The Rousers/Parkside Lounge/September 16, 2016
Guitarists/vocalists Bill Dickson and Tom Milmore played together in high school bands while living in Weston, Connecticut. Dickson relocated to New York City for art school of Visual Arts, while Milmore drove a van for a living, took audio engineering classes, and played bass in a band. Reunited later on, they formed The Rousers, a garage band with a touch of rockabilly, in New York City in 1977. The band played the local punk circuit. Also in 1977, the band was asked to appear in a low budget exploitation film, Punk, shot on location at CBGBs; the film was never completed, but the band got studio time and recorded its first song, “Twanged If I Do, Twanged If I Don’t.” The Rousers split in 1982, but reunited briefly from time to time in various formations, and recorded an album in 2002, Playing The Rock and Roll For You. The band presently consists of Dickson, Milmore, bassist Brett Wilder, and drummer Sal “King” Capazucca.
The Rousers have returned to the local circuit, and performed at Krebs’ Endless Party monthly series at the Parkside Lounge. While Brooklyn majored in turning out radical indie bands, the lesser-magnified Manhattan club scene gravitated to a no-frills brand of garage-guitar rock and roll, and the nearly 40-year-old Rousers were already there. Recalling mid-1960s low-fi bands, The Rousers played an uncluttered formula which capitalized on 4/4 rhythms leading to harmony-driven choruses and/or husky lead guitar leads. Safe and simple, this almost retro-sounding music went back to the foolproof basics, and did it well.
Hailey Knox/The Penthouse/September 19, 2016
Hailey Knox is from Carmel, New York, where her dad taught her to play guitar when she was seven. At 12, Knox and her sister, performing as a duo, began posting covers of their favorite songs on social media. Knox later received a loop effects pedal as a Christmas gift and posted solo videos utilizing echoes of her own voice and guitar work. Eventually she started working on original songs. Now at age 18, her debut EP, A Little Awkward, was released on June 24, 2016.
Though still a teenager, Knox is a seasoned performer, having performed many shows in the New York area and at SXSW. She exuded confidence and professionalism throughout her brief eight-song performance at The Penthouse at the Standard Hotel. Many of her songs started with her looping her guitar licks, guitar slaps (for percussion), and/or wordless melodies. This was her “band,” forming the backdrop to more intricate guitar licks, soulful vocals and lyrics that gave insight to the mind of a member of Generation Z. Up until now, she has been playing to audiences old enough to get into bars, but her opening slot on Charlie Puth’s theater tour will help her reach her core following. As evidenced impressively tonight, her bluesy guitar licks and soulful vocals may extend her audience beyond her initial teen audience, and those who listen carefully also may enjoy her clever wordsmith ability. Hailey Knox is a very talented youth.
KT Tunstall/Irving Plaza/September 19, 2016
Kate Tunstall, known by her stage name KT Tunstall, was born to a half-Chinese, half-Scottish, Hong Kong-born exotic dancer and an Irish bartender in Edinburgh, Scotland. At 18 days old, her mother gave her for adoption to a couple in St. Andrews, Scotland. Although raised in an academic and non-musical family, she learned to play piano at age four and later learned to play other musical instruments. Some of her earliest public performances were on sidewalks in Burlington, Vermont, during a period when she was living in a rural commune. She also played in indie bands and even a klezmer band before launching a solo career in 2004. By 2006, she had won a European Border Breakers Award, an Ivor Novello Award for Best Song and a Brit Award for Best British Female Artist. Tunstall released her fifth studio album, KIN, on September 9, 2016. Since 2014, Tunstall has lived in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California.
KT Tunstall is a singer-songwriter, and many of her best-known songs were reflective of a folk sensibility. Recently coming out of a self-imposed hiatus, she recorded an album, assembled a band, devised a live set list that included five songs from her most recent album, older originals and covers of songs by The Bangles, the White Stripes and Bruce Springsteen, and hit the road. At Irving Plaza, she spent large bulks of her performance time introducing the origins of each song along with other anecdotes and memoirs. The set seemed so homey that a man bought her a drink and delivered it to the stage and a woman presented her with a jar of Nutella. As for the music, Tunstall sang in a fine contralto voice, riding melodies with appropriate power, nuance and occasional grit. Even from the opening song, “If Only,” her sound moved further away from her folkie roots, instead rocking to a modern power pop style. Here was the weakness; as a rocker, her songs lost some of their integral earthiness in favor of banging radio pop. Performing solo on acoustic guitar on “Invisible Empire” halfway through the set, she began to recapture the vulnerability of her sensitive side. Perhaps the set could have benefitted from a better balance between poet and rocker.
Tom Jones/Beacon Theatre/September 21, 2016
Sir Thomas Jones Woodward OBE was born Thomas John Woodward in Glamorgan, South Wales, where as a youth he sang in his school choir and at family gatherings. At age 16, Jones worked first in a glove factory and then in construction. While in his 20s, he began a focus on music as the front man in 1963 for Tommy Scott & the Senators, a Welsh beat group. In short time, his manager took him to London, England, and renamed him Tom Jones to exploit the popularity of the Academy Award winning 1963 film. Riding the wave of the British invasion in 1964, Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” became an international hit. Over the next 50 years, Jones sold more than 100 million records in a career that has had peaks and valleys. His most recent album, Long Lost Suitcase, was released on October 9, 2015.
Over the years, Jones enjoyed a wide stylistic range, and he brought that with him to the Beacon Theatre. Jones possesses one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music, and he used that richness equally effectively in blues, country, rhythm and blues, dance and pop songs. Although he has written many songs, his husky, robust baritone was best served as stylist and interpreter, from Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “What’s New, Pussycat” to Prince’s “Kiss.” Jones also rasped and crooned on songs by John Lee Hooker, Odetta, Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The highlight of the 90-minute set might have been his full-throated, brawny rendering of the 1968 murder ballad “Delilah.” While Jones’ music largely appeals to an older generation, his muscular vocal performance was absolutely classic.