August 12, 2008

More Classic Albums Getting Live Treatment

NEW YORK - Play it again, Sam. The whole album, please - and in order.

An unmistakable trend in concert-going is the growing number of acts performing their classic albums in full. Part marketing gimmick, part an act of nostalgia, the performances are above all celebrations of the album as an art form. The album is being feted just as - thanks to iPods and MP3s - its demise is being portended.

At July's Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, Public Enemy performed its 1988 hip-hop classic It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Sebadoh played its 1993 lo-fi indie favorite Bubble and Scrape, and Mission of Burma played its 1982 full-length Vs.

Earlier this year at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in California, Roger Waters played the Pink Floyd classic Dark Side of the Moon as his second set.

All of these concerts follow other album performances by Jay-Z, Lucinda Williams, Sonic Youth, Wilco, Slint, Iron Maiden and GZA over the last two years.

The trend is even visible in movie theaters. Currently playing in select theaters is Julian Schnabel's concert film of Lou Reed performing his 1973 album, Berlin. Mr. Reed also did a tour of Berlin last year.

Though Mr. Reed did the shows on his own, it was Barry Hogan who first suggested the idea to him. Mr. Hogan is a London-based concert promoter for All Tomorrow's Parties, a festival whose "Don't Look Back" series has been the trendsetter in gettingbands to play their classic albums.

In its inaugural year in 2006, albums were performed by the Stooges (Funhouse), Gang of Four (Entertainment!), Belle & Sebastian (If You're Feeling Sinister), Cat Power (The Covers Record) and Dinosaur Jr. (You're Living All Over Me).

"When you first mention it to artists, a lot of them, their initial reaction is, 'What's wrong with our new stuff?'" Mr. Hogan said.

But they've been quicker to come around to the idea, he said. At the ATP festival Aug. 19-21 in the Catskills in upstate New York, Built to Spill, the Meat Puppets, Tortoise and Thurston Moore will all perform albums in full.

Wanting to expand her set lists was a major factor in Lucinda Williams' decision to perform five of her albums - 2003's World Without Tears, 2001's Essence, 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, 1990's Sweet Old World and 1988's self-titled disc - in New York and Los Angeles last fall.

"I have such a huge catalog now, that I don't get to play a lot of the songs," the singer-songwriter said. "And I miss a lot of them. We only have so much room in the set. I loved the idea because it kind of satisfied my need to get all those songs out again."

Originally published by Associated Press.

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