hobos drowning, the sons of bankers and sons of lawyers who know not if it’s dark outside or light. Deep, mind-expanding stuff, for a kid — and for a grownup, for that matter. And I cannot wait to see this living legend and hear the voice that’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember.

Anyway. Here’s “Your Song,” one of the sweetest love songs ever penned, and one of late-era EJ’s best performances that I’ve seen online. Enjoy.


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Listening to Lena Hall (or: yes, I am a total sucker for badass female rock n’ roll)

Lena Hall

For whatever reason, there aren’t a lot of great renditions of Elton John’s “Have Mercy on the Criminal” on YouTube. There’s the unbeatable original, of course. But all of John’s live renditions are either poor audio bootlegs from the 1970s or more recent performances in which his mature (and admittedly richer) voice isn’t quite nimble enough to hit the frenzied highs which, in my opinion, are what give the song its frisson of feverish desperation. And there aren’t that many covers of the song either. By and large, musicians seem to be either unaware of it or afraid of it. What gives?

Here’s a shining exception. Celina Carvajal (aka Lena Hall) picks up Elton John’s long-disused falsetto notes and gives “Have Mercy on the Criminal” a blistering workout. If you can bear the not-great video quality and the muddy audio on the instruments, Hall’s astonishing pipes are well worth the listen:

Oh hell yes.

Hall is a Broadway belter currently on Kinky Boots as well as the frontwoman for the rock band The Deafening. More of her YouTube videos here. And here’s hoping for a studio-quality version of “Have Mercy”; EJ fans (this one, at least) would be eternally grateful.

(Photo via Playbill)

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They’ve got the touch: Listening to the Cybertronic Spree

So it’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted on this blog. What could possibly have brought me back? Some incisive political commentary I’ve needed to get off my chest? Some new paean to science or the necessity for optimism? Some disquieting or uplifting observation on the human condition?

Nope. I’ve simply come to testify to the fact that Arcee shreds it. Behold, performing “Instruments of Destruction” from the soundtrack to the 1986 Transformers animated movie, the Cybertronic Spree:

Hat tip to io9, which links to the obligatory video for “The Touch.” In my opinion, they chose the wrong song; how could the performance of a woman cosplaying as the Autobot Arcee, and absolutely killing it on the Decepticon-themed “Instruments of Destruction,” NOT be the video that completely makes your day?

Thanks for being awesome, Cybertronic Spree. You’ve got the power.


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“The engine that lights up the stars”

At last! A new music video from John Boswell of Symphony of Science, and it’s one of his catchier tunes:

More Symphony of Science videos here.

The clips of Michio Kaku are taken from his video for The Floating University, which offers free online lectures by leading scholars and thinkers on a wide range of subjects — from astrophysics to political philosophy, from finance to population studies, from linguistics to the psychology of sex. It’s a wonderful online resource and I highly recommend checking it out.

Here’s Kaku’s full lecture:

More Floating University videos on YouTube (via BigThink) here.

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Music for hurricanes: Listening to Trixie Whitley

I’m a new fan gobsmacked by the utterly compelling, blistering, devastating music of Trixie Whitley. Goddamn:

With bare-bones guitarwork and that demolishing voice (erupting into full force at 2:54), “Need Your Love” is like… what?…like a winter tree bursting into flame:

And if “Strong Blood” doesn’t slowly and relentlessly destroy you, I doubt you have a soul worth moving:

Thank you, NPR.

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A song for Christmas

Here’s Tim Minchin’s newest version of his utterly lovely humanist carol “White Wine in the Sun.” I seem to be making a tradition out of posting this song at Christmastime; so be it. Enjoy:

I’ve wanted, but failed, to write about so much over the past few weeks — including about the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, where so many of the family gatherings that Minchin celebrates will be terribly incomplete this year. And there has been a death in my own extended family as well. But we keep gathering, and consoling, and loving, because we are human, and that’s what humans do.

Merry Christmas. See you in the new year.

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