Live Music

On more than one occasion, my friends and I have contemplated the top five concerts we would most like to attend if given the opportunity to go back in time. Although my list has varied over the years, Bob Marley and the Wailers 1973 Halloween show in Sausalito, CA has long been a constant. Meanwhile, in the absence of time travel, I continue to savor my bootleg of this concert, and various other live Marley recordings; including the recently released Live Forever.

Recorded on September 23, 1980 at the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA, Live Forever captures the closing night of Marleys Uprising Tour.’ Sadly, this proved to be his final concert, as he died of cancer in May, 1981. Despite his declining health, the power and energy of Marleys presence is palpable throughout the album. The evenings setlist was comprised primarily of live standards from previous albums such as “Burnin and Lootin,” “Them Belly Full,” and “No Woman No Cry.” These tracks are complimented by offerings from Uprising including “Zion Train” and the immortal “Redemption Song.”

Unfortunately, the reel to reel soundboard tape was exhausted prior to the final two tracks: “Work” and “Get Up Stand Up.” Subsequently, a secondary source was used to complete Live Forever, and these songs appear in considerably lower fidelity. The albums other prominent weakness is an apparent sign of the times, as the Wailers rely too heavily on 80s era synthesizer sounds throughout. The discord between this regrettable technology and the beautifully crafted roots reggae is most evident on “Could You Be Loved”.

Regardless of these shortcomings, this album is an essential piece of Marleys recorded legacy. It reminds us that even at a weakened state, he was one of the most dynamic and utterly brilliant performers. Finally, Live Forever reinforces my notion that a Bob Marley concert was a transcendent experience that remains worthy of a trip back in time, or more simply of ample airtime on your stereo.

Bob Marley and the Wailers , Zimbabwe/Jamming (Live From Dortmund Germany 1980)

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The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh [Album Review]

by Woody on February 9, 2011

Looking forward to anything can be brutal. Often times, there’s a disconnect between the lofty unattainable vision you created in your head and what is delivered to you in reality. Think the first time you got laid, the McDLT, and Waterworld. But every so often, the stars align and you are delivered everything you expected and a whole mess more. Ladies and gentlemen, The Low Anthem just delivered one of those moments.

HearYa Live Session producer, Steve Shirk, once labeled The Low Anthem as “The Masters of Restraint.” It’s an apt description. The band is meticulous and every note is given tremendous forethought. But the beauty of The Low Anthem is that, while they do create carefully crafted arrangements, they also carry an organic street husker sound. It’s easy to picture them performing quietly in a subway station, singing before a hat full of coins and scattered dollar bills.

Smart Flesh is the new album and will be released on Feburary 22nd. It’s  amazing. I wanted to break it down song-by-song, Dr. Jack style, but after countless listens and discoveries, I realized I would be doing you a disservice. This is an album that warrants your complete attention.

I will give you a few of the moments that stopped me in my tracks:

  • The opening line of Boeing 737 over pounding drums and clanging cymbals. As a New Yorker who lost a good friend during 9/11, that opening line floored me: “I was in the air when the towers came down/ In a bar on the 84th floor.”
  • On “Love & Altar,” I love how Ben’s voice is barely audible over the acoustic guitar until backing vocals come in to lift Ben’s voice. So subtle, yet so amazing.
  • The way that “Wire,” the 6th tune out of 11, acts as a sorbet, cleaning the palette before the second half of the album begins. It reminds me of music set to the best baseball movie ever, The Natural.
  • “Apothecary Love.” I have been humming this twangy number since hearing it last year at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. It sounds as effortless as breathing and has my favorite line of the album: “First she shot me with whiskey, then chased me with gin / Swore I was the cure for the shape she was in.”
  • “I’ll Take Out Your Ashes.” The subtle radio/TV sounds in the background that give the feeling that Ben is singing to the urn in an empty house.

Another key piece of this story is where the album was recorded – in an abandoned pasta sauce factory in Rhode Island. Ben Knox Miller, with band-mates Jeff Prystowsky, Jocie Adams, and newest member, Mat Davidson spent ten days in this “studio.” And when the sun went down, the cold crept in and as Jocie Adams describes:

The cold cuts through your heart, slows your whole body down. It made us focus. Some of our songs got slower.

At times during the recording, they placed room mics hundreds of feet away to catch all the sound of the abandoned factory – floorboard groans and the wind against the windows. Miller’s commentary on the surroundings:

The space was really the main instrument for the whole record. The resonance was chilling. Everything after that was a secondary instrument€”a choice of what tool we used to activate this beautiful instrument that we were inhabiting.

The Low Anthem are one of America’s most important bands and they’ve taken a major step forward on Smart Flesh. The album is a slow growing addiction. We scrounged up some samplin’ media below.

Stream “Hey, All You Hippies!:

The Low Anthem – Apothecary Love (Live at Loppen, Copenhagen)

The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh (Live at Loppen, Copenhagen)

The Low Anthem – I’ll Take Out Your Ashes (Live at Loppen, Copenhagen)

The Low Anthem – Apothecary Love (Live at The Variety Playhouse, Atlanta)

The Low Anthem – I’ll Take Out Your Ashes (Live at Variety Playhouse, Atlanta)

The Low Anthem – Ghost Woman Blues (Official Video)

The Low Anthem – Ghost Woman Blues (Live on Letterman)