So here’s my very first attempt at blogging. This is my review of the first time I saw Rodriguez live. It’s weird I think my writing style has changed since then…I hope it has. Imagine my embarrassment when I find out years later he has glaucoma (face-palm)
Was it an act? Was it age? Is he blind? I watched Rodriguez perform at the Bowery Ballroom on Friday May 15th, 2009. Within this past year the excellent label, Light In The Attic, has re-released a number of excellent albums from Serge Gainsbourg to The Monks to two Rodriguez albums, Cold Fact and Coming from Reality, 1970 and 1971 respectively.
The opening band, The War on Drugs, was from Philly. The singer played a fuzzed out 12string acoustic occasionally switching to 6string or a keyboard, various pedals, bass and drums. Fuzzed out driving stuff but not distinguished. If I could understand what dude was singing, it might’ve been better. Does every performer hide behind something (effects, unintelligible singing, age) in order to maintain a mystique?
Rodriguez’s’ two albums have sated (for now) my thirst for authentic lyrics and melodies. He creates tapestries of street life, reactions to dire circumstances with humanity. Where Lou Reed found the bitter edge and embodied it Rodriguez employs the poetry of Dylan. He’s a romantic despite the inherent downtroddenness (that a word?) of his subjects. He’s finding moonlight in the gutter or whatever Wilde said; he’s looking at the stars.
So he’s led out by the hand by the young (the whole band’s young) bassplayer without his signature hat and glasses. What is it? Is he blind? Drunk? On drugs? Older? What happened to the guy who wrote these songs I’ve been hooked on? The gesture of being led implies a weakness or a loss of former ability or power (but I’m middle-aged so that may be informing my reaction). Rodriguez got to the mic, put the soft slightly crumpled almost-top-hat on and the big shades. He seemed to dig donning the…artifice? Protection? It was done with a soft smile recognizing it’s all a show. He was an elegant sort of shambles with an easy bop, maybe chalk it up to nerves. A phrase he said a couple of times was “Thanks for steppin out”. The young band didn’t get the groove. Their time was off (but not on all tunes) they were too fast on a couple. Rodriguez whispered to the bass player who then relayed the message that “Rodriguez would like to introduce the band before we get started” and so it went. Bass, lead guitar, three horns (alto sax, trombone, I couldn’t really see the third player but I think a French horn(?)) drums and a young woman on keys/synth/tambourine and Rodriguez plays an electric nylon string guitar. He addressed the audience a couple of times with a rambling sort of ease, once to offer advice as to how to get along with your mate, 2 words, yes dear. He said he was from Detroit and almost word for word He responded to camera flashes by asking to have the house lights come up, then leaned back and gestured a big square lens to take a picture of us all and he swore he wouldn’t forget. There were howls/catcalls when he removed his outer coat. There was an exchange with the audience when offered a drink and asked what he’d have he said red wine. So a red wine was produced in the classic Bowery fashion, a plastic cup. Rodriguez downed that red wine all at once. The second cup of wine was sipped. This songwriter has nothing to prove (to me anyway), he’s written these great songs. Was it an act? Isn’t it all? I’m real glad this old songwriter, new to me, has taken up the challenge of touring and given me a chance to experience his live show. -philip
1.Only Good For Conversation
2.Crucify your Mind
3.Inner City Blues
4.To whom it May Concern
6.Can’t Get Away
8.This is not a song it’s an outburst, or establishment blues
9.Rich folks hoax
10.I think of you
11.I’m glad we didn’t find the time (2nd time Rodriguez played it live)
12.Jane S. Piddy
14.I’m gonna live til I die (solo)
15. At last (solo)