Don Messerli’s Blog |

An exercise in self-indulgence.

Leonard Cohen Live - Hallelujah!!!!

Tuesday Nov 24, 2009

I never thought I would get to see Leonard Cohen perform in my lifetime. Until February of this year he hadn’t toured in the U.S. since 1994. I didn’t hear about the date in Nashville until the start of the week. I don’t know what happened with that. To say this was a big deal for me is a huge understatement. Going to see Leonard Cohen to me is like a Catholic going to see The Pope. No, I didn’t just compare Leonard Cohen to The Pope; just like John Lennon didn’t compare The Beatles to Jesus Christ.

He performed at The Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC). The sound was perfect. His performance was spectacular. Regine and I have seen some legendary singers in the past few years; but they’ve been disappointments. Bob Dylan was almost impossible to understand and picked a poor grouping of songs to represent his career. Van Morrison was more concerned with the placement of instruments on the stage than his performance and didn’t perform any of his hits. Conversely, Leonard Cohen performed virtually all of the songs a die hard fan would want to hear. He didn’t sing “Jazz Police”; but I’m probably the only one who missed that one.

His voice was deep and sultry. Even better than it was on Leonard Cohen Live in London (CD and DVD). Not a hint of scratchiness which was evident on the recording. We were both amazed at how long he performed. Two full sets with an intermission in between; followed by at least 3 encores. He had quite a bit of energy for a 74 year old. He went down on his knees and then back up several times. I’d be sore after all of those lunges.

The show was very polished. This was to be expected considering that he has been touring almost non-stop since May 2008. He surrounded himself with a stellar group of musicians. Sharon Robinson, his long-time collaborator, and The Webb Sisters on backing vocals. Roscoe Beck was his musical director and stand-up bass player. Spanish multi-instrumentalist Javier Mas played the 12-string guitar and many traditional Spanish instruments. Neil Larsen played keyboards and Hammond Organ. Bob Metzger played guitar and steel guitar. Rafael Gayol on drums. Dino Soldo on keyboard, saxophone and various wind instruments. They all combined to provide a perfect musical experience.

Seeing Leonard Cohen live was a dream of mine. Now that it has been fulfilled, it is something I will never forget. A huge thanks to Regine for finding out about the concert.

The Wrecking Crew

Tuesday Jun 10, 2008

Tommy TedescoBack in April, Regine and I attended several films at the Nashville Film Festival. We especially enjoyed a documentary called “The Wrecking Crew”. It is about a group of about 20 studio musicians in Los Angeles in the 1960s. They played on so many different records that it is almost impossible to count. They played for solo artists who didn’t have a band (i.e. Nancy Sinatra), groups that needed a little added help in the studio (i.e. The Beach Boys), groups that didn’t exist until AFTER a hit song was recorded (i.e. the Marketts, Routers, and T-Bones) and groups that were fabricated and couldn’t play their own instruments (i.e. The Monkees).

Regine came away feeling that she had been duped as a child. I knew this was going on. I just didn’t know it was the same group of musicians in every instance. Musicians like Tommy Tedesco, Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Plas Johnson and Don Randi.

The film was a labor of love by Denny Tedesco (Tommy’s son) and took him several years to complete. The movie was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. I really enjoyed seeing Carol Kaye, bass guitarist extraordinaire, play some of the riffs that we all grew up with. One of the difficult things about producing the movie was getting clearance to use the over 100 songs in the film. Since the same thing would have to be done again for a DVD release, it is highly unlikely there will be one unless a distributor with a department dedicated to that task decides to get involved. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

You can check out information about the film, see where it’s playing and sign up for notifications at The Wrecking Crew Film website.

Goodbye Nickel Creek! I Hardly Knew Ya

Friday Nov 30, 2007

Nickel Creek PosterI was driving into work about 3 weeks ago listening to Lightning 100, a radio station recommended to me by a co-worker. They did one of those “on this day in history” things and then proceeded to pose a question that you could call in and answer to win something. On that date in history, Al Gore called George W. Bush to concede the 2000 election only to call him back a few hours later and retract his concession. The question was something like, “What voting technology caused the confusion in Palm Beach County Florida during the 2000 presidential election?”. Having lived through the whole thing from a few counties away, I knew the answer. It was the Butterfly Ballot.

I thought there was no way I would win for two reasons. 1. Everyone knows the answer to that question. 2. I’ve never called Lightning 100 before, so I’d have to dial the number manually not having it on speed dial yet. I dialed the number and got a busy signal. Redial. Busy signal. I surmised that if the line was still busy, nobody had the right answer yet. I redialed a total of about 15 times and it started ringing. The DJ answered. I expected her to say that someone had already gotten the answer. Instead, she asked what my answer was. I said, “The Butterly Ballot” and she said “Thank God! You don’t know how many idiots called in and said ‘The Hanging Chad’”. The conversation continued briefly alternating between her ranting about the general ignorance of people and welcoming me to Nashville. She took all my information and told me I could pick up the tickets at their studios and should do it soon because the concert was on November 29th.

To tell the truth, I didn’t know what I had won tickets to and being hesitant to be yet another ignorant idiot in her eyes, I didn’t ask. I went to their web site and saw that a group called Nickel Creek were playing at The Ryman on the 29th. It was later confirmed by a few co-workers that I had won tickets to see Nickel Creek. They heard my name announced on the radio. One of them was the same co-worker that had recommended the radio station to me. I didn’t even hear the announcement as I went into Publix right after handing up the phone.

I looked up Nickel Creek on Wikipedia to see what I should expect. I found this part interesting…

In late summer 2006, via Billboard and their official website, Nickel Creek announced that at the end of the year they would no longer be recording together as a group and their tour scheduled through 2007 would be their last for an indefinite period of time. According to Thile, “It’s always been so natural, but lately it hasn’t been quite as natural and we’re running the risk of actually having to break up. We would rather leave it for a while, while it’s still intact and healthy.”

I also saw that the last two dates of their tour were the two dates at The Ryman and my tickets would be for their final show. A rare opportunity albeit a sad one. I have a curse when it comes to adding new (to me) artists to my musical horizon. Either I get into someone who releases albums about as often as Haley’s Comet comes around: Daniel Lanois, Peter Gabriel, Marc Cohn, Lindsey Buckingham. Or, I get into a group that is no longer together: The Band. Or, I get into someone who is dead: Harry Nilsson, Jeff Buckley. I got into Jeff Buckley in 2003 later to find out that he’d been dead for six years.

The concert was great! If you labeled their music as Bluegrass, you’d be missing what they’re all about. It’s a conglomeration of styles (Rock, Folk, Jazz) with Bluegrass influences. A mandolin, violin, guitar and stand-up bass make up the band. The lead singer, Chris Thile, is an amazing mandolin player. He can play the Bluegrass and Celtic styles of mandolin very well but then he takes it to the next level and rocks out on the thing. He’s the Jimi Hendrix of the mandolin. He didn’t set it on fire; but it wouldn’t have surprised me. They played a lot of their songs and I can’t say there was a bad one in the bunch. They also did covers of I Want You Back by the Jackson 5, Taxman by The Beatles and The Weight by The Band.

One really cool aspect of the concert were the guest appearances by Béla Fleck, Chris’ father Scott Thile (on stand-up bass), Benmont Tench, Tim O’Brien, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.

After their last song, Nickel Creek came back on for an encore. And what an encore. They brought back on all of their guest performers and it pretty much was a bluegrass jam session that lasted the better part of 45 minutes. Phenomenal!

The end got a little emotional. They sang a goodbye song a cappella and you could feel the emotion both from them and the audience. They’ve made a lot of people happy with their music and the feeling, at least from the fans, was that this was the end. I tend to look at it in a different way. It gives them the freedom to branch out and work with other musicians more than they’ve done in the past. The output of good music and happiness from these three gifted musicians will be multiplied as they go their separate ways.

Colin Hay Concert

Tuesday Oct 16, 2007

I’ve always thought Colin Hay, the former lead singer of Men at Work, is underrated. Most people only know of him from his days with Men at Work. They were very popular in the 80’s and were known for very catchy pop tunes. Who Can It Be Now? and Down Under were big hits. They capitalized on the popularity and style of The Police and added their own quirkiness. The reason Hay is underrated is because people only think of him in terms of these popular catchy tunes. First of all, if you just take the lyrics to these popular songs and remove them from that context, you start to see their depth.

If you listen to Hay’s later work, including his latest album Are You Lookin’ At Me?, you start to see the true brilliance of his songwriting. Very deep and introspective, yet simple. You won’t see a lot of silly love songs among his works. That’s a good thing if you ask me.

He has a great sense of humor. A lot of people remember him for his lazy eye. It was very prominent in the MTV era. Well, he released a CD called Company of Strangers on his own label, Lazy Eye America. His latest album is titled Are You Lookin’ At Me?. Both self-deprecating references to that lazy eye.

His sense of humor was fully in force during his concert a few weeks ago at The Wild Horse Saloon here in Nashville. Regine and I had VIP tickets and sat at a round table that literally touched the stage. Hay told funny stories about his life and the ups and downs of his career. He even made fun of Bob Dylan, having been at his concert the week before.

He played most of the songs he is known for as well as new stuff from his latest album. He switched from solo acoustic to full electric with his band. The show was thoroughly entertaining. I left with an even bigger appreciation for Colin Hay and his work.

Bob Dylan At The Ryman

Tuesday Oct 2, 2007

Regine and I went to see Bob Dylan at The Ryman Auditorium a couple of weeks ago. Here are some notes I sent to a friend of mine…

OK, so now I can say I’ve seen Bob Dylan in concert. Don’t have to do that again. Given the fact that the man is 66 years old and spent about 10 years in a drug-induced haze, I have to give him props. He played a fairly long set. I kept saying to myself, “This sucks”. But then I would say to myself, “But it’s Bob Dylan”. A thought kept coming into my mind that he could croak at any moment right there on stage - and I could say I was at his last concert.

Amos Lee, the opening act, was good but generally uninspiring. Might have been different if I were familiar with his music. Always tough to be introduced to someone’s music for the first time at a live event.

Next was a very pleasant surprise. Even though he is touring with Dylan, Elvis Costello was not listed for the Ryman dates. He came on unannounced and played solo acoustic guitar for about 40 minutes. At one point he broke into a rendition of “Suspicious Minds” and then back into one of his songs. I wouldn’t have taken the time out to see him had he been playing alone; but I’m glad I got to see him. Regine, my wife, is too young to know much about Costello and her first impression from last night was, “He’s weird”. I don’t think she realized the musical genius of someone who could stand there with just a guitar and a microphone and play any song he wanted, make it his own, and fill the auditorium with full rich sound.

As I said, Dylan was almost impossible to understand. He didn’t do much of the stuff he is famous for. The highlight was when Jack White, who lives here in Nashville and seems to be our shining star, came on stage and first did a duet with Dylan and then did “One More Cup of Coffee” without Dylan butting in. He tore the place up with his guitar. It’s good to know that rock isn’t dead.

My Album of the Year - 2006

Friday Dec 29, 2006

The Animal YearsThis has been a good year for album releases as far as I’m concerned. Why? Because Cat Stevens released his first album in around 27 years and Lindsey Buckingham released only his 4th solo album in 25 years. Both of those albums are very good; but not my favorite album of the year. That honor (let me have my fantasies) goes to “The Animal Years” by Josh Ritter.

I first heard Josh when he and his band opened for Jamie Cullum at the brand-new Carnival Center back in October. I really liked his music and picked up the CD after the concert. It’s been on my playlist ever since.

The music is fresh and the lyrics are brilliant. I’m not going to compare it to anything. You’ll just have to pick up a copy and listen for yourself.

Our iTunes Library

Friday Jul 7, 2006

As you might have read, I am in the process of ripping all of my over 600 music CDs for use with my SqueezeBox and with our iPods. It is taking a long time. Sometimes I won’t rip any for weeks and then I’ll rip 50 in a weeked. Well, I’m almost done. I was looking for a way to print out the contents of our iTunes Library so that I could tally which CDs I’ve ripped and which ones I haven’t. Sometimes paper and pencil are faster than doing it on the computer. While I was looking, I came across a tool called tunesxml2html that puts together a nice web page from the XML file that iTunes uses to keep track of its library. Although the tool has a few bugs and I’ve had to change some of the Perl source to output things the way I want them, it seems like a handy little utility. I’ve posted the first web page I’ve created with it on a new page on this site. I’ve also added a link to “On This Site” on the right-hand side.

“Jamie Cullum Plays Real Music”

Tuesday May 9, 2006

The title of this post isn’t an original Don Messerli quote; but I agree wholeheartedly. Actually it is something that Raul Midon said last night at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale as he was opening for Jamie. Jamie Cullum plays REAL music. Something I love about him. Something I don’t see in many performers these days.

I’m not usually wowed by opening acts. Fiona Apple opening for Counting Crows in Tampa several years back was nice. I was so impressed by Ellis Paul opening for Dar Williams (again in Tampa) that I became a fan of his, have bought all of his albums, and have since gotten tired of Dar. Raul Midon wowed me!

This guy has to be heard. I can try to describe him; but will probably fail miserably. Jump on over to and you can list to all of the tracks on his latest album. He reminds me a bit of Stevie Wonder and a bit of Jeffrey Gaines. He attacks a guiter like Jamie Cullum attacks a piano; but at least he didn’t stomp on it. He does this trumpet thing by blowing air through his lips. If you close your eyes, you’d swear he was playing one. After the show, I bought Raul’s EP and his latest album. I’ll post some more after I’ve had some listening time.

For raw musical talent and energy, I will boldly state that this is the best concert I have ever been to. Yes, I’ve seen Peter Gabriel four times, Genesis, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, and even Joe Jackson in concert. Yes, they are all very talented musicians. The production value on the Gabriel, Genesis, and Phil Collins concerts were among the best ever. Joe Jackson has raw musical talent in excess; BUT none of them engaged the audience as well as Jamie Cullum. He was amazing! By the time the concert was over, everybody in the place was physically drained. Just watching this guy makes you tired. The only one with any energy left was Jamie himself; and that wasn’t from lack of trying. He was all over the stage. All over the poor piano. At one point it looked like he wanted to do a backflip off of a pedestal at the front of the stage. He wisely decided against it because there wasn’t enough room behind him. This was a very small venue with a very small stage. Good thing he decided against it. Wouldn’t be good if this were the first AND last date on his American tour. He played piano, guitar, a conga drum, and some kind of digital scratch thing. He even reached in and played the piano strings like a bass, then like a harp. His small band included a bassist, a drummer, and a guy who played saxaphone, chimes, keyboard, and anything else that made noise. These were versatile jazz musicians. If you’ve ever seen live jazz, you know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t take a big band, large amps and a bunch of electronics to sound good.

Improvisation ran rampant at this concert. Sure, Jamie could sound “just like the album” if he wanted; but why do that. That’s not jazz. He can turn a 4 minutes song into a 15 minute experience. He can turn a small piano riff into a jazz piano lesson. I could say that this was a once in a lifetime experience. But, if I can help it, it won’t be. I plan on seeing Jamie again as soon as I possibly can. Plus, Regine was in Key West on business and missed the concert. I don’t think the t-shirt I bought her will cut it. I’m looking at Georgia or Las Vegas for my second helping. Of course, some of you know what happened the last time Regine and I were in Vegas.

Rob Thomas in Concert

Friday Dec 30, 2005

Rob ThomasEarlier this month, Regine and I went to the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood to see Rob Thomas in concert. The show was phenomenal!!!

The opening act was Anna Nalick. During her set Rob descended from the ceiling suspended by a wire wearing an angel costume. That set the tone for the entire evening. Regine called it “A Night at the Improv”. Not only because of the stunts; but also for the music.

In addition to his high flying entrance there were a few other unplanned surprises. When the stage crew was supposed to bring out an electric piano for Rob to play, they actually brought out a Linus-sized piano and stool for him. After Rob’s fooling around and trying to play it, they brought out the real one. One of the highlights of the concert was when Rob and his drummer, Abe, switch roles. Rob played drums while Abe sang a song called Lopsided Lover. “…she stutters when she talks and walks with a limp, has 3 teeth and a lazy eye!!…” And, by the way, her name is Eileen.

The musical performance was great. It was very refreshing because there was lots of improvization and no effort to try to make the songs sound like they did on the albums. This shows true talent and versatility. There was good mix of songs from his first solo album Something To Be, his Target exclusive EP Something More, and plenty of Matchbox 20 songs. He also did a very good rendition of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance.

One of Rob’s songs that gives me pause whenever I hear it is 3 am. He wrote it about his mother having cancer when he was 12. Even though the song sounds a bit upbeat, it is very touching; especially if you know what it’s about. The version he did on the 2004 Songwriter’s Hall of Fame show was chilling. In concert, he did the song closer to the album version and gracefully transitioned into Steve Miller Band’s The Joker.

This concert was initially supposed to be back in October; but was rescheduled due to Hurricane Wilma. I’m glad they rescheduled it. It was one of the best concerts I’ve been to.

Brad Paisley in Concert

Friday Dec 30, 2005

I’ve been meaning to write this for over a month. Back in early November, Regine and I went to see Brad Paisley at the Germain Arena in Estero. Estero is right off of I-75 between Naples and Fort Myers. It consists of the Germain Arena, an outlet mall, an Outback Steakhouse, a McDonalds’ and a Publix. Thats It!

The opening act was Sugarland. They were good and kept the audience entertained. Not the usual “get on with the headliner” feeling of most concerts.

I hadn’t heard Brad Paisley’s latest album, Time Well Wasted, before going to this concert. I’d just been too busy to pick it up until about a week before the concert. I am very familiar with his previous album, Mud on the Tires.

The concert was great. Brad is a naturally talented entertainer, has a very likeable demeanor and great sense of humor. I wasn’t really into country music much before I was introduced to him. His music is so much fun to listen to and easy to identify with that I was hooked almost immediately. If you own only one country album, it should be Mud on the Tires.