SET TO SELF-DESTRUCT: Reviews of Live 8 and Ari-Up @ Sneaky Dee's
Roger Waters greets an old inflatable friend at Live8 in London.
Saturday, July 12, 2005. Around the world, hundreds of thousands of people in various cities plough their way through one another to get a spot watching their favourite, and in many cases not so favourite megastars of rock and pop wear their hearts on their sleeves for starving Africans. While the integrity of the performers and organizers cannot be discredited, the world is still a long way from solving its major causes of death by singing along to popular songs. The powerful musicians of the world have ignored the lessons of 1969 altogether and instead used 1985 as an example. Live8, despite its convictions and intentions, was not a protest, and therefore thoroughly uneffective politically. But it is not in our interests, as a music blog, to examine the socio-political consequences of such an event, so we'll at least declare it an economic success (they'll be reaping more and more cahs once the DVDs and companion books hit the shelves) and move on to the more juicy stuff.
Madonna was hot, but a little bit crazy with that "Are yooouuu reaaadaaay to start a FUCKING REVOLUTIOOOON?" shit. Sure, Madonna, we love you, and your dancing is still fucking fantastic, but you seem so tragically unaware that a pop star has never really changed the world to the extent of inciting a revolution. Oh, and also, people standing around in crowds cheering while risking absolutely nothing never set any movements off the ground either.
All the heads seemed pleased to see that Pink Floyd didn't sound like old bagpipes full of shit. But y'know, most of us probably didn't worry much about that being a possibility. To paraphrase an old guitar teacher of mine: Pink Floyd made some smart moves years ago by writing slow-paced material, as they'll be able to play even their heaviest songs well into their sixties as a result. This show was no exception to that theory. Though they were a bit sitff, you have to credit them for making it out to the show at all. It was nice to experience their always welcome sound, evocative of the time period in which they were written and still relevant today. Their music has aged well (if it has aged at all), and hopefully this will extend into some kind of tour and maybe an album. It would, after all, be nice to hear them after more than just a few hasty rehearsals. One funny moment was Roger's shoutout to Syd Barret, iliciting only the slightest cheer from an audience of 35,000. I could just see all those people in the crowd thinking to themselves, "Yeah, Syd, the starving African kid...yeah. we're doin' it for him man!"
PINK FLOYD - Wish You Were Here (Live @ Live8)
The only ridiculous and inappropriate moment of the day (other than the inclusion of Celine Dion's satelitte linkup from Vegas to Barrie) was Pete Doherty's laughable, typical, almost predictable idiocy. Showing up smackered off his hospital bed just before his duet with Sir Elton, the once up-and-coming vocalist has quickly sealed his fate as a future "Where Are They Now" special. Geldof's next project should be a concert to teach Doherty a lesson. He should invite all the best singers of the best bands in the world (including Elton John) to sing Doherty songs with his former bandmates in the Libertines, just so that rock n' roll dropout can see how easy it is for a talented performer to upstage a junkie.
PETE DOHERTY and ELTON JOHN - Children of the Revolution (T-Rex Cover, Live @ Live8)
* Listen at your own risk!
(Live8 Downloads courtesy of Analog Art Ensemble)
In Canada, we had Barrie, home to ten years of ridiculously overpriced concerts, as our bastion of outreach. While thousands of people flocked to the site to boo Celine Dion from afar, those of us left in Toronto for the holiday weekend had other shows to see.
Sneaky Dee's, on Friday and Saturday, hosted Ari-Up, a woman who barely needs introduction (for those of you who don't know who she is, look up The Slits...she's the crazy one with the microphone). To see this woman perform on Saturday night to a crowd probably as small and sweaty as some of those she played in her punk heydey was quite the experience for those of us who were but angry sperm and egg when she was singing for one of the most unique punk groups of all time. With her band The True Warriors and a highly loyal crowd supporting her, she hopped from side to side with a quirky perma-smile livening both her tired face and the spirit of the crowd.
Ari-Up and the Powerful Magic Poom-Poom
Sets from opening groups Grasshopper and controller.controller were good enough to start the night out on the right dancing foot, but I certainly did not expect Ari-Up and The True Warriors to cause such a ruckus with their music. Opening with "Instant Hit", they got us thinking "The SLIIIIITS!" from the very get-go, fulfilling our need to hear their old material live. More tunes from Cut made their way into the set as Ari attempted to school the mainly young audience in the ways of the punky-reggae party (she also did not hesitate to remind us time and time again that it was The Slits who arguably invented punky reggae). Inviting members of "the reggae boys" and "the punk girls" to join her on stage for numbers like "Shoplifting", Love Und Romance", and of course "I Heard it Through the Grape/Bassline", she allowed the kids to have their fun on the other side of the fourth wall.
Of course, the audience participation did have its more wiry moments.Knuckledread, the hippie-on-the-outside-punk-on-the-inside character who can be found causing moshing mishaps at every No Dynamics show, milked the good times for all he could, ending his unintentionally destructive path of lunacy by knocking a beer over a whole row of guitar pedals. In true Jamaican fashion, both a Hypemon and Vibemon situated themselves in and around the stage to inject some thoroughly entertaining mischief into the set. Hypemon, a rather imposing figure with long hair and a slight temper, shouted obscenities into anything that had either ears or diaphragms, while Vibemon, an older and subtly insane man passed joint after joint to the band and the crowd. While the bar staff chased a sheepish Vibemon around the crowd for his hijinx, pretty women ducked as a shirtless Hypemon attempted to make some soul connections while their boyfriends were still in the john.
Crudity, oddity and lewdness were the order of the evening, and what a better leader than Ari? She's an oddball who says what she wants. ""You see this?" she asked, cupping her crotch. "Ladies, that's your poom-poom. You have to take the power from your poom-poom." Her pussy was a general theme, in fact, pervasive in nearly all of her statements that weren't about punky-reggae. Though to some she came off as juvenile, those of us up front enjoyed every choice-cut word that Ari the quote machine came up with. My pussy (if I had one) would have been pleased.
As her two hour set moved on and on, the crowd became more and more fiesty, until either an instant mosh or skank erupted at the first note of every tune. Ari's solo material held up well, breaking into serious dancehall and even near-classic rock at times, but it was the punkier moments that really got everyone up in each other's shit. Even the skinniest, most innocent looking girls would run elbows first into a clump of fifteen or twenty sweaty human jumping beans. "Typical Girls" brought it all together, as it contained all of the fierce, bouncy rhythms and riotous vocals that seem to cause immediate fury to explode across a performance space. I could no longer handle any more Ari-Up or Sneaky Dee's at that point and opted to cash it in for the night. It was the joint that did me in. Those dubbie moments of panning echoes pulled by eardrums back and forth, sending seizmic currents into my brain that lead to one of the most challenging headaches I'd experienced in years. A day later, I still have yet to sleep this one off.
For those of you interested in what Ari sounds like 26 years after Cut, you'd be surprised to know that not much has changed. Sure, she's gone a bit more reggae, but that's only natural when you move to Jamaica, marry a Jamaican and have Jamaican children. She's off to Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal over the next few days, so perhaps you'll catch her, but if not, at least have a listen to the following:
ARI-UP AND THE TRUE WARRIORS Live @ WFMU
THE SLITS - Instant Hit (sample)
THE SLITS - FM (sample)