2/26/2008

From The Vaults: Big Star Live

[Our first--and of this writing, only--trip to NOLA was to review a Big Star New Year's Eve show for a mainstream music publication that later changed its editorial bent, thereby leaving this piece unpublished. It predates "5" by a few weeks and we're pretty sure it lit the spark that started this whole writing thing for us all those years ago. This is its first appearance on the internet and what better place than here to post it and share with you? Enjoy. - KJ]
 

BIG STAR / THE POSIES
The Howlin’ Wolf
New Orleans, LA
12-31-00

Funny how things turn out. While they won’t be giving the teenybopper bands and rap-metal clones a run for their money any time soon, Big Star's presence on the musical landscape is stronger these days than it ever was in their '70s heyday, before eventually breaking up some 20-odd years ago. But what was once practically inconceivable has become a relatively common occurrence: after years of refusing to perform with the band, Alex Chilton has brought the influential underground power pop deity out of retirement and to a town near you. Well, almost.

Performing in Chilton's current hometown on an unseasonably chilly New Orleans night for the first time since 1972, Big Star (Chilton on guitar and vocals; original drummer Jody Stephens; and Posies frontmen Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow on guitar and bass, respectively) took the stage before a packed house of mostly 30-something faithfuls shortly before midnight. They were not disappointed.
Opening with "In The Street"--a new version of which is the theme song to Fox's popular sitcom That '70s Show--the band ran through one classic would-be hit after another. Rockers "Back Of A Car" and "When My Baby's Beside Me" as well as the soaring "September Gurls" and a moving version of late founding member Chris Bell's "I Am The Cosmos"--sung by Auer--were among the highlights.


A full band version of the gorgeous acoustic ballad "Thirteen" made time stand still. And that wasn't the only surprise of the evening: dapper in a dark suit and tie, the usually mercurial Mr. Chilton warmed up to the adoring audience early, going as far as performing "Auld Lang Syne" at the stroke of midnight and later stopping the show to tell some jokes while graciously acknowledging the fervent applause garnered during this stellar outing. As the house lights went up, The Replacements' "Alex Chilton" came over the PA and filled the room with its reminder to "never travel far / without a little Big Star." For those that a guiding Star brought from as far as Nashville, Athens and even New York, that was a lesson already well learned in advance.

Openers Auer and Stringfellow started off the evening by playing an abbreviated version of the set they have been performing since late summer on their acoustic tour as The Posies.
While the set was brief, the boys were in a decidedly playful and festive mood-–bringing audience members onstage for sing-a-longs and requesting drinks by way of playing "Tequila"--and managed to include such favorites as "Throwaway," "Flavor Of The Month" and "Suddenly Mary", before making way for the night's main attraction.

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