Archives for November 2012

The Rolling Stones Made Their Own Tour Irrelevant

Is this really worth $850 a ticket? Really?

I will not be seeing the Rolling Stones next weekend when they play at the brand-new Barclays Center, two miles from my house in Brooklyn. I absolutely wanted to: I went to a game there a couple of weeks ago and was struck by what a great venue it would be for rock shows, big enough for a major act but still small enough to feel intimate, with good sightlines everywhere in the house. The Stones are, depending on when you ask me, either my favorite band ever or somewhere in the top five, and this show was one of only five scheduled to commemorate the band’s 50th anniversary.  This could be the last time. May be the last time, I don’t know!

Let me save you some time: Who wants to see a bunch of septuagenarians try to rock? While that is a very valid argument, I would counter that although they haven’t made a memorable album in about 30 years (I’d say 35 — I never cottoned to Tattoo You) they sound better live now than at almost any time since Brian Jones was in the band. Although they made great records in their peak period — the Beggars Banquet – Let It Bleed – Sticky Fingers – Exile On Main Street run is one of, if not the very best achievements in the whole rock canon — they sounded pretty lousy in concert most of the time, from the available evidence: their 1969 live album Get Yer Ya-Yas Out; Gimme Shelter, the concert movie that turned into a horrifying document of the doomed free concert at Altamont Speedway; and Cocksucker Blues, the banned document of their 1972 U.S. tour. Even when they played well, as in certain moments on the Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones concert film (also from 1972), they always seemed to be plagued by sound problems, or tempo problems, or Mick’s not being able to hit the notes he hit on the records, or the band seeming not to quite remember the rhythm of the tunes, or whatever.

Whereas, modern advances in monitoring, so the band can actually hear itself, plus the (relative) sobriety of the band means that even though they’re not all that much to look at anymore, they generally get a lot closer to the sound of their best albums than they ever used to. Plus, in recent years they’ve eased up on their dogged insistence on playing half the songs from whatever forgettable new album they’re using as an excuse to tour, and broken out more interesting album cuts. So it’s arguable that they are a better bet now than they have been for quite some time.

But I’ve seen the Stones a couple of times already. The opening show, at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., of the 1989 Steel Wheels tour was my first big rock concert (I was 16), and I saw them again at the same venue on the 1994 Voodoo Lounge tour. (They were way, way better in ’94.) And as much as I love them — I cannot possibly overstate the importance of the aforementioned four-album run to my musical identity — I don’t know how I can justify paying $1,700 dollars for any two-hour experience, much less one where I have all my clothes on.

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The Cosmetically Altered Menace

She’s fast enough for you, old man

We’ve all had a couple of weeks to digest the Big News: George Lucas sold his company, Lucasfilm Ltd, to Disney for $4.05 billion. What did they buy for all that money? Only the biggest movie franchise of all time, and the rights to extend that franchise. In half a hummingbird’s heartbeat, Disney announced its plans for a new trilogy of “Star Wars” films, starting with Episode VII, which will follow the events of Return of the Jedi in the chronology of the Galaxy Far Far Away.

After the dismal non-entertainment of the prequels, one might reasonably wonder why anyone would care about any more “Star Wars” movies. But Disney has made a few smart moves to gradually ease all us kids of the ’70s, myself very much included, back from “lock that sumbitch up, I never want to see him again” to “he didn’t mean to, he’s a good man, I brought bail money!”

First and foremost, George Lucas is not writing or directing or even producing the movies — he’s been consigned to ceremonial “creative consultant” status, which probably means the folks who just bought the keys to the Millennium Falcon will ask him what he would do, and then do the opposite. Because how could any set of movies be any worse directed than the prequels? It’s not a shock that Jake Lloyd (child Anakin) and Hayden Christensen (surly teenage Anakin) were terrible, as they were both unknown, but George Lucas got stultifying, awful, unwatchable performances from the normally reliable likes of Natalie Portman, Ewan Macgregor, and Liam Neeson. (There are many theories about how exactly he accomplished that, and here, in video form, is mine:)



A second source of excitement among the faithful:  it’s been hinted that the key characters of the original trilogy — Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia — will return in the new one, and original stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and even Harrison Ford have indicated interest in participating.

Hamill and Fisher are no surprise, of course. While neither of them is exactly starving — Hamill has had a successful career as a voice actor for comic-book cartoons, and Fisher is a celebrated author coming off a sold-out Broadway run of her autobiographical one-woman show — neither has come anywhere near the heights of success or visibility they enjoyed as the faces of the biggest movie franchise of all time.

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The "Lincoln" Trailer Is A Parody Of Itself

I’m a fan of movies. I’m a fan of big movies, of historical movies, of Important Movies. Total sucker for biographical movies. Love to read nonfiction, about American history in particular. So I should already be lining up for the premiere of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, the nakedly calculated Fall Prestige Picture sure to win Oscars for everyone involved, right?

On paper, this thing seems like a slam dunk: Daniel Day Lewis, the human chameleon most recently seen making his eyes literally (and I do mean literally) gleam with evil intent in There Will Be Blood, is playing Honest Abe. (I wish — and I realize this would turn it into a completely different kind of movie — that the movie were called Honest Abe and everyone addressed him only as Honest Abe, as in: “Honest Abe! General Lee is about to take Manassas!” and “Do you think we’ll ever free the slaves, Honest Abe?” But I digress.) The movie is based in part on the book everyone talked about and nobody read during the 2008 election cycle, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals.” It has a long list of dependable actors on its call sheet. It’s getting nothing but valentines from critics. How could it not be great?

And yet, I can’t shake the feeling, watching the trailer, that it looks like the bad TV adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” that Bill Murray is producing live on Christmas Eve in Scrooged.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

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