LAist on In The Attic CD/DVD
brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 16 11:15:07 UTC 2009
DVD Review: Rachel Fuller Presents In The Attic Live with Pete Townshend And Friends
This nifty little package - 1 DVD and 2 CDs bargain-priced at $11.98 for the set, and only available at Best Buy - captures two of the intimate acoustic productions put together by Rachel Fuller, the English composer, arranger and singer who is also the longtime partner of Pete Townshend, at various stops on the Who’s 2006-07 world tour as a way to keep herself busy. “I said, if I’m gonna go, I’m gonna have to have something to DO,” Fuller explained when the Attic came to the Troubadour last fall. The house-partyish production, which started as a webcast from her actual attic back in 2005 and gradually worked its way into American nightclubs, has allowed Fuller to present her music to a wider audience, and as a side benefit, has sparked some of the most fun and inspired Pete Townshend performances of the last twenty years.
The physical surroundings of these shows, which took place in tiny clubs before less than 200 people, seem to have had an interesting effect on the music. For Who fans who managed to get into these events, the chance to see Townshend in a living-room size venue, pulling out rarely-played gems like “Sunrise” and “The Acid Queen” along with brand-new songs that had never been performed live and the occasional hit, was an unprecedented thrill. But those fans also got to see a rarely-exposed side of Townshend - his proficiency as a side man.
In the liner notes, he credits the shows for breaking a streak of writer’s block, by giving him a forum to test out ideas without feeling he had to “write the fucking song of my life every time out, so I started to knock songs out.” None of those new songs are included here, but you can still see him taking pleasure in discovery, coming up with his own parts for songs by Alexi Murdoch, Amos Lee and Ben Harper, and adapting to Joe Purdy’s slow, restrained take on “Let My Love Open The Door”. He throws himself into Purdy’s rendition of the gospel standard “Talk About Suffering” with a joyful abandon, soloing effortlessly, harmonizing on the choruses, even those he doesn’t quite know the words to. It’s a loose, instinctive, truly exciting performance, one that every Townshend fan should hear, but one that would never have been possible with 20,000 people watching.
The best of the batch comes at the very end of the Joe’s Pub set when Lou Reed sits down, and the two rip into “White Light White Heat”, Townshend adding signature Who rhythm patterns under that relentless beat, Lou barking out the lyrics with gusto and nodding approval at his new sideman. They follow it with a sublime “Pale Blue Eyes”, haunting and lovely. They both look like they’re having the time of their lives, surprising each other, getting off on each others’ playing. And like the Purdy duet, it’s the kind of thing that they might not have had the balls to do at a big concert without overthinking and orchestrating the whole thing to death. Townshend used to wing it on stage all the time, but ever since Keith Moon’s death, Who shows have become dependable if highly predictable. It’s encouraging to see him working on the fly again.
Fuller’s songs about housewifely neurosis are droll and self-deprecating, beautifully sung and played. She’s very precise and mannered, as befits her background as a classical musician and orchestrator. Jimmy Fallon’s songs are funnier then Tenacious D’s - their straightahead reading of Tommy songs is all set-up and no punchline, while Fallon’s contributions sound like they’d go over great around the campfire, all he needs now is some Scouts. Of the other assorted guests, Alexi Murdoch and Rachel Yamagata emerge as the winners of Open Mic Night, though I can’t help but wonder, what happened to J Mascis, who reportedly gave up a searing, deafening "See Me Feel Me" on the same NYC night as Lou Reed’s appearance? If you can’t have everything, at least what we have here is highly watchable at all times, and flat-out great in its best moments.
-Brian in Atlanta
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