I’m back! It’s been a busy few months since my last post and I’m sorry it took me so long to return to blogging. I’ve actually spent that time and most of this year going to loads of gigs and listening to tons of music. In fact, I’ve probably listened to more new music than I’ve ever listened to in a calendar year before. It’s been a brilliant twelve months for music and I hope to use the rest of it to tell you about my favourite songs, albums and films of the year. Of course, it could be 2014 by the time I finish doing all that, but today I’ll start off by telling you about my favourite cover versions released in 2013 and later in the week I hope to write about my favourite original tracks
And so Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band‘s Wrecking Ball Tour made its way around Europe and finished up with two nights in Kilkenny. I’d only planned to go to the two Munster gigs when the Irish dates had been announced last winter, but that plan went out the window following the first show in Limerick. I went online the next day and easily secured a pitch ticket for the second and final concert at Nowlan Park on July 28th. These two dates were going to be a bit of a celebration as half a dozen other acts would join Bruce and the band over the two days in what was being billed as the Wrecking Ball Weekender. My sister and her husband had already bought tickets for the Saturday and they both had yet another unforgettable night on what was their third gig of tour. Josh Ritter, Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard had warmed up the crowd that night and Glen also returned to share the stage with Bruce during an impressive duet on Drive All Night. They also got the whole of the Born in the USA album and some nice weather, so it sounded like Sunday would be a tough act to follow
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s triumphant return to Ireland for their debut Limerick gig last Tuesday was followed two days later by the band’s first ever gig in Cork city. As I made my way down on the bus from Limerick, I thought about the last gig played at what was going to be Thursday night’s venue. Páirc Úi Chaoimh is the home of the GAA in Cork and also the home of the Cork hurling team that had been defeated by Limerick the previous Sunday. I had been there a lot throughout the ’90s, following the fortunes of a pretty decent Limerick hurling team and had actually been in attendence in July when Limerick won the 1996 Munster championship by beating Tipperary in a replay. I never thought it would be another 17 years before Limerick would win their next Munster title and, when I saw Oasis play there a month later, I never imagined that it would just as long before another concert would take place at Pairc Úi Chaoimh
It’s four in the evening and sunny. That’s not unusual for a mid-July day in the Northern Hemisphere. But I’m writing this on the outskirts of Limerick city and anyone familiar with Ireland’s third largest city will be only too aware that it’s not noted for its sunshine. Recently, however, the Limerick of Frank McCourt’s raintrodden Angela’s Ashes, like the rest of Ireland, has been experiencing its hottest summer in seven years and there’s no sign of it abating. The unusual weather has brought warm days and nights, sunshine and no rain. As a result, people are constantly in a good mood, more optimistic and far happier. This unexpected heat wave has had to compete with two other unusual events this week. On Sunday, the Limerick hurling team won its first Munster championship in 17 years, when they defeated provincial rivals Cork in front of 30,000 sports fans at Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds in Ireland’s national sport. Two days later, at the home of the Munster rugby team, Thomond Park, over 30,000 music fans came to watch Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band make it a memorable few days for the city by the River Shannon. Many people got to experience the weather, the hurling and the music. Due to work commitments, I could only watch Sunday’s final on television, but I was there on Tuesday to see the concert of a lifetime by my favourite performer.
Last Wednesday night, I went to bed earlier than usual as I had a big day ahead of me on Thursday. I had to be up before 9.00am the next morning to try to buy tickets for the Cork leg of Bruce Springsteen’s visit to Ireland next year. Across the city, my friend John was going to try to get tickets for Limerick and later that day the two of us were travelling to Cork to see Wessex boy Frank Turner play Cyprus Avenue on the opening night of a short trip around Ireland. We’d already seen Frank play a storming set at Wembley Arena in March this year and we caught The Boss in top form in Dublin in July. Unfortunately I awoke at four in the morning with a terrible pain in my stomach and made a few journeys to the bathroom to talk to God on the great white telephone before somehow managing to secure tickets for Springsteen in Cork. John got the tickets for Limerick as well and then I told him about my eventful night. We agreed that I’d go back to bed and would only make the journey south if I made a recovery. I didn’t
Used record stores (or any kind of record store) are so rare nowadays that I always try to track them down whenever I’m on my travels. On my recent trip to Germany, I found myself with a few hours to kill in Nuremberg. After a quick search on the internet I saw that there were no fewer than three situated on a street called Jakobstrasse. I found the street quite easily (a rarity for me) and the first shop I made it to was the one you see above, Copacabana Records. The store was longer than it was wide and with a high ceiling, but it was nicely laid out and very tidy. The main area was given over to loads of vinyl records and these seemed to be quite reasonably priced. Unfortunately, I had to ignore these as I wouldn’t have been able to fit them into my luggage. I found the CDs in the corner and these were as neatly arranged as the records. There were lots of jazz, rock & roll, blues and soul and I found a few bargains amongst these. Live in Dublin by Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band is a nicely packaged double CD with a DVD and was the most expensive album I bought on this excursion, though it was still good value at two euro below a tenner. The other four I bought here cost that much between them and, having listened to them, some proved to be better value than others. Brook Benton was mostly known for A Rainy Night in Georgia and it’s the best song on Fools Rush In. Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs had a big hit with the hilarious Woolly Bully and, listening to their Greatest Hits, it’s easy to see why they didn’t have any more. I only knew J.B. Lenoir from Elvis Costello’s version of Eisenhower Blues from his King of America album and that’s not even the best song on this collection. I’ve already got far too many collections of northern soul, but that didn’t stop me picking up After Hours 2: More Northern Soul Masters. I found it hard to pick one track from the album but eventually plumped for Archie Bell & the Drells
Last night, Clarence Clemons passed away six months shy of his 70th birthday in Florida. Also known as “The Big Man” ever since Bruce sang about him on Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Clarence was an integral part of the E Street Band’s sound and particularly for his energetic stage presence. I was fortunate to see the E Street Band on two occasions and getting to see The Big Man was a highlight each time. It was pretty hard for anyone to compete with Bruce’s on-stage antics, but Clarence and, to a lesser extent, Max Weinberg were the only ones who succeeded in taking some of the limelight off the bandleader. Clarence’s saxophone was mostly to the fore on the Born to Run album, but he was also responsible for some percussion and vocal duties after that. He worked with loads of other musicians besides Bruce and released many albums in his own right. His version of an unreleased Springsteen track called Savin’ Up is taken from a 1997 tribute to The Boss called One Step Up – Two Steps Back. In 1985, his duet with Jackson Browne, You’re a Friend of Mine, was a hit in the United States. I’m sure it will get a few more airings in the coming weeks as Clarence will no doubt be jamming somewhere with his old friend, Danny Federici