Friday, July 23, 2010

Bilal and Antibalas concert reviews 7/22/10 New York




JULY 22, 2010

There is no doubt in my mind that singer/songwriter Bilal is an artist of considerable talent and possibly even genius.

And I don’t throw that genius word around easily.

But he’s also clearly a musical eccentric. Which can be a mixed blessing.

Walking on the stage in camouflage pants and a T-shirt that read, simply, “RIOT,” I at first wondered if this was indeed the star of the show. Frankly, he looked so casual he would have fit in with most of the audience. Jumping right in, his mellow sound and slow start to the show made the “RIOT” shirt almost ironic. He had time to talk to a kid on stage. He threw a football to some players behind him. Mr. Oliver did just about everything but capture the audience. I watched a group of a dozen high school students in front of me text messaging, reading, and chatting on their phones.

If three were paying attention it was a lot.

And he wasn’t connecting much better with the rest of the crowd who applauded politely to this most mellow of fellows.

About 45 minutes into the thus far disappointing set, he suddenly stated, “This is the kind of song you have to pour your guts into.”
And he did just that. It was like he was a different performer. Popeye had suddenly eaten his spinach; if there had been a roof he would have torn it off. For whatever reason, a fire had been lit under him and song after song, I realized just how great this young man is. Elements of jazz, rock, blues and of course R&B and everything in between emanated from him and he pulled them all off masterfully.

That is, until the guy just abruptly stopped. And declared the show over.

No build up. No nothing.

Just over.

“Odd,” I thought to myself.
Maybe realizing that what had just transpired hadn’t quite lived up to his hype, the announcer/festival producer who had sung Bilal’s praises, took the stage. “I never do this…” but he literally called the band back out.

Bilal declared that he was unprepared for his encore and the band practically huddled, figuring out what to perform. Nonetheless, it was smoking. As was the next and next and everything after.

It was like an “overtime” had been declared. And thank Heaven because it turned it into a memorable gig.

Bilal left the stage, plugging the wrong venue for his upcoming 9/18 BB King’s CD release show. Then he came back, corrected the mistake, and referred to himself as a “space case.”

Well, there may be some truth to that as today the eccentricities certainly showed. But so did the genius.

Like many of the true greats, you really don’t know from minute to minute just what this performer is going to do. And the funny thing is I doubt he does either. Which makes for an experience that’s live, not Memorex.

And isn’t that what a concert is all about?

--Evan Ginzburg



JULY 22, 2010

Antibalas, the famed Brooklyn based Afrobeat group, have received worldwide acclaim as the “house band” for the brilliant Broadway show Fela.

And rightfully so.

As I’ve seen this musical collective many times since their inception, I can tell you for a fact that their dozen years together have served them well. They have evolved into master showmen and are a world class act.

Forming a near circle on stage in the gorgeous venue, the ten piece outfit were so tremendous on this night it bordered on the supernatural. Their music is driving and hypnotic; the hour forty-five show felt like it was a fraction as long. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that it seemed like the clock had almost stopped. Every one of the twelve hundred plus fans were on their feet and transformed into a throbbing mass of dancing, swaying, and grooving bodies.

Interestingly enough, their music now has hints of Latin and even Arabic influences beyond their Afrobeat forte. And it only made their near flawless set that much more impressive.

One Fela number built to such a crescendo that it reached a level of musicianship that few groups could ever hope to match. A mob of musicians had somehow, seamlessly merged into one.

If there was one flaw to the evening it was the three hour wait for tickets, entrance to the venue, and the lengthy time before the show actually started. It all felt a bit excessive. This was a mature, well behaved group of music loving fans, not enemy soldiers storming this castle which was built during the War of 1812.

Interestingly, the drummer was a white kid who looked about 14 (but who likely is a few years older). You’d figure he’d be listening to Rap or Rock or whatever else our youth is tuning into. But isn’t it our good fortune that he chose Afrobeat as his muse? Ditto all our other local heroes in Antibalas who carry Fela’s torch ever so proudly.

Bravo and thank you for a truly wonderful show.

--Evan Ginzburg-

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rafael Saadiq & Aloe Blacc Concert Review Summerstage 7/17/10

Concert Review-

Rafael Saadiq/Aloe Blacc

Central Park Summerstage NYC 7/17/10

Keeping the R&B torch alive with real soul music was the story at today’s packed to the gills Central Park concert presented by the noted Giant Step organization.

To see topnotch musicians along with horn sections in an age where too many rappers set the bar so low is encouraging to say the least.

California based Aloe Blacc, looking retro dapper in a get-up that would have fit right in a ‘70s Fred Williamson flick, performed a solid set of crowd-pleasing original soul numbers. He repeatedly expressed his love of soul music and was definitely “in the tradition.” His song I Need a Dollar from the thoroughly enjoyable HBO series How to Make It in America was a highlight for yours truly. I do believe, however that when you keep mentioning guys like Al Green and Bobby Womack, and even tease a bit of Love and Happiness, you’d best have some sort of stage show beyond swaying to the music and doing a couple of steps. Because as good a singer and songwriter as he is, as a stage performer he most certainly paled in comparison to his idols. Nonetheless it’s certainly understandable that he’s not at that level this early in his career. And from what I saw, I do expect great things from this young man.

Speaking of young men- and women- I watched about 50 of them walk into the free concert with less than a handful donating anything despite volunteers imploring them to do so. Later, the announcer asked folk to roll up their blankets to make space for the 1,000 or so people still on line waiting to get in. A collective groan was let out and only a fraction of the folk bothered to move. This was the selfish “Me Generation” at their worst. And two of my friends were, in fact, never allowed onto the grounds due to the space limitations.


Following Blacc, Vikter Duplaix, a DJ who had been flown in from California played a nice set of mostly ‘70s R&B classics. Hey, I could have pulled the very same records out of my 2,000 strong collection and saved them the airfare. Plus I probably wouldn’t have deafened the audience who had enough to deal with in surviving the ninety degree plus heat. Thanks also to SummerStage for putting the lone water fountain I saw behind a barricade- it’ll certainly add to the concession sales, but won’t be so wonderful the first time they carry somebody out.

So almost two and a half hours into this endurance contest- after two pounding DJ sets, Mr. Blacc, and a decent enough rapper in opener TK Wonder, Rafael finally comes out in an all white outfit looking too cool to sweat. I’m talking a band in suits and ties. Old school all the way. And he’s lean and mean like he just got out of the gym. After seeing enough performers looking like the kids sitting next to you on the subway, or older stars obese to the point of sedentary where they’ll literally sit in a chair an entire show, the guy just carries himself like a star.

And in 2010 that’s refreshing.

Now I’ve loved and supported his music going back to Tony! Toni! Tone! and later Lucy Pearl, as well as his great recent solo albums. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed his TV concerts which regularly float around various PBS and Cable channels. And I most certainly was entertained by what I saw today; on every level he’s a world class singer, songwriter, and stage performer. Yet, at times it felt almost too controlled, too polished for my tastes, like when he zipped through a half dozen of his hits early in the show. There just wasn’t that “sense of danger,” like when an Al Green suddenly, unexpectantly changes songs right in the middle of one and the band tries to “play catch up.” I doubt the Producer, the control side of Rafael, would allow much of that. And where was that raw Bobby Womack, Otis Redding, or Wilson Pickett type cry from deep in your soul? Hell, it’s probably absolutely unfair to make comparisons to legends like these as that’s not even what Rafael’s shooting for. But as a live concert experience- I saw Al Green in his 70s prime when frenzied women would literally storm the stage and in his 80s gospel glory- this just wasn’t in the same ballpark for me.

Regardless, a half hour or so before wrapping up the ninety minute show, they did seem to deviate from the script a bit, even playing a bit of It Feels Good “just for New York.” And loosening things up towards the very end, they “gave the drummer some” and it was smoking. Ending on a high note, the debonair Rafael received the adulation he most certainly deserves.

You know, I may never, ever again see anything as great as a 1970s Al Green doing Love and Happiness live. And being jaded isn’t my best quality as this gig was damn good by any standards. So Rafael, no disrespect intended; I will buy your CDs ‘till the day I die. And I’m sure I’ll pay money to see ‘ya live, too.

In short, I’m sincerely happy that the R&B torch has been passed down to the capable hands of gentlemen like Aloe Blacc and Rafael Saadiq who love what they do and it shows.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ginzburg’s Gab

By Evan Ginzburg

Reprinted from Wrestling- Then & Now newsletter

Welcome to our 20th anniversary issue of Wrestling- Then & Now newsletter- WT&N if you will. Yes, 20 years. And that’s pretty much like dog years in the zine or sheet world if you will. There’s not a whole lot of us left with the Net pretty much killing us dead. But we’re still here doing what we do, albeit on a less frequent schedule.

You know I’m proud of what this sheet represents. It’s the sweat and blood of doing this for over two decades, 180 issues, multiple annuals, literally thousands of pages, and most importantly the pouring of our guts onto the printed page about a sport that’s been bastardized and practically destroyed. Yet we’re still somehow here and as always, with feeling.

You know, I don’t give a damn about Pay Per Views, which “sports entertainer” jumped from WWE to TNA, or the latest lowbrow wrestling angle or sad attempt at comedy. Never have, never will. This has always been a zine, a self-published exploration of something you are passionate about, It’s never been about the money or doing the most commercial publication possible. We leave that to the Wade Kellers who have spent their entire adult lives reviewing the latest Pay Per Views, giving them far more importance than they will ever truly warrant.

So 20 years into publishing this, life has taken some twists and turns, tragic and joyful since I first started this. We lost several columnists like Killer Kowalsk and Bill McCormack who I still say was the finest pure WRITER in the history of sheets. This is a medium where information is king, and the scoop is the all important criteria by which all else is judged. But this man could make you cry. He could touch you with his words. And it was an honor to showcase him to an unfortunately smaller audience than he deserved at the time, but hopefully a much larger one on my WT&N website. We also lost readers and occasional columnists like Joe Margosian and Randy Spotts- tragically both to suicides- and what more can I say that hasn’t been said already about them? All I can think of is if you have someone in your life who is talking suicide, take them seriously. Very seriously.

Most painful of all was the loss of my beloved brother, Tiger Khan, who passed 4 years ago this June and we always remember and keep his name alive. Let his death be a warning to anyone living “the wrestling lifestyle.” He was intelligent and knew the risks but was in denial like so many we lost before him and so many we’ll most likely lose after. “Don’t worry, Evan. I cycle on and off” he told me many times. “I don’t take the mega-doses like the other guys,.” Well, he went to sleep at age 33 and never woke up. And his father who just passed the other week never recovered, nor has his mother. These aren’t cartoon characters on a TV screen, they’re flesh and blood people who have a lot of folk who love them and still hurt that they’re gone. We’ll all never be the same. And like Trent Acid the other day, the body count keeps growing and growing.

Just recently, our sister sheet if you will, The Wrestling Chatterbox, saw it end with the passing of my dear friend Georgie, who remarkably was buried with a picture of her with Bruno and Buddy Rogers. Somehow that seems so fitting.

WT&N has gone from a primitive looking format to a slicker one under production ace Jeff Archer (who returns to do our cover this go round) and right back to more primitive in recent years which somehow seems to make sense considering wrestling and this newsletter peaked in popularity over 10 years ago. But I just don’t have the heart to pull the plug and maybe this will be a lifetime thing ala Georgie’s, only less regularly.

Like everything else, time will tell.

Time. And the passing of it. That’s pretty much been the theme of this sheet. Over the past 20 years we’ve been honored to have interviewed so many legends, to even have some of them write for us, to help preserve the history of this sport, even if the so called historians never quite respected what we do, waving their mighty hands and dismissing this as mere nostalgia. Noses entrenched in that microfiche, I don’t “get” what they do nor particularly enjoy it, but I respect the time and effort and passion with which they dig up those ancient results and articles and such. It is most definitely a service as pro wrestling is a sport that most people look down upon and the historians are among the ones keeping it alive. But I also truly believe that what we’ve done right here also matters in a sense. Telling just WHY this sport will always be in my heart, making the doubters understand, does count for something.

You know, I saw Ricky Steamboat wrestle Ric Flair live. And it was art. I saw The Midnight Express elevate tag team wrestling to a different level. I watched the 4 Horsemen live in Philly. I saw Bruno and SuperStar rock arenas. Tiger Mask took on Dynamite Kid and I sat in MSG transfixed. As did I when I saw Nigel McGuiness and Bryan Danielson put on the modern equivalent of Dory Funk, Jr. vs. Jack Brisco.

Art. All of it art. And maybe we helped people realize it.

And you know what, doing all of this led me to my position as Associate Producer on Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. That is art, too. 100 years from now people will enjoy that film and Mickey’s iconic performance. And I’ll be long buried, but there I’ll be acting ever so briefly with him in his Academy Award nominated performance and that’s my little piece of immortality.

Off Broadway in NYC recently had the play The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity which was Pulitizer nominated. That too is art. And it’s about wrestling. You see, it doesn’t always have to be about the low brow and reaching the lowest common denominator. If I never saw 90% of the WWE and TNA crew again it would be too soon, and if I never saw another edition of Raw, Smackdown, and TNA I’d live my life quite well, thank you.

You know, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life involved in wrestling. Whether it’s reading about it, watching it, interviewing its stars, catching shoot interviews, etc. Thousands of live cards over 36 yeaars. Thousands of hours of TV. Countless pages and the hours writing, editing and proofreading them. Do I regret it? No. But do I feel the same way about a sport that helped result in the death of one of my closest friend and that spits on its own roots? Of course, not. Hey, they’re not wrestlers anymore, they’re sports entertainers. And we’re not fans- we’re part of the WWE universe.

Sure, we are. Keep your universe, Vince.

At times it actually makes me angry when I watch a Raw with HHH doing 20 minutes of Cro-Magnum speak or some D list celeb getting his ass kissed as he hosts the show and plugs some forgettable film or TV show. In fact, it more than angers me, it depresses me. You see, I grew up in a time when super heroes and super villains walked the Earth. Bruno and SuperStar and Kowalski and Arion and Von Ehrich and Nikolai and Blassie and The Wizard and Captain Lou and Koloff and so many others. It wasn’t real, but it was so very real to all of us.

It was a choice to turn it into a circus. A sad, tragic choice and there’s no turning back. ROH is like the little oasis out there that keeps the tradition. Support it. Support your local indie. And thanks for all your support of everything we have done and will continue to do here.

I reach more people now in a week on radio than in a year’s worth of this sporadically published sheet, and we continue to preserve history with the legends archived forever on the Net. So many of our radio guests have passed, but they’re there for your listening pleasure forever. Free and just a click of your mouse. And I think that counts for something, too.

It is with a sense of pride, joy and melancholy that each and every issue of this newsletter has been put into the mail for so many years. I sincerely hope there will be many more to come. I thank what’s left of my staff and of course the readers, many of whom have been with me since the beginning and whom I consider friends and even family. When I thought long and hard about what to put on the cover- which wrestler, which clip, it just hit me. These are my friends I’m sending this out to. Much like Georgie Makropolous did. Why not, “the wedding shot?” Share my joy. And that’s kind of like what we’ve done with this sheet for so many years- sharing the joy that this once great sport has given so many of us.

Ric Flair walking that aisle. Terry Funk. Sgt. Slaughter. Mr. Wonderful. Adrian Adonis. Eddie Guerrero. Sensational Sherri. Moolah. Eddie Gilbert. Mick Foley. Dean Malenko. The Fabulous Valiant Brothers- Jimmy and Johnny. Afa and Sika. The Iron Sheik. Superfly. Muraco. Pat Patterson. The Road Warriors. Abby and Brody and The Original Sheik. Saw them all. Live and in living color.
Yes, greatness. I have sat at the foot of greatness and the memories are with me forever. And it’s been an honor and a privilege to have shared them with you for oh so many years.

Thank you, my friends.
Thank you.

Wrestling- Then & Now is published several times a year at PO Box 640471 Oakland Gdns. Station Flushing NY 11364

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George Clinton & Naomi Shelton concert reviews

Concert Review

George Clinton

Alive at 5 Festival Stamford, Connecticut


Take 3,000 or so people of every race, creed, color and age, put them in a narrow outdoor free concert space sandwiched between a variety of packed restaurants and bars, and you have the makings of a memorable P-Funk show.

Now I’ve been to some dozen plus Parliament-Funkadelic shows over thirty years. And in all honesty, this was far from the best or worst I’ve ever seen.

What it was, actually, was the shortest.

Clocking in at a “mere” 90 minutes due to curfew, with George not taking the stage for the first 20 or so, one questioned the necessity of two opening bands. Nonetheless George and massive crew were sizzling. Maybe with less time to stretch out, the pressure was on to hit the stage running and they did just that. And the highly appreciative audience ate up every bit of it.

Adding to the fun, I took a buddy who is a poet and psychologist who leans toward jazz, classical and rock music. He barely knew who George was, but was immediately caught up in the combination of craziness and brilliance. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he kept repeating. He actually pointed out to me that one brief refrain was a Zappa number and that George was in the spirit of both Zappa and Captain Beefheart, which I readily agreed with. Now said friend had spent the previous night at a Jimmy Webb show. In case you’re not familiar with the name, Webb is a revered songwriter who has written such chestnuts as Up, Up, and Away, MacArthur Park, and Wichita Lineman.

This was as far from a Jimmy Webb show as my pal was going to get.

“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” I told him.

This was evidenced clearly by one of my faves in Ms. Belita Woods. With her Billie Holliday and Macy Gray kind of “in her own zone” groove, she’d be a perfect jazz singer in a club somewhere in outer space in a Star Wars flick. When she started doing Sentimental Journey my friend the jazz buff just laughed joyfully and marveled at her wild interpretation, particularly when George “barked” along with her in his own inimitable gravelly singing style.

Speaking of style, Mr. Clinton was almost subdued in a mostly white outfit with orange headdress. He would have fit right in the nightclubs and bars overlooking the stage. He reminded me of a quite mad (in a good way that is) conductor, at times with his back to the audience, leading the twenty or so musicians and singers in a joyful, and at times almost operatic, noise.

To see thousands of people, including a “new audience” of young White kids grooving to all this and buying tons of P-Funk merchandise was great. To see the same White kids puking at our feet from overindulging in the readily available brew, and us literally scrambling to avoid projectile puke, was far less quaint. Guess there’s good and bad in everything.

George Clinton turns 69 years old next week. While many his age sit in senior centers playing cards and waiting ‘till they reach the pearly gates, he’s still on the road, still tireless, and still beyond great, taking us on a musical trip through a galaxy he created.

I love the guy with all my heart.

--Evan Ginzburg



7/15/10 NOON


Naomi Shelton is a Daptone Records gospel singer and label mate of the great Sharon Jones.

Backed by three female singers, her music is uplifting, joyful, and warm. As is she.

“Thank you, kindly,” she said again and again after most songs in her hour fifteen set. And she clearly meant it.

Now I’m not going to lie and say I enjoyed this old school gospel show more than a Hezikiah Walker or Kirk Franklin gig with their zillion member choirs and R&B vibe which is more “my thing.” But enjoy Ms. Shelton I did, as clearly did every single person in attendance.

And after the show, when I bought a 45 (yes, you read that right) from her, she literally hugged and kissed me.

And it’s not every day you get a kiss from a Queen.

Naomi Shelton regularly plays in the NYC area as well as tours. Catch her when you can. You’ll feel good that you did.

--Evan Ginzburg

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Evan's June NYC Concert Reviews



There are very few performers who can seamlessly blend R&B, jazz, show tunes, and toss in a tinge of gospel to boot.

Jennifer Holliday is one of them.

Had there been a roof at the beautiful, packed outdoor Brooklyn park, she surely would have blown it off. Backed by a great ensemble and the ultra tight Uptown Horns, this was one for the ages.

Holliday, minus 200 pounds, was looking better at 49 then she did as a 20 year Broadway star in Dreamgirls. And vocally she’s lost nothing. Speaking of two broken marriages, there was certainly pain behind many of her songs. But she held that audience in the palm of her hand and kept us right there throughout the remarkable hour forty set.

Joking that she “only has one hit,” Holliday courageously took on untouchable classics like Billie Holliday’s God Bless the Child and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. Lesser artists would have paled in comparison, but she made them her own. And her impeccable taste in material made for a flawless show without a single clinker.

Her finale, I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” was thrilling. In fact, it may have been as great as anything I’ve ever heard live, including an in his prime Al Green doing Love and Happiness and Luther singing A House is Not a Home. It led to a spontaneous standing ovation and fans swarming the stage to touch the dynamic diva.

It’s not every day you get a chance to sit at the foot of greatness, and the fact that it was free on a gorgeous day made it that much more memorable.


Evan Ginzburg



Brian Eno once described legendary Afro-Beat pioneer and Fela collaborator Tony Allen as “perhaps the greatest drummer to have ever lived.”

Now having seen Max Roach and Andrew Cyrille perform solo drum shows, and Art Blakey make folks dance in the aisles, I don’t know if I’d go that far. I’ve also been privileged to see greats like Philly Joe Jones, Rashied Ali, Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Ed Blackwell and so many others live and up close. So that “best” label always makes me a wee bit nervous.
But great he most certainly is and incredibly influential without question.

Allen isn’t a showy drummer with extended solos ala the often overrated rock Gods. Instead, he hits you with so many unique beats that it truly does sound like several people playing the kit simultaneously. And he moves seamlessly from jazzy sounds to funkier rhythms.

Quiet and humble on stage, Allen doesn’t have the charisma or showmanship of a Fela Kuti who I saw live twice in the 80s. Yet the audience at this joyful free outdoor gig was with him every step of the way during the hour forty set. The 70 year old giant had everyone from little kiddies to their parents dancing and ultimately giving him a deserved rousing ovation.

This 9 piece unit isn’t just world music, they’re world class. Let’s hope this tireless ambassador who did three shows in two days in The Big Apple keeps spreading the gospel of Afro-Beat.

-Evan Ginzburg


At the beginning of Gil Scott Heron’s free outdoor concert, he spoke of his recent world tour behind his new CD.

He noted that he found some of the reviews “strange.”

Well, this review is from a fan of some 35 years who holds Gil in the highest regard as a legend and a genius.

Yet today’s concert was disappointing.

The fact that Gil’s voice is a bit ragged wasn’t the issue. It was more that it felt like he was a guest at his own show. His lead-in banter to each song went on way too long. For example, the history of the word “jazz” is interesting enough, but was probably better suited for a college seminar than a concert stage. He also gave his fine band simply too much time to stretch out, including a lengthy number where he left the stage. Although it’s hard to fault such a generous leader, his presence at times was sorely missed. Throw in rapper Common doing two disappointingly uneven numbers, and the 90 minute show simply didn’t offer enough of its star’s incredible repertoire. Glaringly absent were many of his classics like Johannesburg and We Almost Lost Detroit.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was a bad show, but badly paced it was. And that fault lay at the feet of its well-intended star.

Hope this doesn’t sound too “strange,” Gil. I still love you.

Opener Derrick Hodge led a jazz trio which exhibited great musicianship and virtually no showmanship for a set that evoked an appreciative reaction. Whether I’ll remember it ten years from now remains to be seen.

--Evan Ginzburg