Show Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker at Madison's High Noon Saloon - photo by Dave Robbins

Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker at Madison's High Noon Saloon - photo by Dave Robbins

Adrianne Lenker
High Noon Saloon Madison WI November 19th, 2021
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Nov 2021
(78) Page Views

Possessing a voice that holds both child-like wonder and secretive meanings, Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker’s enigmatic presence radiates a disarming charm through honest modesty, timid contradictions and beguiling shyness. Known as a talented lyricist, her solo performance at Madison’s High Noon Saloon highlighted an incredible guitarist whose classical flourishes danced beneath sophisticated folk licks. “Tuning is a big part of my show,” Adrianne offered as a sort of apology to her frequent breaks between songs before she put her acoustic guitar through its paces with sharp finger-picking styles that moved with fluid grace and laser focus.

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Wood Brothers at Stoughton Opera House - photo by Tony Mueller Phine Art Photography

Wood Brothers at Stoughton Opera House - photo by Tony Mueller Phine Art Photography

The Wood Brothers
Live at The Stoughton Opera House
Show Review By Tony Mueller
Posted: Nov 2021
(131) Page Views

The Wood Brothers brought their talents back to the beautiful Stoughton Opera House for a very warming performance on a cold November night.

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Fred Wesley & The New JBs - photo by Michael Sherer

Fred Wesley & The New JBs - photo by Michael Sherer

Fred Wesley & The New JBs at BRIC Fest - Brooklyn, NYC, 10.23.21

Show Review By Michael Sherer
Posted: Oct 2021
(85) Page Views

Trombonist Fred Wesley got his big time start playing with James Brown’s group in ‘69, and remained through ‘75. This was a golden era for Brown, but more importantly for Soul and Funk music at large. Wesley’s precise, powerful and tasteful playing and solos have always been a distinguished and recognizable part of the sound of the many artists he’s played with, ranging from Count Basie to Parliament-Funkadelic.

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Jay Cocks & Steven Van Zandt - photo by Rod Morata/Michael Priest Photography

Jay Cocks & Steven Van Zandt - photo by Rod Morata/Michael Priest Photography

Steven Van Zandt in conversation with Jay Cocks - 92Y, NYC, 9.29.21

Show Review By Michael Sherer
Posted: Oct 2021
(158) Page Views

Steven Van Zandt has a brand new memoir entitled ‘Unrequited Infatuations,’ and to accompany it a discussion was had between him and an old close friend, screenwriter Jay Cocks. It was a very relaxed, down-to-earth and engaging one, as they’ve known each other for 46 years.

Their association is an interesting one: In ‘75, when Cocks was a cultural critic for Time magazine, he found out that Newsweek magazine’s counterpart Maureen Orth was doing a piece about Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, which Van Zandt had joined that year. Cocks then convinced his editor that they were about to be beaten out to the story by their main competitor. The unprecedented result was that both weekly magazines featured Springsteen on their covers on the same day of October 27th. This was the first time that a musician had achieved that. It stemmed from the breakthrough success of Springsteen’s third record ‘Born to Run,’ which had been released two months earlier and had rocketed to number 3 on the Billboard top 200 chart, after his first two records had hardly made any splash at all.

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Heartless Bastards Majestic Theater September 23rd 2021 - photo by Dave Robbins

Heartless Bastards Majestic Theater September 23rd 2021 - photo by Dave Robbins

Heartless Bastards with Tela Novella
Majestic Theater - September 23rd, 2021
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
(157) Page Views

Dressed in cowboy boots and a black rainbow-trimmed jump-suit, singer-songwriter and moving force behind Heartless Bastards, Erika Wennerstrom embodied the band’s power-roots love-in ethos, leading the crowd down that rocky road to the Promised Land with unrepentant strength and six-string wisdom. Playing the title cut to their latest album, “A Beautiful Life,” Wennerstrom sort of shrugged her shoulder as explanation of the song’s positive outlook and asked, “what’s ya gonna do?”  The crowd knew; enjoy the moment. Delivering rousing tunes with big rhythms and sizzling solos, the Bastards encourage living in the present with double-barreled renditions of “Got to Have Rock and Roll,” “Doesn’t Matter Now,” and, “Revolution,” which reminded everyone, “the revolution is in your mind.”

The band felt right at home despite the fact they hadn’t played Madison since opening up for The Decemberists at the Orpheum Theater in 2009. Accustomed to life on the road as detailed by the slinky mid-show banger, “Went Around the World,” Ohio-bred Texas transplant Wasserstrom recounted spending time in Appleton at a monastery run by some friends while writing songs for the new album. She also professed her love for West Texas desert before launching into the haunted tumbleweed waltz, “The Arrow Killed the Beast.” A restless curious spirit, it made her band’s visit to the Majestic all that more special. A somewhat rare treat to be relished and cherished.

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Japanese Breakfast Majestic Theater Madison WI 9/18/21 - photo by Dave Robbins

Japanese Breakfast Majestic Theater Madison WI 9/18/21 - photo by Dave Robbins

Japanese Breakfast with Luna Li
Majestic Theater Madison WI September 18th, 2021
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
(117) Page Views

For some reason Japanese Breakfast has always played Madison in September; from 2016 – 2018 they played the High Noon Saloon, UW’s The Sett and Majestic Theater. So, when Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner announced after the first song how cold she felt, I wondered if in their three-year absence she had forgotten what September was like in Wisconsin. A crisp night and a near full moon greeted the band’s fourth visit to Madison and a sold-out return to the Majestic, where whatever cold may have visited the band was soon removed by warm love filling the venue.

Madison holds a special place for Michelle, whose first Yelp review ever was to praise East Washington’s Five Star Barbecue. Sticking to her praise, she dedicated the closing number, “Everybody Wants To Love You,” to the Korean restaurant. Food is very special to Michelle, as detailed in her recent New York Times best seller, “Crying in H Mart,” and it seems only natural the only dedication of the night would be to a restaurant.

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Lindsey Buckingham - photo by Michael Sherer

Lindsey Buckingham - photo by Michael Sherer

Lindsey Buckingham - The Town Hall, NYC, 9.16.21

Show Review By Michael Sherer
Posted: Sep 2021
(136) Page Views

NYC is, of course, a special place to perform, especially at the fabled and classy The Town Hall, just east of Times Square. It was the tenth stop on Buckingham’s thirty date U.S. tour this year, which began September 1st in Milwaukee. Most of the 1,500 hundred seats here at The Town Hall were full. This great sounding, 100 year old hall is an ideal venue to attend concerts and talks.

Buckingham was in fine form vocally, musically and physically, as was his whole band. They sounded taut and thoroughly rehearsed, which they have been, as seen from notices online. Co guitarist Neale Heywood, an Englishman, has been playing alongside Buckingham since 1997, when he first played with Fleetwood Mac at the concert known as “The Dance.” Heywood has toured with the Mac throughout the years since, as an added guitarist.

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Pitchfork Festival 2021 - Andy Shauf The Weather Station Special Interest Kim Gordon Tomberlin Horsegirl Bartees Strange Ela Minus Dog Leg

Pitchfork Festival 2021 - Andy Shauf The Weather Station Special Interest Kim Gordon Tomberlin Horsegirl Bartees Strange Ela Minus Dog Leg

Pitchfork 2021
Pitchfork Music Festival Sept 10 -13 2021 Union Park Chicago IL
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2021
(132) Page Views

Pitchfork Festival has always managed to be a diverse inclusive gathering that looks both into the future and back to its past with a reasonable set-up and eclectic roster. Beyond moving to September with mask protocol and vaccination mandates to ensure a safe environment to enjoy music, mosh pits and merch, the 2021 version was no exception. For some bands this was the first time they played since the pandemic, for others, recent natural disasters made the trip to Chicago particularly challenging. New Orleans’ punk powerhouse Special Interest barely escaped from Hurricane Ida. The Weather Station, whose latest album, “Ignorance,” tackles climate change, only hinted at difficult logistics when they claimed to have climbed seventeen mountains to get to the festival. Jay Electronica was the only last-minute cancellation with the remaining forty-one bands arriving well-rehearsed and ready to play.

From the one-handed cartwheel from Dog Leg’s guitarist to St. Vincent ’s rotating stage and choreographed nostalgia, the performances were uniformly impressive and energetic. Amaarae’s emotional intensity, Bartees Strange’s souful hopefulness, Tomberlin’s delicate declarations, Cat Power’s compassionate folk-blues; the entire spectrum of human feelings were articulated while black midi, Ty Segall and Thundercat unleashed feelings words couldn’t quite convey. The pandemic and the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 were occasionally mentioned, but an overall sense of appreciation and gratitude wove through the between song chit-chat and as in past years, the festival created a sonic bubble where lyrical wisdom and socio-political willfulness floated over life’s more immediate needs to chill out and rock on.

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Pink Martini - Home for the Holidays - A Holiday Spectacular

Pink Martini - Home for the Holidays - A Holiday Spectacular

Pink Martini - Home for the Holidays
A Holiday Spectacular
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Dec 2020
(968) Page Views

A festive night of globe-trotting holiday cabaret, Portland Oregon’s Pink Martini delivered sophisticated cheer and musical good will in their yule-log livestream, “Home For The Holidays.” A talented family of like-minded musicians, Pink Martini’s show exemplified warm welcomes and cozy charm, uniting cultures and lifting spirits with tropical vibes infecting the winter songs, jazzing up old standards and creating new traditions with old friends. Segments featuring blues singer Storm Large, the real-life Sound of Music offspring Sofia von Trapp and Cantor Ida Rae Cahana enlarged the party and broke the livestream into bite-sized delights that made the hour plus show fly by, while the back-story banter between long-time members China Forbes and Thomas Lauderdale relaxing on a couch between sets added a casual atmosphere to make this feel more like a classy gathering than a staged performance. Expanding from their 2010 album, ‘Joy to the World,” the “little orchestra.” as they are affectionately known, gathered Lebanese snow songs, Spanish Hanukah songs and Chinese New Year songs for tender ecumenical merriment. Classic carols and show tunes from holiday movies rounded off the night with savvy nostalgia for gentler yesterdays and dreamier tomorrows. Watching the band unmasked performing around a thirty-four-foot Douglas Fir and hearing an unseen audience’s applause helped remove the dark cloud of this season’s quarantine, if only for a short time. Even after the credits ran a special Christmas sing-along acted as an encore in days when such common concert courtesies are sorely missed. The first of two Holiday concerts, New Year revelers are highly encouraged to check out PM’s, “Good Riddance 2020,” streaming December 31st.  Information and tickets can be found at http://ourconcerts.live/shows/good-riddance-2020

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Courtney Barnett: Live from the Royal Exhibition Building

Courtney Barnett: Live from the Royal Exhibition Building

Courtney Barnett: One Night Only
From Where I’m Standing: Live from the Royal Exhibition Building
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Dec 2020
(858) Page Views

Thursday, December 17th Courtney Barnett reassembles her band and premieres their one night only livestream; From Where I’m Standing: Live from the Royal Exhibition Building. In a pre-show interview Barnett admits the band’s under-rehearsed, she prefers writing to performing and has been known to write songs that languish unfinished… but she also loves a challenge, was eager try out some new material and get back together with her band. After years of non-stop touring, Barnett’s time off made the prospect of playing live again exciting and gave her the time to finish songs she had accumulated during the solo tour she was on just before everything stopped. A shy person at heart, Barnett felt playing a big hall without an audience worked to her advantage, giving her a better chance to focus and pour her energies into the songs.

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At Home with Lindsey Buckingham - 12/5/20

At Home with Lindsey Buckingham - 12/5/20

At Home with Lindsey Buckingham
a livestream event December 5th 2020
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Dec 2020
(550) Page Views

When I think of Lindsey Buckingham, I think about the tight precision of his studio work. So, I was pleasantly surprised when his at home livestream was indeed Lindsey at home; just him and an unnamed guitar tech feeding him a stream of freshly tuned guitars. Set in his home studio, the mood was loose, and the playing was beautifully intuitive. Three-quarters into the show, Lindsey mentioned his 2012 tour he dubbed the One-Man Show, where he brought click tracks and pre-recorded guitars to flesh out typically ensemble pieces. Though Lindsey closed out the night using pre-records in order to wail away in head-spinning frenzies on the last three songs, it was largely Lindsey singing classic cuts and a few rarities accompanied by a single six-string acoustic tweaked with subtle delay and nimble shimmer.

While he had performed a short set back in May 2019, this December show was the first time Lindsey played a full concert since bypass surgery damaged his vocal cords. Not taking the easy route, Lindsey sounded ferocious, choosing songs that often built into grand climaxes. In a Q&A session earlier that evening, Buckingham spoke about the past three years where his separation from Fleetwood Mac, his surgery and the pandemic put his latest solo album on hold and changed his normally busy schedule. Enforced leisure for a restless artist drew Lindsey’s focus to his family. He said he hadn’t really felt like writing much during his time locked down but was anxious to tour and show off the new album, which he framed as straight-ahead pop. Not previewing any new material during the livestream, Lindsey chose instead to focus on his impressive legacy, revisiting Mac classics, “Never Going Back,’ and, “Big Love,” as well as drawing from his solo work with wonderfully raw versions of, “Go Insane,” and “Trouble.” Lindsey even went back to the Buckingham-Nicks album with an incandescent instrumental, “Stephanie.” The set list showcased Buckingham’s nuanced chord progressions, casual hooks and unique fingering technique while highlighting timeless themes of romantic conflict and personal frustration.

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Greg Dulli - solo performance L.A.'s Gold Diggers - photo by Dave Robbins

Greg Dulli - solo performance L.A.'s Gold Diggers - photo by Dave Robbins

Greg Dulli
August 1st, 2020 L.A.'s Gold Diggers
Show Review By John Noyd
Posted: Aug 2020
(1076) Page Views

When the pandemic locked everything down Greg Dulli was dealt a double blow. The tour for his new album, “Random Desires,” was cancelled and his second revenue stream operating two classic watering holes in New Orleans and three bars in L.A. was also shut down. A one-two punch that wouldn’t sound out of place in one of Dulli’s hard-luck story-songs where streetwise woe seeks out soulful poems.

Playing well over half the new album, Greg fleshed out the eighteen-song set with an array of gems from his time with the Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers. Occasionally assisted by Dr Stephen Patt on pedal steel, bass and electric guitar, Dulli’s solo performance at l.A.’s boutique hotel, venue and recording studio Gold Digger’s was intimate, almost voyeuristic. The spacious venue was filled with unplayed musical instruments, scattered studio equipment and a few vacant-eyed mannequins for an effectively solemn space to absorb the music and focus one’s attention on Dulli’s literate visions and matter-of-fact abstractions.

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