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J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 9, 2007; 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Dan Deacon does.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

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washingtonpost.com: Small-Town Inspiration; To Revisit His Youth in Song, Country Star Brad Paisley Comes Back to the Source

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washingtonpost.com: Q&A: Merle Haggard

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J. Freedom du Lac: Went to a pregnancy exam and a lip-synching spectacle broke out. Oh, wait, that really was a concert* I attended on Friday! (* Sponsored by Memorex?) It just so happened that all anybody seemed to be talking about afterwards was J-Lo's baby bump, which is now much, much bigger than her other famous bump. The performance itself? Eh. Her salsero hubby should have closed. Marc Anthony is so, so good en concierto, it's not even funny. Such a committed performer. Charmingly old fashioned, too.

Also: I'm guessing that I'm the only person in the DC-VA-MD area (and beyond) who saw Paolo Nutini, They-Lo and Brad Paisley on back to back nights. Not sure I should be proud of that, though.

Let's do this.

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20011: J-Free, You catch Spoon's set on SNL this weekend? I thought they looked a little stiff and lacked chemistry but they sounded really good (much better than at V-fest IMHO).

J. Freedom du Lac: Don't MOST bands on SNL look stiff? They seemed to be having more trouble than usual with the mix, too, during the first song. It was way off, even by SNL's typically lousy standards. (I think the sound engineers need to stop chugging crappuchino before each show.) Britt and the boys sounded much better on "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb."

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Arlington, Va.: Are you going to be reviewing Juanes' new CD? I don't see too many Latino artists reviewed other than Daddy Yankee, Marc Anthony, or Jennifer Lopez. Juanes is pretty huge so I was hoping there would be a review.

J. Freedom du Lac: You're not looking then, since we've also reviewed Manu Chao, Pacha Massive, Jorge Drexler, Mexican Institute of Sound and Bebel Gilberto, among others, this year.

But yes, we'll be reviewing the new Juanes.

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Washington, D.C.: Have you seen Springsteen's set lists for his shows so far (he has them listed on his Web site)? I'm surprised by how consistent they are from show to show. Lots of stuff off Magic obviously, but then heavy on Born to Run and the well-known songs off Darkness (Badlands, Promised Land), while ignoring his early work and the lesser known songs. There isn't a lot of variety from night to night, which is disappointing to someone who bought tickets to multiple shows. Get the word out to Jon Landau, J Free!

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, and the sets sure seem to be heavy on amped-up guitar songs, too. Noting this trend -- as well as Bruce's apparent urge to blast the audience's eardrums with that quintuple-guitar attack -- one of my colleagues at TWP has taken to calling this Springsteen's Midlife Crisis Tour. But that's based on the first of the two Philly dates, and who knows how the shows might evolve by the time the tour comes through D.C. next month. Of course, if you're buying tickets to one show -- and one show only -- the smart money is on the second of the two dates here.

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Washington, D.C.: J Free, did you see the Springsteen 60 Minutes interview? What did you think? I was surprised at the look on Little Steven's face when the interviewer started talking about how Springsteen told the E Street Band he wasn't going to need them for awhile. Do you think there's some anger there still? I mean they all keep coming back for tours. Does money just heal all wounds?

J. Freedom du Lac: You know what surprised me most? The face on Bruce Springsteen. That just didn't look right. Either he's Botoxing, or, um ... I dunno.

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The mighty Merle: J. Free, you country boy you: How was it meeting Merle Haggard? Without a doubt, he's one of the unappreciated geniuses of our time. I know that seems weird, but he's never gotten the widespread praise that guys like Cash and Willie Nelson have gotten and he's been more consistently great than either of them. Not that it's the be-all and end-all, but he's never gotten a Kennedy Center honor. Can you work on that, please?

J. Freedom du Lac: You know, I was kinda shocked to discovered that Merle hasn't yet been honored by the Kennedy Center. He's definitely worthy, as he's on the very short list of country's most important singer-songwriters, just behind Hank Williams. (That's to say nothing of his contributions to creating a new, more electrified swing sound in country.) I listened to the entire Capitol box set, "Down Every Road," before I interviewed him and I just marveled at the depth of his catalogue. And that box, which is something like 100 songs deep, only scratches the surface. He's STILL writing damn fine songs. Though that's not quite how he puts it. What he told me was: "Every once in a while, I get lucky." Yeah, sure --- lucky. Hah.

Interviewing him was a hoot. He's just as ornery as ever.

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The Deep South: Free--

Does Coldplay still suck? Please provide an update. Thanks.

J. Freedom du Lac: This just in:

Yes.

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9:30 club: You'll be there tonight?

J. Freedom du Lac: What makes you think I'm hosting this chat from the office? I might already be at the 9:30 club, rockin' the Verizon broadband air card from the front of the line.

I think I had a dream last night that Josh Ritter added a second show at the club, and Bob Dylan was booked as the opener. That just ain't right.

By the by, I'm told that we're getting a bonus tonight. Apparently, Josh is employing a horn section for one night only. Because, you know, this show is Bigger Deal Than Usual, what with the NPR Webcast.

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Ryan Adams: So I'm reading an article on him in Q magazine, and I've decided he's pretty insufferable. It's not just that he's weird and sloppy and has taken every drug in the world to excess, it's that he somehow seems to enjoy it all. Any personal encounters with the man and what's your general opinion?

J. Freedom du Lac: I've long thought that Ryan Adams was kinda insufferable, though he sure can write a song (or 1,300). Never have encountered him personally/professionally, but I did have him in the celebrity death pool for a while, back when it looked like he was a lock to make an early exit.

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For those about to Rock: Hey, where's Jeff Beck? Heard a crazy rumor of him, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones touring. Are you going to visit Van Halen in town? Please do and write a unbiased article, better yet, just interview Wolfie and leave the other 3 be.

J. Freedom du Lac: Critics don't write unbiased articles. They write subjective critiques.

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Odenton, Md.: I read your review for Paulo Nutini at the 9:30 club after I saw him at Rams Head Live in Baltimore the next night. You mentioned the noise from the crowd while he was trying to perform. I know it has also been talked about in this chat previously. However, when it is the WHOLE crowd chattering doesn't the performer have to take some responsibility for not engaging the audience? The crowd in Baltimore wanted to get involved and did some with singing along to some songs, he just never got them to the next level. He left them wanting more but not in a good way. I preferred the opener, Jon McLaughlin. Did he open at the 9:30 and what are your thoughts on him?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, very true. When your songs become background music at your own concert, you definitely have a problem. The music has to engage the audience, and the performers should play a part, too, by radiating charisma/mystique/etc during the set. (No verbal spackle necessary. See: Dylan, Bob.) If Marc Anthony hadn't said a word during his set Friday, he still would have been marvelous -- and the audience would have been fully engaged because that little dude was selling those songs and responding to the crowd's own response to him. On the other hand, there was Paolo Nutini, singing these slight songs, hunched at the mic stand, looking off to the side of the stage, seeming like he was on another planet. Hell, I would have been talking over the music, too, if any of my friends had actually decided to come to the show with me. Alas, they're all much smarter than I am and decided to spend their time elsewhere.

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Amy Winehouse vs. Sharon Jones: In a battle for the Dap-Kings. Who wins? Who should win?

J. Freedom du Lac: Live? Sharon Jones, hands-down. (Beehive down, too.)

On CD? I prefer La Winehouse's "Back to Black" to "100 Days, 100 Nights." Part of it is the glorious production work by Ronson and Remi. But I also find Winehouse's songs to be more interesting.

The Dap-Kings sound awfully fine on both albums, though.

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Arlington, Va.: So I need to split up my will call tickets for Josh Ritter tonight & leave my second ticket for a friend at the window. Do you know 9:30's email or phone number so I can try to do it ahead of time?

Thanks, because it's totally not on their site.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm guessing you'll probably have to do it at the box office, upon picking up your tickets. 'Cause they'll need to see your ID and all that. And they can't do it on the phone. And if I'm wrong -- well, I'll buy you a cup of free water at the show.

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Washington, D.C.: Next album he puts out, Springsteen needs to steal the folks who engineered his wife's latest album and replace his guys with them. Play It As It Lays sounded crisp and clean, and Magic just sounded flat and distorted in parts, at least to me.

And I think the reason his face looked funny on 60 Minutes is because . . . he has a funny face. Can't wait for the DC shows, though!

J. Freedom du Lac: I think it's time for him to stop using Brendan O'Brien as his producer. This is their weakest-sounding album together. And Bruce is even starting to sound a little bit like another guy on Brendan's CV: Eddie Vedder. Listen to "Radio Nowhere" and tell me that's not Bruce channeling EdVed.

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washingtonpost.com: Paolo Nutini review (10/6)

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South Bend: With all the guitars on E Street these days, who is the best and who is the worst and who is in the middle? Nils, Little Steven, or the Boss himself?

J. Freedom du Lac: This is a riddle to which I have no answer, as I haven't seen enough of them recently to know how to rank them. I wonder, though, if it matters. When they're going maximum-overdrive with the guitars, doesn't it all just become one, big wall of noise?

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Atlanta, Ga. I was trying to get tickets to the Nov. 26th Paolo Nutini concert in London, but they are IMPOSSIBLE to get for some reason.

J. Freedom du Lac: He's a star over there. Go figure. Then again, the Brits also like kippers, cornish pasties and Robbie Williams.

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singer picks fight with chatter:9:30 club, matt nathanason opens up for o.a.r. a few years ago.

puts down his guitar, jumps off the stage and has a talk with the noisy person. offers to take it outside.

good times

J. Freedom du Lac: That's what I'm talking about! I think artists should start hiring goons to work as their drum techs.

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Washington, D.C.: J Free, I went to see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club open for Kings of Leon in Baltimore last week. They blew KOL out of the water. WHYYYY are BRMC opening for KOL when it should be the other way around?!

J. Freedom du Lac: Because the Kings of Leon singer is dating Kimberly Stewart? Dunno.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hey speaking of Ryan Adams, will we get a Phil Lesh and Friends review from the WP? Phil, et. al. will be at the Lyric Opera House in Balmer next week...

J. Freedom du Lac: No.

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Fairfax, Va.: About a year or so ago, Jon Landau hinted at possibly releasing some concert footage from the Darkness tour like they did for the recent Born to Run 30 year tribute. Do you have any idea if that's still in the works? YouTube has some videos from back in 1978 of Springsteen and E Street (lots from concert he performed in Landover, actually) and they just look so intense. It's amazing.

J. Freedom du Lac: Any Springsteen heads know what the word on the backstreets is re: this?

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Concert yackers: Funny you should mention the Dylan show. I was out on the lawn for that one and there were plenty of people around me who couldn't shut up about everything not having to do with the show. If people are at least cattering about the show that's cool, but not about anything else. They did at least quiet down when asked to.

The Queens of the Stone Age crown two days prior in Baltimore was actually really quiet, or as quiet as a high energy rock crowd gets, when not screaming along with the lyrics. Or maybe I just didn't hear them over the guitars.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's ridiculous. Though perhaps not as ridiculous as the couple at the Brad Paisley show that kept insisting that the people in front of them sit down, even during the high-octane songs, like the great guitar showcase "Throttleneck." If you want to stand up at a concert -- by all means, you should stand up. And stay there. It's not a frickin violin recital, people.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey have you heard anything about a new Radiohead album?

Ha.

J. Freedom du Lac: Who?

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Washington Navy Yard: Dear Kind Sir,

Please restore my faith in humanity that Britney's status to #1 on the download charts is just a fluke or a similar reaction to rubbernecking at a car accident scene. The song stinks yet it's climbing the charts....I just don't get it! What do you make of this phenomenon??

J. Freedom du Lac: Never underestimate the stupidity of the American public. Oh, wait, did I just insult Chris Richards and Rachel Beckman?!??!? My two fine colleagues were deep in conversation earlier today, discussing the greatness of that particular song. I just don't hear it.

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20010: Don't sleep on William Elliott Whitmore tonight at DC9.

J. Freedom du Lac: I won't. I'll be sleeping in my new apartment.

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Charlestown, W.Va.: Terrific article about native son Brad Paisley. Laugh out loud funny line about his baby's picture ("But it might as well be him, since they all look like that.")

J. Freedom du Lac: Brad's a really funny dude -- though he also gets tired of being called a country-music comedian. He didn't name names, but I'm guessing he's referring to pieces like the recent Blender feature. And the one in the Twin Cities paper that began, "Stop me if you've heard this: Man walks into a bar, pulls out a guitar and takes the stage."

It gets old, BP told me, "when I sense that it's a way of marginalizing what I do, sort of like: 'Oh, you're the funny guy!' And that's all I do. No, you don't get it. I'm not writing it just to be funny. I don't crave being funny. 'Celebrity' or 'Alcohol,' those are social commentary; there's some biting sides to them. 'Online,' too.

"My manager says to me all the time, when I get frustrated about that, that it's not a slam. When they call you funny, it's not an insult. But I've sensed since the beginning of my career that they want to put me in a box. But just two songs ago, we had a serious ballad. Before that, we had hits with suicide ballads and songs about death."

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Philly, Pa.: Which is better: "Gimmie More" by Britney, "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones, or "Gimme Dat Ding" by the Pipkins?

J. Freedom du Lac: Abba's "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" Of course.

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Richmond, Va.: Out of principle, I'm waiting to get the new Radiohead album off a Internet filesharing site. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

J. Freedom du Lac: The RIAA appreciates the business.

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Arlington, Va.: The original drummer of Guns n Roses is the best to have in Celebrity Death Pool, if your Death Pool bylaws allow it. Some set minimum levels of celebrity for eligibility.

J. Freedom du Lac: What was his name again? John "Stumpy" Pepys?

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Washington, D.C.: I'm sure the Howard Jones/Birchmere show was a little too-1988 for your interest, but I'm happy to report there were no audience-talking problems and all the chicks singing along with Howard were quite good.

J. Freedom du Lac: One vote for HoJo.

Audience chatter generally isn't much of a problem at the Birch, correct?

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Stuck in 77: Who's one off gig will suck more: Led Zeppelin or the Sex Pistols. 1977 retro minds need to know!!!!!

J. Freedom du Lac: Sex Pistols. I think it'll be much, much easier for the not-quite-original LedZep lineup to put on a respectable performance than the not-quite-original Sex Pistols. Then again, the Sex Pistols aren't necessarily trying to be respectable. So maybe they'll win.

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Carson City, Nev.: Don't be so quick to dismiss Phil Lesh. He knew Jerry Garcia. Jerry Garcia is in heaven with all the pretty angels now, so don't be sad.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nobody's dismissing him. Just that nobody from This Particular News Org is reviewing him.

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Odenton, Md.: In your career, Have you seen more good shows or bad? Also, how insufferable are those bad shows? Just praying for a short encore, I assume. Can you name a few of the best and a few of the worst?

J. Freedom du Lac: I've seen more shows that were in the middle. Not great, not horrible, just kinda --- ehh. Those are the ones you don't really remember, except when you look at your calendar, like I did earlier today, and realize how much time you've wasted absorbing mediocre music. I wish I had a better batting average. Truth be told, I'd rather see something insufferable, like the Smashing Pumpkins show at the 9:30. At least then I have something to talk about later.

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Washington, D.C.: The original GNR drummer was Steven Adler, and he's not a good guy to have in that pool; if he was going to go it would have been years ago.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thank you for not getting my "Spinal Tap" joke.

(Is this thing on?)

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Rockville, Md.: After giving it some more thought, I went for the Radiohead box set. I sure hope it's good. Any clue if it is? I haven't listen to any of the recent bootlegs (last one I had was the very early recording of Motion Picture Soundtrack. Which is great.)

J. Freedom du Lac: No idea, though I think you'll get some interesting pictures of Thom Yorke's nose. Or something.

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Arlington, Va.: The Boss is totally botoxed. I'm a good 15 years younger than he is yet he's got fewer wrinkles than me.

J. Freedom du Lac: He must be trying to get with some of the girls in their summer clothes.

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Columbia, MD: Answers to all of today's questions.

Bruce needs to work with Brian Deck, Phil Ek, or someone else with a last names that rhymes with speck.

Ryan Adams is crazy and annoying (but somehow manages to write some great songs). He needs and editor. He also needs to be on a time-delay circuit so that the editor can stop him when he starts with his sadly inane stage banter...

Amy Winehouse

Baby-Bump

Kanye vs. 50

Van Halen destructs

Page and JP Jones are totally not touring with Jeff Beck.

And yes, Anthony Keidis is still the worst vocalist going!

J. Freedom du Lac: Why couldn't you have posted this at p.m.? You could have saved me an hour. Fine summary.

Thanks for stopping by today. See you all next week, unless I don't.

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Washington, D.C.: If people can't stop talking during Josh Ritter tonight do I have NPR's permission to punch them in the mouth?

It's being recorded, after all.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, absolutely. Tell them that Steve Inskeep sent you.

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