Liam Gallagher still dares fans to hate him. Throughout Oasis's powerhouse set at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Thursday, Gallagher demonstrated how well he's honed the jerk role he's been playing since the group broke out of Manchester, England, a decade ago. But an Oasis audience will always put up with his bad actor routine so long as it gets to hear Liam's fab rock voice sing all those fab retro guitar-rock tunes written by his sibling rival, band mate and guitarist, Noel.
Liam has a horrible track record offstage. (The brawls, the fracases, the time he got his front teeth knocked out in Munich!) His obnoxiousness tank always seems full come showtime. He made crass song dedications Thursday -- "This one's for all the deaf people!" he said before "A Bell Will Ring," a psychedelic offering from the latest Oasis album, "Don't Believe the Truth." He cussed the soundman too often for his complaints to be believed. "It's like being at the [bleepin'] dentist!" he shrieked of the mix coming through his monitors during "Acquiesce," a much-beloved B-side, and stalked around the drum riser grumbling and spitting while the band played the 1995 smash "Champagne Supernova."
Noel, long tabbed as the nice Gallagher, showed his own mean streak, stopping the show to ask a fan in the front why she cried during "Wonderwall," as if there's no way his band's pop could actually mean so much to some folks as to induce sobbing.
But near show's end, after "Rock 'N' Roll Star" proved yet again what a great band Oasis still is, Liam walked over to the side of the stage and handed a fan his tambourine. That nicety didn't make up for what the audience endured all night. The music, however, had already taken care of that.
-- Dave McKenna
Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen
"Sixty is the new 40," quipped 60-year-old ex-Byrd Chris Hillman amid a down-home stringfest at the Birchmere on Thursday night. His partner, 61-year-old guitar master Herb Pedersen, replied, "That's about the only thing of Bill Maher's I agree with."
The duo, aided by Larry Park on guitar and Bill Bryson on upright bass, crossed both time and expectations in its set, as did the preceding group, Seldom Scene spin-off Reflections Ridge. These old pros switched the styles of songs as adroitly as a diva switches gowns at the Grammys. "Time Between," which Hillman said was the first song he ever wrote, sounded very un-Byrdsian, its multisyllabic words standing out in the square-edged, strict tempo arrangement anchored by Hillman's choppy mandolin. Hillman and Pedersen revealed "Mr. Tambourine Man" the way Hillman said he first heard it on Bob Dylan's demo tape -- as a lilting country song. The Ridge's fiddler-mandolinist Rickie Simpkins and mandolinist Jimmy Gaudreau went from bluegrass to Irish jig to newgrass in an instrumental duet, and the full group approached the Monkees' "Papa Gene's Blues" and Little Feat's "Willin' " like hoedown standards. (John Starling insisted that the agricultural product mentioned in the latter was "wheat.") Mike Auldridge's Dobro playing transcended any genre strictures that hadn't already fallen. And Bryson revealed perhaps the finest, fullest vocals on the stage with the plaintive "Down Where the Still Waters Flow."
About the only disappointment was that Starling's voice was sometimes hard to hear. But perhaps time had slowed him down: When several of the artists gathered for "Sin City," Starling didn't appear. "He's napping," Auldridge revealed, but the 65-year-old Seldom Scene vocalist leapt up to the stage only a few lines late.
-- Pamela Murray Winters
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
James Galway's flute transcription of Joaquin Rodrigo's guitar concerto "Fantasia para un Gentilhombre" trades the harmonic variety of the guitar's plucked and strummed chords for a delicate trickle of single notes floated over the orchestra, and lends the piece's swaggeringly Spanish trills and grace notes an unmistakable brogue.
Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena's reading of the Galway arrangement with the Baltimore Symphony on Thursday at Strathmore took on appropriate speed and sprightliness only in the final movement. There, BSO principal flutist Emily Skala knocked off the virtuoso runs with breezy dispatch. Puzzlingly, she sounded overly cautious and pushed to her limits in the earlier movements, giving the impression that Mena had slowed the tempos in those movements to allow her time to negotiate her music.
Richard Strauss's "Metamorphosen" proved quite the converse. A piece usually given elegiac weight, it was treated with forward-moving tempos and a moonlit romantic ardor. Less profound but more life-affirmingly lyrical in Mena's hands, the piece drew a mix of silken and throaty tones from the strings, with the sense of a yearning, unbroken melodic line threading through and uniting the work.
If Beethoven's glorious Seventh Symphony has become ubiquitous through ceaseless concert programming, recordings and airplay, performances like Mena's with the BSO are still rare. Spirited, disciplined, lovingly sculpted and humane to its core, the performance was a model of historically informed, unashamedly modern Beethoven performance. And the orchestra played gorgeously.
-- Joe Banno
Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban
Mood clave reigned at the Lincoln Theatre on Thursday night when the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival honored its namesake by presenting the Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra in concert. Under the direction of pianist Arturo O'Farrill, the son of the late Havana-born composer and bandleader, the ensemble celebrated the Ellington canon (as well as the contributions made by collaborators Billy Strayhorn and Juan Tizol) with a compelling mix of polyrhythmic energy, lush reeds and soaring, growling, moaning brass.
At the outset O'Farrill noted that clave (the 2/3 or 3/2 heart pulse of Latin jazz) perfectly complements the Ellington repertoire. Driven by percussionists Roland Guerrero and Joseph Gonzalez, plus drummer Phoenix Rivera, the 18-member ensemble repeatedly underscored that point, beginning with an overture resounding with Ellington echoes. Trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman, who devised the piece, deserves kudos for swiftly setting the tone and for writing the festival-commissioned "Ellington Afro-Latin Suite." In it, Mossman imaginatively juxtaposed Ellington melodies while evoking the composer's rich tonal palette.
Throughout the concert, the band embraced mambo and cha-cha-cha rhythms, montuno vamps and flat-out swing. Familiar gems (Strayhorn's "Isfahan") and lesser-known charmers ("Purple Gazelle") surfaced, and among the gifted musicians featured were trombonist Sam Burtis, alto saxophonist Enrique Fernandez and guest vocalist Sunny Sumter.
When introducing "The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite," his father's landmark work, O'Farrill recalled his dad's nightly ritual of listening to Ellington recordings. The orchestra's vibrant performance of the multifaceted composition couldn't have made the Ellington-O'Farrill connection more apparent and alive. The festival continues with performances around town through tomorrow.
-- Mike Joyce