Hudson River Park, NYC 8/19/04
Yes indeed, Guided By Voices are calling it quits. A few days before the release of their final album, Half Smiles Of The Decomposed, Dayton Ohio’s finest came to New York City’s Hudson River Park for a free show that will go down as one of this summer’s best. Poignantly opening with "Sad If I Lost It", the reigning kings of indie rock kicked off 90 minutes of their very best for the 5000+ that came to pay their final respects. They were greeted with a wall to wall kick ass show that also had its share of lead singer Bob Pollard’s renowned between-songs banter. "We love our country, because it gives us beer and rock and roll. We are patriots." And then slyly added, "As long as we don’t question things too much." As befits a performance on a final tour, Pollard and the boys ran through the gems of their quite extensive catalog, all the while reminiscing and giving thanks for the long, strange trip we’ve had the privilege of sharing. Merci, mes amis.
Critical darlings Ambulance (LTD) held their own as opening act, decidedly gaining a few converts and placating the numerous pretty girls who’d made it a point to show up and support what some are calling indie rock’s answer to the boy band. Make it a point to catch them next time. The band, too.
In alphabetical order by artist:
CAFÉ TACUBA Re [WEA Latina-1994]
After their initial self-titled filler-drenched offering, no one expected much from Mexico City’s . That the follow-up was a monumental record both critically and commercially underscored just how far the band had grown between albums. A sprawling tour de force that has been often compared to the Beatles’ White Album in terms of scope and adventurous spirit, Re not only foreshadowed Café Tacuba’s exploratory bent but is also one of the crowning achievements of the Latin American rock and roll movement.
LIVING COLOUR Time’s Up [Epic-1990]
After a strong but definitely textbook debut –-finely tuned live set list with a choice cover tacked on-- Living Colour pulled all the stops and delivered what is to this day their finest record. The Grammy-award winning Time’s Up was a much more challenging but clearly accessible listen. And the deft sequencing of the track order aided and accentuated the natural flow of this diverse and intoxicating disc
NIRVANA Nevermind [DGC-1991]
Despite one or two noteworthy tracks, Bleach was mostly an average grunge record typical of its time and place. What Cobain and co. unleashed upon the world two tears later, would not only leave that debut release in the dirt but in the process change the course of popular music and bring alternative/indie rock out into the limelight. But you already knew that.
RADIOHEAD The Bends [Parlophone-1995]
If Radiohead had called it quits after the oh-so ordinary album, "Creep" would have been its lone claim to fame and the one hit wonder tag forever affixed to their name. Fortunately, this was not the case. What followed was an epic album, arguably the Brit-pop blueprint for the ‘90s. The band further pushed their own musical boundaries with OK Computer and Kid A, but this is the one that Coldplay, Travis and an army of others should gratefully pay royalties to Radiohead for.
Vagabundo [Sony Latin-1996]
While best known for writing former Menudo bandmate Ricky Martin’s biggest hits, Robi Rosa is also a former member of acclaimed ‘90s L.A. funksters Maggie’s Dream and an accomplished, risk-taking artist and performer in his solo work. Unfortunately, his initial solo venture was 1994’s Frio, an uneven affair on which he seemed lost.
Vagabundo is Rosa at his finest; rife with meticulous arrangements, crunchy guitars, Beatle-esque orchestrations and solid performances throughout. A fantastic record in any language, it’s one of the finest rock albums ever recorded in Spanish. Definitely worth seeking out.
On the final show of the American leg of his solo world tour the former Lemonhead made his way to a packed house in New York’s new hipster mecca with an hour-plus show that did not disappoint. Armed with his trusty but battered acoustic guitar—and sporting a dangling cigarette a la Keith Richards, in clear defiance of the city’s smoking ban—Dando was welcomed like a long lost hero, who then proceeded to run through an extensive set littered with countless favorites including "The Outdoor Type", his seminal cover of Victoria Williams’ "Frying Pan", "It’s A Shame About Ray" and selections from last year’s Baby I’m Bored. Welcome back, sir.