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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss


September 17, 2006 

Saw The Who last night at the TD Banknorth Garden. Hands down one of the very, very best rock concerts I've ever been to. Those fantastic old men can fucking rock. They've not only never lost it, they maintain a level of quality and ability high above kids a third their age.

Musically, The Who put on a jaw-droppingly accomplished and consummate performace. The presentation, light show, and sensory immersion was top-notch. And look at those two codgers, they look great. They must bathe in formaldehyde. They're not leathery, animated mummified corpses like Jagger and Richards. Nor were they dressed like rock star clowns: Roger Daltrey was in faded blue jeans, blue T-shirt and blue shades; Pete Townshend wore a black shirt and blue jeans. They were dressed like stand-up comedians. They curse like sailors. And holy shit, can they rock.

We also discovered the hidden jewel of the TD Banknorth Garden: The Promenade section. No. it's not a mall in a space station, nerd, it's a hallway that rings entirely around the very top of the arena above the balconies. There's a single row of seats all around with an all-emcompassing view. There are private restrooms, your own snack bar, plenty of space to stretch out, you're separated far away from the rabble; it's great up there. I don't know which band was the opening act but the crowd hated them and let them know it. They even got booed when they said The Who were coming out next before leaving the stage.

Unlike, say, Axl Rose's two hour late arrivals, The Who made us wait a mere half an hour before taking the stage. Speaking of the stage, it seemed very plain compared to a U2 stage, no heart-shaped ramp filled with fans Bono can pull up and dance with, nor a curtain of lights telling us to join The One campaign. (In fact, never once did The Who batter us with their political views or tell us to text message Nelson Mandela's prison number.)

The Who's stage seemed very simple until they arrived, then a sea of lights changing color would bathe the arena while enormous, crystal clear high definition screens broadcast amazing vintage 16mm video of The Who's lives, the places they've been, the people they know, and all the eras of history they've rocked in. (Swinging 60's London seemed like it really was incredibly cool. I understand now how disappointed Austin Powers was in the world after he came out of cryo in 1997.) The effect of the lights, sights, and music was so immersive, you couldn't take your eyes of the stage. They pulled the 17,000 strong in attendance right into the show and never let us go.

Daltrey's not as agile as he was back in the day but he can still swing a microphone around like nunchucks. His mike control is excellent. And no one windmills his guitar like Townshend. Also, I had no idea Townshend loved to shoot the shit on the microphone as much as he does. Between every song, while Daltrey was stretching or pacing the darkened stage, Townshend got on the house mike and spun yarns. He name dropped Jagger and Richards (who got booed - Keith Richards is a heel in Boston?) and the Flaming Lips. Half the time, between the acoustics and his accent, he was unintelligible, but still fucking entertaining. The only thing missing from Townshend's chat's with the audience was an armchair and a fireplace. Also a laptop and some kiddie porn.

The Who are touring to plug their new album which drops in October and most of the new songs are pretty good, as was a tribute to Elvis Presley and a cover "Can't Help Falling In Love". But like any concert, especially by a superband that's been around for decades, the crowd came to hear the hits. The Who delivered "Behind Blue Eyes", "My Generation", "Pinball Wizard", and of course the CSI theme songs: "Who Are You", "Won't Get Fooled Again", and "Baba O'Riley".

"Baba O'Riley" came in about midway through after The Who tore through a medley of six short songs. It was one of the greatest out-of-body experiences I've ever had at a concert. Unforgettable. They carried the entire crowd in the palm of their hands. What was left out of the show was a bit of a disappointment. No "Bargain", "The Song Is Over", or "Love Reign O'er Me", the omission of which traumatized Jeff's brother Alex as we were leaving the Garden. The Who's encore was a few songs from "Tommy".

During the show, I was reminded of the concert held to honor the police and firefighters in Madison Square Garden after 9/11. They carted out people like Jay-Z, Beyonce, and the Backstreet Boys to entertain our brave public servants who put their lives on the line and lost so many of their peers that day, and I remember thinking what a miscalculation it was to have hip hop acts and boy bands out there. The cops and firefighters don't care about the fucking Backstreet Boys. Maybe their daughters did, but the concert wasn't to honor them. When The Who came out to close the show, I remember the pure joy on the faces of those cops and firefighters. They were so happy to hear The Who. Now I know how that feels. I hope those hard-rocking English coots stay healthy, keep rocking, and come around again. And play "Magic Bus."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Last Kiss (**)

September 12, 2006

Ten years ago there was a movie called Beautiful Girls. Timothy Hutton comes home to a snowy New England town, reunites with his old gang, is tempted by 13 year old Natalie Portman and Uma Thurman, and comes out of his personal crisis with a new understanding and affection for his fiance. There's a subplot about adultery, where Matt Dillon is cheating on Mira Sorvino with married Lauren Holly and gets his ass kicked for it. Hutton, Dillon, and their friends struggle with their relationships, hopes, dreams, and the realities of being in their 30's, becoming better people in the end than they were at the start. That was a good movie about good people.
The Last Kiss is about shitty people. It touches on some of the same themes as Beautiful Girls: men afraid to grow up, being tempted to throw away your relationship over fleeting lust for a younger girl, and adultery. Especially adultery. Adultery takes center stage. This movie is populated by jerks and assholes fucking their loved ones over. Zach Braff plays the lead asshole, engaged to Jacinda Barrett, who is three months pregnant. He's terrified of turning thirty, of being a husband, being a father because such a life will have "no surprises." What a shortsighted fucktard this guy is. At a wedding for one of his buddies, Braff is inexplicably hit on by Rachel Bilson, a bouncy hot college sophomore who inexplicably wants to do him. Braff hems and haws about how wrong this is but doesn't hesitate for a second to make dates with Bilson, go to frat parties with her, and make out with her, all the while continuing to hem and haw about how wrong it is. Then Barrett finds out and Braff lies to her face until he realizes the lies aren't working. She throws Braff out, so he decides to fuck Bilson, and then realizes he really loves Barrett. Kicking Bilson to the curb after finally telling her about having a fiance and kid on the way, Braff runs back to Barrett and sits on the porch of their condo until the movie ends and she forgives him for no good reason after rightly hating him for half the movie. What a treat it was to spend two hours with this guy. And what a treat for all these shitty things being done by shitty people to be played as a "dramedy", with jokes and humor erroneously and jarringly woven into the scenes of people screaming at each other over their adultery.
Meanwhile, Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkenson play the Jewish mother and Irish father to Barrett, who is incapable of hiding her Australian accent. Danner is jealous because Braff enjoys fucking his daughter and she wishes Wilkenson would fuck her more while the old man just wants to read a book in peace at bedtime. Danner throws a glass at him, reveals that she fucked Harold Ramis behind his back, and moves out of their house. Wilkenson's reaction to his wife fucking a Ghostbuster and then leaving him? He doesn't really have one. Neither does Barrett, who finds out over the phone and is pretty non-plussed about it. Nor does she react when she finds Danner suddenly back home and forgiven by her father after she finds out Braff cheated on her. Why did Danner have a change of heart and come back home? She couldn't figure out how the treadmill in her hotel gym worked and she burst into tears, I shit you not.
Meanwhile, Braff has some uninteresting friends who are in the movie mostly to pad the running time. One of them used to fuck Marley Shelton, makes an embarrassing scene at the wedding where Braff meets Bilson, and then decides he wants to go to South America. There's a second friend who is a big pussy hound but when his fuck buddy asks him to meet her parents, he suddenly also decides to go to South America. Finally, there is Casey Affleck, who is stuck in a loveless marriage with an infant son. He decides he has to leave his wife and go to South America. The three of them rent an RV and head off to drive from Wisconsin to South America. But Affleck, who it turns out is the only decent guy besides Wilkenson in the whole movie, decides to do the right thing and stay with his son, but not with his wife, who he can't stand. The other two assholes decide to drop Affleck on the side of a road so he has to hitchhike home. What the fuck is that? They couldn't turn around and drive their friend Affleck home? What, did they have a strict timetable to make the drive to South America? Also, the first friend, the one who used to fuck Marley Shelton, has a sick father who dies. The father's funeral is a meaningless throwaway, used a backdrop for Barrett finding out Braff has been cheating on her with Bilson. Braff never finds out or much cares his friend's father died and they left for South America. Who the fuck wrote this shit?
The big moral of the story, the big lesson Braff learns from Wilkenson after swearing up and down his cheating on Barrett had nothing to do with how much he loves her, is the exact same lesson from another, much better movie Wilkenson was in last year. What's the lesson, Mr. Wayne?
Bruce Wayne: It isn't what I say, it's what I do that defines me.
There you go. What matters is what you do. Children the world over learned that lesson thanks to Batman. Braff must not have seen Batman Begins. You can say you love someone all you want, but if you get them pregnant, agree to marry them, and then go fuck a hot college student because you're afraid your life will have "no surprises", then you're a fucking asshole. Hell, everyone knows that already, but Braff acted like this was somehow a new idea. If there are people in the theatre seeing The Last Kiss who slap their foreheads at that moral revelation and say, "I learned something from this movie", get up and sit far away from them, they're probably date rapists.
The Last Kiss got a few things right. Braff acted appropriately creepy and uncomfortable hiding in the bushes of a college campus waiting for Bilson to get out of class. Affleck had a scene where he figured out Braff was cheating on Barrett and wanted nothing to do with helping him lie. Barrett's anger at Braff hit the proper notes, although she had no reason to forgive him in the end. Also, there was a good bit of gratuitous nudity, both female (and unfortunately some male bare ass). But no nudity from Bilson as the lighting and use of body double go out of their way to hide her in a sex scene that demanded nudity.
To earn Barrett's forgiveness for cheating on her and throwing their entire future in disarray, Braff's penance is to sit on the porch of their condo until he's forgiven. At first he can't come in because she locks the chain on the door. He spends a few days lying on the porch, never leaving it, even when Barrett leaves the house to go to work. Apparently Braff, an architect, is free to not go to work and sit on his porch for days. This makes even less sense since he has keys to his condo and can enter when Barrett is away because the chain in the door isn't locked. But no, instead of doing anything logical, Braff stays out on the porch until Barrett forgives him and lets him back in so they can start over. If Barrett had half the sense she's supposed to have, Braff should sitting out there until the cops drag him away. She deserves what she gets for letting him back in. And I deserved what I got when the movie suddenly faded to black and the credits rolled; I got to leave.