Music Features

When the Lights Go Down: June 2020

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According to some, we’re looking at more than a year before concert halls and music venues will return to any normalcy. It is in that vein that we present to you When The Lights Go Down, a monthly curated “concert” of sorts that sequences live clips of great songs or great bands, with the hopes to give you a dynamic concert experience you can broadcast on your TV. We’ve bundled the whole thing into a playlist, which you can find here, but otherwise give a look to some of our favorite live clips with a brief amount of commentary on each, and give yourself a concert night in. — Music Editor, CJ Simonson

1. Missy Elliot – “Work It” (New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, 2002)

I think my favorite thing about this televised version is how unsafe it all looks? Like, most of the time these TV performances that are being piped in from a venue are kind of tame looking? But it looks like they’re breaking fire codes in this thing. Also Missy live? C’mon. That’s already a party (those breakdancers!), but whatever is happening in this video is New Year’s Eve excellence.

2. Ronnie Wood (feat. Keith Richards and Rod Stewart) – “Mystifies Me” (Kilburn Gaumont State Theatre, 1974)

This video is worth watching just cause it’s a delight to see Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart sharing that three-headed mic stand on the choruses, but I mean, Willie Weeks, Andy Newmark, Ian McLagan, Keith Richards—it’s a large section of classic rock canon rolled into one backing band. I’VE GOT MY OWN ALBUM TO DO is an underrated gem you can find in record stores on the cheap, and I endorse it. Also if someone knows of a website that is selling Wood’s jacket, hit me up.

3. The Men – “Open Your Heart” (Pitchfork Fest, 2012)

The Men, among the best bands of the last decade in this writer’s opinion, refuse to tour nationally. In fact playing live shows outside of the New York area doesn’t really feel like their thing by and large. This hurts me. Especially when you see videos of them ripping it up live. OPEN YOUR HEART, if a YouTube deep-dive is to be believed, is the last time the band was meaningfully touring in any capacity, and all the videos are raucous, amazing times. This rendition of the title track at Pitchfork Fest is what I yearn for in quarantine most.

4. Miguel – “Waves” (SXSW 2016)

The ultra-sleek sheen Spotify gives this video is a bit much, but I really love that Miguel’s instinct with his songs live is to make them harder-edged rock songs, as he could easily regress back into a smoother R&B style very easily. You can tell he wants that mosh pit to go off here, and it brings an amazing intensity to a song that doesn’t have it on record. The call and response ending is a nice touch as well.

5. My Morning Jacket – “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream, Part 2” (Bonnaroo, 2011)

This is a show I actually attended—I’m probably 25 yards from the stage, having my mind blown song after song by probably the best live band working today. When the bass drops in on “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream, Part 2,” I can remember chills dropping down my spine. Jim James’ voice is just such a treasure, and the build of this song is unlike anything else live.

6. Grace Jones – “Demolition Man” (Dury Lane Theatre, 1981)

I have seen Grace Jones live. She did not don a trombone, tragically, but what I did see was something on par with this video, a meticulously thought-out live set of world class art pop. She’s an intense performer who cares about details A LOT, and that comes through in this excellent rendition of “Demolition Man” (which can also be found on her video compilation A ONE MAN SHOW). Grace Jones walked so literally every single artist could attempt to run.

7. Yo La Tengo – “Tom Courtenay” (Unknown)

It is unclear when or where this was taken—soundboard audio with a singular camera, it certainly looks and sounds like mid-90s Yo La Tengo but it’s kind of a delightful mystery, especially since this song has been played live for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Slapdash and urgent, this version of one of Yo La Tengo’s best songs should be in a museum somewhere. This is also your yearly reminder that when people discuss the best American rock and roll bands of all time, if someone hasn’t brought up Yo La Tengo, the conversation is null and void.

8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps” (Printemps De Bourge, 2004)

Every live video of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is worth a peek just to see what amazing outfit Karen O has going on, but of course “Maps” is a particularly intense one every time. Early in the song’s life, this 2004 version still feels pretty intensely personal (the song was only released in 2003).

9. White Denim – “Street Joy” (The Ghost Room, 2011)

White Denim are an exceptionally good band live, tight and technical while bordering on jammy. “Street Joy” is none of that. It’s a sad, heart-wrenching halt in their sets, so it makes sense they frequently avoid playing it—when I saw them in 2011, the same year this was shot, they had it on the setlist and just skipped it anyway. But there is a power to the way they’re performing it here, a loudness and intensity that doesn’t exist on record. It’ll still catch you in the feels, as the kids say, and it’s a fantastic near album closer still should anyone from the band White Denim be reading this looking for a second opinion.

10. Kate Bush (feat. David Gilmour) – “Running Up That Hill” (Secret Policeman’s Ball,1987)

If Wikipedia is to be believed, this version of “Running Up That Hill” featuring David Gilmour on guitar was the first time she’d played the song live and what a version it turns out to be. You can see Bush feeling out how to do the ending of the song live as it plays out, and Gilmour just looks stoked that this is happening, clearly an appreciator of the song. Also… the hair on bassist Tony Franklin is just tremendous.

Encore:

11. Charles Bradley + Dinosaur Jr. – “Heart of Gold” [Neil Young Cover] (Bowery Ballroom, 2015)

The Screaming Eagle of Soul joining noted Neil Young fan J. Mascis and the rest of Dinosaur Jr. to do “Heart Of Gold” is amazing for about a hundred reasons, but we have to first acknowledge Charles Bradley’s fly-as-fucking-hell suit. It’s a sweaty saxophone solo, and the pared-down rendition on Dinosaur Jr.’s part really allows Bradley to just swallow this performance whole. Find someone who looks at you the way J. is looking at Bradley this whole performance. RIP to an absolute legend.

12. Various Artists (feat. Pearl Jam, Yes, Journey, Rush, Dhani Harrison) – “Rockin’ In The Free World” [Neil Young Cover] (Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, 2015)

These true superjams can be… sloppy. And I suppose on some level that’s what this is, an overwhelming number of classic rockers on stage at one time to I guess all basically do the same thing behind Eddie Vedder. BUT, that’s basically what “Rockin’ In The Free World” is at this point, a final jam and opportunity to invite other artists up on stage—when I saw Neil Young and Crazy Horse do it years ago, they brought Dave Grohl and Dan Auerbach, among others, out on stage. It’s a joyous, pointed mainstay in Pearl Jam’s live canon as well, so having members from the likes of Rush, Yes, Journey, and of course, Dhani Harrison, hop on stage for a good time is never a bad thing.

CJ Simonson
CJ Simonson is Merry-Go-Round's music editor. The only thing he knows for certain is that "I Can Feel The Fire" by Ronnie Wood is the greatest closing credits song never used in a Wes Anderson movie. Get on that, Wes.

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