Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Play It Once, Sam

Mark, a long time reader/first time caller, left this message in the chatbox:

"mark: I have a possible theme, it may have been done already. Songs loved and valued more by you than, seemingly, the artist. Rarely if ever played in concert, left off their best ofs, or even off any album."

I often complain specifically about artists playing the same setlists over and over and over. It is frustrating when a band has a very deep catalogue, like say, the Rolling Stones. In their defense, they do occasionally toss in a lost gem or two, like "She Smiled Sweetly" or that radically rearranged "19th Nervous Breakdown" from the 2005 tour, that died an immediate death after one NYC performance. (I loved it.) But it's all the more frustrating when crap like "You Got Me Rocking" seems to never leave the setlist. "I wuh uh butcher/cuh-in uhp MEAT!" Shut up, Mick.

In a recent interview, Ron Wood mentioned how he started playing Chuck Berry's "Come On" at a rehearsal and suggested adding it to the band's setlist. And I believe it was Keith who said, "Ah. No one wants to hear that." Wood replied, "Everyone wants to hear it. I know. Because I want to hear it." I would expect that kind of response from Mick, but Keith?

Mr. Todd Rundgren, only lately, has been reaching back for some rarely played material. But prior to  recent full-album performances of "A Wizard/A True Star," "Todd" and "Healing," the latter two played live in the same night and one of the greatest nights of music I have ever seen, Rundgren setlists have always played it safe. I have seen Rundgren live more that any other artist, dating back to 1975, and aside from the same handful of songs--"Couldn't I Just Tell You," "Black Maria" and It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference"--his most famous album "Something/Anything?" never gets played live, with Todd mentioning often over the years, how much he dislikes the record. (He seems to dislike/dismiss his first three records, actually.)

Between 1979 and 1988, I don't recall Rundgren ever playing "Hello It's Me," and when he did resurrect it, he couldn't play it unless he was taking the piss out of it. The 1989 "Nearly Human" finally saw a solid, but rearranged version. And the other hit "I Saw The Light," is another that rarely gets played straight. It also took forty years for a live debut of "We Gotta Get You A Woman."

I have a long list of rarely if ever played tunes by some of my favorite people. You will see these on Friday.

Now it's time for your suggestions, and thoughts on why an artist won't budge with certain tunes.


William Repsher said...

I'm no longer a big enough fan, but does Radiohead ever play "Creep"? When I do see live set lists, it always seems to be missing. For me, that was one of the songs of the 90's, a game changer. And, of course, indicative of a more melodic rock style they all but abandoned from Kid A onward. It seems like one of those red herrings that idiot fans will think, "Oh, it's so cool that they didn't do "Creep."" But in my mind, it's just creepy.

jmsafree said...

Bonnie Raitt - Keep this Heart in Mind. Not sure why this never made it to the greatest hits collection. I have not seen her live and do not know if she has it in her set list.

Shriner said...

In one of the early Monkees reunion tours (88-89, I think), they dragged out "Ladies Aid Society" -- which is a pretty terrible song (this coming from probably the biggest Monkees fan here...) That surprised the hell out of me at the time (never to be seen again.)

With Nesmith back for a couple of tours in the past few years, I had hoped they'd reach even farther back in the rarities vault, but I can't complain with what they've done as it's been remarkable what they dig out for the fanboys/fangirls.

McCartney maybe? Has a dumptruck load of songs under his belt, yet still (on rare occasion) manages to pull out something like "Temporary Secretary" out of the blue.

My problem is I don't see enough live shows any more to really comment on this. I've seen Robyn Hitchcock live probably more than anybody else and he's always throwing in surprises from his back catalog.

KISS, though, is another band I've seen a couple of times who rarely varies from their set lists (except when they do things like the "Kiss Kruise", etc...)

Anonymous said...

Drive By Truckers admit that their "Blessing and a Curse" album is the black sheep of their catalogue (it's my favorite) - band not happy with each other trying to write calculated hits - and as a result they rarely play the songs. Only "World of Hurt" is listed on their upcoming mega live album. "Aftermath USA" - a hilarious Faces spoof - never appears. "Space City," a gorgeous song, was reprised on ACL but it's not on the greatest hits set and Cooley left it off of his solo live album.

I'd be interested to know from Hendrix and Dead completists, who are probably more familiar with the tried and true setlist than anybody, what are their holy grails.

Anonymous said...

Todd played I saw the light last year with the All Starr Band. He even played Bang the drum all day.

And McCartney is yet on time for playing Momma Miss America, Angry or Girl's School.

Signtopia said...

In defense of Todd Rundgren, he has done far more reaching back in recent years than some may think. For instance, he has actually been performing "I Saw The Light" quite a bit for the past two or three years when on tour with Ringo. Aside from his appearances for the Global tour, he just did a one off in Austin headlining the All Along The Moontower benefit show where he once again performed "Hello, It's Me". This weekend, He is performing two nights worth of tunes with the Akron orchestra which is supposed to include some songs he hasn't done in quite some time. The last time he performed with an orchestra, he did "Another Life". Add to this, he has, during the "Johnson" tour, tossed us all a nice taste of "Boogies(Hamburger Hell)" and "Bleeding". On the "Unpredictable" tour he has thrown us a few as well, such as "Lucky Guy" and a few others. For him, I can imagine that when you have such a large catalog of songs, if he included one song from each album, he would have to do a four hour show.

I must say that, Daryl Hall has been reaching back on his Live At Daryl's House. It blew my mind when Todd and Daryl performed "Last ride" and "Beanie G."

Sal Nunziato said...

Signtopia, no need to defend Todd Rundgren to a Todd Rundgren fanatic, especially since I did mention his "only recent" changes and surprises to the setlist. My point about "I Saw The Light" and Hello It's Me" is how he plays them. He needs to stop cackling after the line "something that I say in jest." He doesn't embrace his past or his hits too well. And speaking of Daryl's House, those two episodes with Todd were by far the best of the series. But even then, Todd had to yodel at the end of "It Wouldn't have Made Any Difference," prompting Daryl to comment "Way to give the song dignity." This is what I mean by "piss take."

tinpot said...

How about a whole album? I saw Joan Armatrading years ago (great show) and she turned down a request for a song from "To the Limit" saying she really didn't like that album or the songs on it. Which kind of upset me since I had just bought it and really liked it. I still can't listen to it without a sense of unease, thinking maybe something's wrong with me cuz I still think it's a terrific album.

Sal Nunziato said...


I interviewed Hall & Oates (separately) when their boxed set was released. I mentioned to both how the "Silver Album" was most represented with 6 or 7 songs. Daryl simply said, "Really? Interesting. Didn't realize that." John flipped out. "Yeah, did you notice nothing from Beauty On A Back Street is on there. I hated that fucking record. Just the worse." My inexperience kept me from going forward with this, as I was just too focused on the questions I had prepared. I simply said, "Wow," and asked the next question. AS he began to answer the next question, he stopped and groaned and continued with his disgust for Beauty On A Back Street. Still don't know why.

A walk in the woods said...

Hm... let's see here. It's probably easier for me to note the exceptions to this rule, which is when an artist has blown my mind by actually playing an unfairly obscure and completely great song from their catalog. Because otherwise, to respond to your original prompt, would take days... weeks... months... to detail all the amazing music by my favorite artists they they've never played live.

So, here's my greatest in-concert treats and surprises:

- Lindsey Buckingham: “Stephanie” from a 2013 Atlanta show

- Elvis Costello: "My Funny Valentine" in a 1989 ATL show

- War: "Deliver The Word" in a 1995 or so ATL show

- Steely Dan: “Night By Night,” “Monkey In My Soul” AND “The Boston Rag” all in the same ATL show in 2000

- Hall & Oates: “Had I Known You Better Then” from a 2009 or so ATL show

- Stevie Wonder: “Golden Lady” from a 2012 ATL show

- Jonathan Richman: “The Fenway” (from my called-out request) at a 2010 ATL show

Anonymous said...

I've seen Elvis Costello probably two dozen times and rarely if ever has he played anything from Get Happy, which, if you catch me on the right day, I might say is my favorite EC album. Sadly, for some reason, he didn't tour on that album either, although I found a great bootleg from the summer 1980 Heatwave (I think I have the name right) festival in Toronto, where he filled in at the last minute for the Clash, and played a ton of Get Happy.

Bruce H

Troy said...

Bruce Springsteen has such a deep back catalog that there are always songs you wished he would perform but does not (or at least performs very rarely). Off the top of my head, I wish he would play 'Held Up Without a Gun" (also a good choice for the recent 'what songs should have made the album' topic) and "Be True". Oh, and 'The Fever" of course.

MrSoul said...

@anonymous 1st

re the lesser played Grateful Dead

Thank you Plöp

There's a similar idea behind this Neil Young bootleg set

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Soul! Neil doing "Oh Lonesome Me" only 2 times just doesn't seem right.

cmealha said...

The Todd song that always comes to mind is "Fade Away". One of my all time favorites and for all the times I've seen him, he never played it. It was a nice surprise to hear him do it with the Metropole Orkest a few years back.

Mark said...

Hi, Sal, thanks for doing this theme! When I suggested it I had a few specific songs in mind. I find Leon Russell's "Me and Baby Jane" to be one of the most heart-wrenching songs ever, and I'm not aware of him ever doing it live (maybe that's why). But even more strangely, he and/or his record company have ignored it for every best of collection I'm aware of. Thin Lizzy's "Running Back" and "Romeo and the Lonely Girl" comprise, in my view, an amazing 1-2 punch in which they combined melody, sweetness, and power in a way they almost never did again. But I'm not aware of "Running Back" played at any live concerts, certainly not on any live albums, and "Romeo and the Lonely Girl" was to my knowledge only played in a slow version on one occasion.

Nils Lofgren's rare live versions of Joe Triplett's "Lesson To Learn" (done to much less effect by Rod Stewart) might represent his most magnificent honey-throated ballad moments, but he couldn't even find room for a version of it on his ten-disc boxed set. And I'll give a special "pang" moment for the album's worth of additional Jules Shear Duets that have never been released.

That's the ultimate test in this category -- does the gaping hole left by the absence of live or recorded version of a beloved song create a pang in your heart?

William Repsher said...

On a similar note, I can't imagine how bad it must have felt to see John Fogerty live before he allowed himself to play CCR songs again. Granted, this probably only accounts for a tour or two around Centerfield/Eye of the Zombie. I can remember seeing him on that first tour when he threw down the gauntlet and played those songs, Blue Moon Swamp tour, it was breathtaking when he opened the show with "Born on the Bayou." Understand that until that point, from the breakup to 1997, the only live exposure I had to Fogerty was great-to-awful renditions of "Proud Mary" or "Bad Moon Rising" by bar bands playing block parties and such. That stands out as possibly the best concert experience I've ever had.

Frito said...

Regarding Hendrix, Why he never played "If A Six Was A Nine" or "Wait Until Tomorrow", I'll never know.

Charlie Carr said...

Okay - I'm in! (and I would assume our host knows by now where I am heading . . .)
Grateful Dead - from the eponymous first album: The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion), Cream Puff War and Viola Lee Blues. The last got a ton of play in the early days and then vanished, the first two - not so much. Feels to me like they had a love / hate relationship with this piece on a number of levels. They slugged it out with Warner over the mix and, as a source of live material, played the life out of some tracks (laughably so in a couple of instances) and turned their backs on others. Golden Road is just a bright, trippy short tune that drips with psychedelia - real and imagined. Cream Puff War is a flat out hoot. Glad they gave both a spin on the Fare Thee Well gigs - handing the vocals off, oddly enough, to Trey Anastasio. He really made these two his own.
Bonus Track: Till the Morning Comes - American Beauty. A neat fit with either cited above. Short, full of jump, and - never played!

mauijim said...

Cheap Trick just played Wrigley Field, opening for Foo Fighters. I am lucky to get to see them once a year or so and those Epic lps without Tom dont get much play from them
Sal i Know you love Heavens falling and I dig good Girls from the Doctor and Wild wild Women from Standing on the edge

Peter Ames Carlin said...

Anonymous: DBT played "Space City" during their show in Portland, Or. in April of 2014. It was lovely.