And they just keep on rockin’. This live performance of Gimme Shelter is from The Rolling Stones’ final show of their No Filter Tour. It happened last night at Hard Rock Live, a 7,000-seat casino amphitheater venue at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. While it’s obvious they’re no longer 20-year-olds, the Stones still sound pretty amazing, and 78-year-old Mick Jagger remains a compelling frontman with an enviable amount of energy.
Gimme Shelter, credited to Jagger and Keith Richards as usual, was mostly written by Richards. According to Songfacts, the tune is about the political and social unrest at the time. There was the war in Vietnam, race riots, and Charles Manson. Mick Jagger sings of needing shelter from this “Storm.” The song first appeared on the Stones’ studio album Let It Bleed from December 1969. Interestingly, Gimme Shelter wasn’t released as a single.
“That song was written during the Vietnam War and so it’s very much about the awareness that war is always present,” Songfacts quotes Mick Jagger. “It was very present in life at that point. Mary Clayton who did the backing vocals, was a background singer who was known to one of the producers. Suddenly, we wanted someone to sing in the middle of the night. And she was around. She came with her curlers in, straight from bed, and had to sing this really odd lyric. For her it was a little odd – for anyone, in the middle of the night, to sing this one verse I would have been odd. She was great.”
Gimme Shelter is a favorite among Stones fans. In 2021, it was ranked at no. 13 in Rolling Stones’ list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time – a remarkable showing, given the significant changes the magazine’s lists have seen.
When I left Fakefest on Saturday evening, the first music festival I attended in close to two years, I was a happy camper. Listening live to three top notch tribute bands felt amazing. I had a real blast and knew this was likely not the last time I had come all the way to Atlantic City for this free annual open air event. What I didn’t anticipate was the timing of my return the very next day.
After all, I had been on my feet for close to five hours, so the thought of chilling on Sunday and reliving my Saturday at the event by writing a post about it sounded pretty attractive. Even after I had put together the post in the morning and scheduled it for yesterday, spending a quiet Sunday still was my plan. Then I took another look at the lineup for that day and all for sudden I felt, ‘damn, why wait until next year to have more fun.’ Plus, every great concert needs an encore, so here are some impressions from the final day of Fakefest.
The Gimmer Twins
This Rolling Stones tribute from Philly in and of itself would have been enough of a reason to return to Atlantic City. I’ve seen this band various times over the past four years. Adopting the nickname of the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the group is led by Keith Call (vocals, harp) and Bernie Bollendorf (guitars, vocals), who bring to life the sound and looks of Jagger and Richards in the ’70s. While the additional musicians don’t resemble the other members of Stones, they sound fantastic: Michael Rubino (guitars), Bobby Corea (drums), Rob Ekstedt (bass), Rocco Notte (keyboards), Valorie Steel (vocals) and Bobby Michaels (saxophone, flute, organ). For more information, check out their website.
Some of the tunes The Glimmer Twins performed included Brown Sugar, All Down the Line, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Gimme Shelter, Happy and Tumbling Dice. Here’s their rendition of Let’s Spend the Night Together, which the Stones first released as a double A single together with Ruby Tuesday on January 13, 1967. The song was also included as the opener of the U.S. version of Between the Buttons, which appeared a week later.
Here’s another Stones classic that I think has one of the best lines in rock & roll: It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It). The was the lead single of the It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll studio album released in October 1974. I like it, yes I do!
Refugee were formed in New York in early 2014 by six musicians who according to the group’s website “have a deep love for the music of Tom Petty.” Who can blame them? Their members include Mike Epstein (lead vocals, guitar), Dominick Rosato (lead guitar), Andrew Nadien (keyboards, vocals), Hillary Epstein (vocals, harmonica, percussion, keyboards), Chris Arrigo (bass) and Niles Hughes (drums).
Refugee’s set featured I Won’t Back Down, Free Fallin’, Even the Losers, Refugee, Last Dance With Mary Jane, You Wreck Me and American Girl, among others. Here’s the opener You Got Lucky, the lead single of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers‘ fifth studio album Long After Dark from November 1982.
Let’s do another one: Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around. Co-written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell for Stevie Nicks, the song became the first single of her debut solo album Bella Dona that came out in July 1981. The recording also featured Petty and all of the Heartbreakers except Ron Blair – the bass part was instead performed by Donald “Duck” Dunn.
Unforgettable Fire were formed on New Year’s Day in 1995 and, according to their website, were “one of the very first U2 tribute bands to ever perform in America.” In addition to playing songs spanning U2’s entire catalog, the group also recreates the looks of the Irish band. In particular, I’d like to call out lead vocalist Anthony Russo who bears a striking resemblance to Bono. The band’s other members include Mick Normoyle as The Edge, Craig Kiell as Adam Clayton and George Levesanos as Larry Mullen Jr.
Some of the tunes Unforgettable Fire performed featured I Will Follow, With Or Without You, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Pride, Mysterious Ways and Gloria. Here’s Beautiful Day, followed by Vertigo, from the October 2000 and November 2004 studio albums All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, respectively.
The last track I’d like to highlight is Unforgettable Fire’s rendition of One. U2 recorded that tune for their seventh studio album Achtung Baby from November 1991.
Yes, driving three hours back and forth from my house to Atlantic City two days in a row was a significant amount of time spent in the car. But I had a blast, so I feel it was worth it!
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
This week was a bit of a drag, so I’m not unhappy it’s over. Of course, this also means it’s time to take another look at newly released music. Between an unusual but great sounding bluesy country trio, gospel from an amazing singer who is primarily known as a backing vocalist, as well as some alternative and indie rock, I think I’ve put together a pretty solid collection of songs. Unless noted otherwise, all music appeared yesterday, April 9. Let’s get to it!
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band/Too Cool to Dance
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band (this has got to be one of the coolest band names!) are an American country blues trio from Brown County, Ind. and have been around since 2003. Their members include Josh “The Reverend” Peyton (guitar, lead vocals), his wife “Washboard” Breezy Peyton (washboard) and Max Senteney (drums). According to Apple Music, the band’s sound is characterized by thick, bass-heavy, blues-based guitar figures and growling vocals accompanied by muscular but minimal drumming and the metallic percussive scratch of a washboard (making them one of the first rock bands to regularly feature the latter instrument since Black Oak Arkansas). Their style is informed by rural blues, honky-tonk country, and the rebellious spirit of rock & roll, as Reverend Peyton’s raw and wiry guitar figures add texture to their straightforward melodies. To date, they have released 10 full-length albums and one EP. Too Cool to Dance is from their new album Dance Songs for Hard Times, which addresses the hopes and fears of life during this seemingly never-ending pandemic. But, as the band’s website notes, don’t expect to hear depressing music. “I like songs that sound happy but are actually very sad,” Peyton says. “I don’t know why it is, but I just do.” Well, he isn’t kidding – check this out!
Merry Clayton/A Song For You
American soul and gospel singer Merry Clayton, who began her recording career in 1962, is best known for providing killer backing vocals on Gimme Shelter, the 1969 tune by The Rolling Stones. Moreover, Clayton sang backing vocals on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama and recorded with Elvis Presley, The Supremes, Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt and Carole King, among others. In addition, Clayton was a member of Charles’ vocal backing group The Raelettes from 1966-1968. In 1963, her solo debut single When the Doorbell Rings appeared. Clayton has also released various solo albums since 1970. In the ’80s, she did some acting as well. A Song for You, which was written by Leon Russell and included on his eponymous debut solo album from March 1970, is a track from Clayton’s new album Beautiful Scars. She first covered the tune on her eponymous third solo album released in 1971. This may be an old tune and “only” a cover, but I just love Clayton’s singing!
The Natvral/New Moon
According to his Bandcamp profile, The Natvral is the new project of Kip Berman, who previously founded American indie rock band The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and was their main songwriter. Between 2009 and 2017, the New York group released four studio albums. As reported by Paste, in November 2019, Berman announced the band had dissolved and that he intended to focus on his new project The Natvral. Well, he did, and the result is Tethers, Berman’s debut album under his new name, which came out on April 2nd. Call me crazy, I seem to hear some Bob Dylan in this tune! Regardless, it sounds great to me!
Major Murphy/In the Meantime
Let wrap things up with Major Murphy, an indie rock from Grand Rapids, Mich. According to their artist profile on Apple Music, they were formed in 2015 behind the songwriting of singer/multi-instrumentalist Jacob Bullard. Jacki Warren (synth, bass, vocals) and Brian Voortman (drums) rounded out the lineup. A home-recorded debut EP called Future Release was issued by Winspear later in 2015, and the trio soon committed to performing live regularly and went on their first tours. Winspear released the follow-up EP On & Off Again in July 2017. That November, Major Murphy previewed a more vibrant sound with “Mary,” the lead track off their full-length debut. Recorded mostly live in the studio with producer/mixer Mike Bridavsky, No. 1 arrived on Winspear in March 2018. That same year, Chad Houseman joined Major Murphy on guitar, keyboards and percussion. He is on the band’s new sophomore album Access, which came out on April 2nd. Here’s In the Meantime, written by Bullard. It’s a catchy tune that has a bit of a Tom Petty vibe.
Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band website; YouTube
A selection of artists who don’t allow the coronavirus to stop the music
By now it’s safe to assume everybody is getting tired to read about COVID-19, so I’ll keep it light. Obviously, one of the many industries that have been hit hard by the coronavirus is the concert business. Painfully but rightly, shows are being canceled or rescheduled all over the place. It simply would be irresponsible to do anything else. The good news is this doesn’t mean live performances have come to a standstill.
For example, if you follow the “right” pages on Facebook, you can receive plenty of notifications about live gigs streamed online. Sure, in nearly all cases, these performances are low key and improvised, and the majority of artists who pop up aren’t necessarily well-known. Still, there is plenty of great live music you can enjoy over the internet these days. I would also argue that low tech and improvised gigs have their own charm.
Following are some recent performances captured by Rolling Stone as part of their In My Room series. I realize these gigs are not 100 percent comparable to concerts that are live-streamed. It’s also safe to assume there was some post-production done to these clips, but the footage still conveys a good deal of spontaneity to me. It’s all about the spirit to keep the music going but doing so in a responsible way, so let’s get to some of it!
Graham Nash/Our House, 4+20 & Teach Your Children
I simply love everything about this clip. To start, Graham Nash remains a compelling artist. Let’s not forget the man is 78 years old. I also like how he is weaving in public service announcements throughout this little concert performed at his home. To me, he comes across as very genuine. All of the tunes are from Déjà Vu, the sophomore album by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Undoubtedly, it’s one of the greatest albums that have ever been recorded. Our House and Teach Your Children are Nash compositions, while 4+20 was written by Stephen Stills. Obviously, much of CSNY’s magic was in their incredible harmony vocals, which is impossible for Nash to replicate, but none of this really matters. Just watching the man perform makes me happy. You can see his passion. That’s what it’s all about!
John Fogerty/Have You Ever Seen the Rain, Bad Moon Rising & Long As I Can See the Light
John Fogerty is another rock & roll hero in my book. If I recall it correctly, Have You Ever Seen the Rain was the first Creedence Clearwater Revival song I ever heard as a young kid back my sister. My sister had that tune on vinyl as a 45 single. I’ve loved Fogerty and this band ever since! Have You Ever Seen the Rain, Bad Moon Rising and Long As I Can See the Light were all written by Fogerty. They appeared on CCR’s Pendulum, Green River and Cosmo’s Factory studio albums from December 1970, August 1969 and July 1970, respectively. My personal highlight in the above series is Fogerty’s performance of the third tune on the piano.
Angélique Kidjo/Gimme Shelter, The Overload & Move On Up
‘Damn, damn and damn’ is all I can say watching Angélique Kidjo, a Beninese singer-songwriter, actress, and activist of Nigerian descent, sing the above tunes. Have you ever heard such a funky rendition of The Rolling Stones’ 1969 classic Gimme Shelter? Or how ’bout Move On Up, one my favorite songs by Curtis Mayfield from his 1970 solo debut album, which she turns into some African liberation song? Her version of The Overload, a tune by Talking Heads from their fourth studio album Remain in Light from October 1980, is almost more haunting than the original. This is some really cool stuff – check it out!
Yola and Birds of Chicago/At Last, It Ain’t Easier & Second Cousin
Let’s do one more and keep the best for last. I had neither been aware of English musician and singer-songwriter Yola nor Birds of Chicago, an Americana/folk band from the Windy City led by husband and wife JT Nero and Allison Russell. But after I had watched that clip, I was simply blown away – passionate and all-out beautiful singing simply doesn’t get much better. And the songs they selected are terrific! At Last, co-written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, was the title of the debut album by Etta James, released in November 1960. This a capella version of the tune is the highlight of the series. It Ain’t Easier was written by Yola and appeared on her debut album Walk Through Fire from February 2019. Last but not least is Second Cousin, which appears to be a tune by Birds of Chicago.