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coverpic flag US - Tennessee - Full Moon 116 - 03/15/06

Big Star
Tivoli, Utrecht, NL, 21.02.06

Big Star is really the only act apart from Bob Dylan (and 'maybe' the Velvet Underground) that I've seen live and I thought "I'm not worthy". Obviously Alex Chilton is not doing it for the money (unlike so many other artists who reform their once famous bands) and for him to come to Holland as part of this three-date 'world tour' to sing "September Gurls" and "Thirteen" to me and about 700 other lucky people at the lovely Tivoli almost 35 years after it was released is pretty much a miracle! Even if the show would have sucked I would have felt honored to be there.

It didn't though, but it started out a little slow, despite the fact that the first songs were classics like "In The Street", "Don't Lie To Me" and "When My Baby's Beside Me". Guitarist Jon Auer looked pretty sick (he had spent most of the day in bed suffering from food-poisoning, but looked a lot better in the second half of the show), and Chilton took a few songs to warm up as well. Drummer Jody Stephens was, as expected, just great.

"I Am The Cosmos" was the first song sung by Auer and it was just unbelievable how much better this current Big Star version is than Chris Bell's original (and it's not bad either, mind you). Auer also handled lead vocals on "Back Of A Car", along with bass player Ken Stringfellow, who himself got to sing a few songs, inlcuding the hard-rocking "Feel" close to the end of the show.

About halfway through - so far the band had only played songs off the classic first three albums from the 70s - Chilton decided it was time to road-test the new songs from their 2005 'comeback' album In Space and, somewhat surprisingly, they sounded great live and the audience loved them: The obvious choices ("Lady Sweet" sounds so much like a 70s BS song, it's almost scary) and even the not so obvious (like the obscure cover of "Mine Exclusively"). Chilton was in a great mood throughout the show, even asked for audience requests at one point and shook many hands in the front row before leaving the stage.

They closed the main set with a shaky "Big Black Car" and a rousing version of "Thank You Friends" (probably my favorite number of the entire show), but came back for two encores (the second long after the houselights were on and taped music was playing over the PA), which - in a typical Alex Chilton move - included three brandnew songs and the Todd Rundgren cover "Slut".

It was great to hear Stephen's best contribution to In Space, "February's Quiet", and it was funny to see how little input Chilton has when it comes to some of the new numbers. This song was all Stephens, Auer and Stringfellow, with Chilton merely strumming his rhythm guitar at the side of the stage.

What else can you say, but: "Thank You Friends. Thank You Again!" It was grand.

Copyright © 2006 Carsten Wohlfeld e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Big Star article/review: Mean Fiddler, London, 09.08.01.

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