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In the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, a bunch of pirates run around and act like dicks while being pursued by ghosts, all while trying not to sink.

Actually … that’s basically the plot of all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Therefore, it’s depressingly no surprise that the new one, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, rehashes the same plot with Johnny “The Whore” Depp doing his whole drunken Keith Richards pirate routine again as Jack Sparrow.

Actually, his Keith Richards routine has devolved into something more akin to Dudley Moore’s routine in Arthur 2: On the Rocks: The original was somewhat funny, but the gag got tired really quickly.

So it goes with Depp’s meandering, mumbling, tipsy performance as Jack Sparrow, the feared pirate with whom everybody seems to have some sort of problem. Depp’s laboring with a joke that stopped being funny four movies ago.

This time out, a new legion of undead sailors is after Jack, because he has a compass that can lead them back to the land of the living, or some bullshit like that. The band of dead sailors is led by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), some dude who was trying to rid the world of pirates when he was alive, but wound up a cursed ghost under the sea due to a young Sparrow’s clever trick.

Young Sparrow is depicted in a flashback that has Depp becoming the latest star to be de-aged by CGI. This movie trick is leading to some genuinely creepy-looking stuff. I liked it when they did it to Kurt Russell in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, but this time out, it just looks weird.

Bardem’s Salazar looks kind of cool in this film. He’s sort of half-blown up, and he always looks like his hair is flowing in water, even when he’s above ground. There, I said something relatively positive about this crap.

As for the plot, there’s also some nonsense involving Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) trying to un-curse his dead father, Will (Orlando Bloom), yet another undead pirate. He must do something with the compass that Sparrow possesses to bring Will back. If he succeeds, that means Orlando Bloom will be back in full swing for more Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which had me rooting for the compass to be burned in a “Please, No More Orlando Bloom Movies!” bonfire.

If that plot doesn’t give you enough déjà vu, Geoffrey Rush is back as Barbossa, the monkey-toting dude who was dead in the first movie, but is now resurrected. Like that of Depp, Rush’s pirate routine got tired after the first movie.

The best part of the film belongs to Paul McCartney, who makes a cameo as Uncle Jack, Jack Sparrow’s imprisoned relative. McCartney delivers a few good lines with the sort of deft comic timing he displayed more than 50 years ago in A Hard Days Night and Help! It’s too bad this wasn’t his movie, because he’s far more interesting than Depp’s played-out, gimmicky bits. Also, kudos to him for singing The Beatles’ “Maggie Mae” in his jail cell. Nice touch. There, I’ve said two good things about this piece of crap.

If you must, stay for the credits, because there’s an after-credits scene that sets up further adventures—even though Disney keeps saying each Pirates film is the last one. My recommendation: Don’t stay for the credits, and instead get your ass out of the theater as soon as possible. Actually, just stay home and don’t watch this insulting cash machine at all.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is playing in a variety of formats at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

“This is the biggest gig we’ve ever played!” Sir Paul McCartney told the crowd of about 400 people at the beginning of his last-minute show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, Oct. 13.

That bit of hyperbole from the former Beatle aside, it was indeed a big day for those who had made it into Pappy’s for the show, which had been announced just hours before. Those hoping to attend were told to arrive with $50, cash only, around 3 p.m. to stand in line for a 6:30 p.m. entrance and an 8:30 p.m. show. I arrived around 2:30 p.m. (as an invited media guest, meaning I knew I would get in, thank goodness) and noticed as we drove up the hill to Pappy’s that the parking lots were closed, and a line already wound all the way into the back of Pioneertown near the Pioneer Bowl.

Around 3:30 p.m., as members of the California Highway Patrol watched, the first 300 people in line were given slips of paper guaranteeing entrance into the show. Those who didn’t get a slip were told to leave: They were out of luck. When the gates finally opened early, around 5 p.m., people immediately came in to grab spots up front—even though they faced yet another wait of more than three hours.

Considering that some of McCartney’s fans who attended his recent show at Amoeba Records in Hollywood had to wait outside for four days, Thursday’s inconveniences were no big deal.

Alas, Pappy and Harriet’s normal food service was cancelled on Thursday, meaning the always-alluring the smell of barbecue on the back patio was missing. However, attendees willing pay $13.95 could enjoy a vegan dinner, complete with a bread roll and coffee.

Shortly before 8:30 p.m., Paul McCartney took the stage—obviously in a much-scaled-down way compared to the shows he’s been performing at Desert Trip and in sold-out stadiums around the world. Not even a grand piano was an option, so he made do with a smaller-sized piano. He started off his 19-song set with “Save Us” from his 2013 album New, and followed with “A Hard Day’s Night.”

His 90-minute included some rarities and some surprising omissions. For example, he didn’t perform “Jet,” a popular song from his days with Wings which was the second song in his first-weekend set at Desert Trip.

Before playing “I’ve Got a Feeling,” he asked those standing in front if they could take a seat, so the people in the back—including me—could have a glance at him. Immediately, a bunch of phones from the back went up, with Paul in the distance on the screens as attendees desperately tried to get a photo of him in front of that Pappy’s stage backdrop.

After “Lady Madonna,” McCartney addressed the back of the crowd again, asking if they were all right. One eager fan toward the front got his attention. “That doesn’t qualify as the back,” McCartney told him, noting lightheartedly that the person obviously didn’t follow directions.

I’ll never forget the sound of the fans fortunate enough to attend filling up Pappy’s with their voices as they sang along on songs like “Band on the Run,” “Ob-La Di, Ob-La Da” and “Hey Jude.” I imagine proud Pappy and Harriet’s owners Robyn Celia and Linda Krantz will remember the moment forever, too.

The encore included some nice surprises: “Hi Hi Hi” was first, followed by “Birthday” and concluding with “I Saw Her Standing There.”

After “I Saw Her Standing There,” it remained dark in Pappy’s for a few minutes as fans hoped he would return and play one or two more songs. After all, “Let It Be” hadn’t been played yet—but then the lights came on, and it was evident the show was over. Nonetheless, people were pleased—after all, they’d just seen Paul McCartney kick ass in a small venue in the desert.

Many local musicians, not surprisingly, were in attendance, including Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Brant Bjork, David Catching and Robbie Waldman of Waxy. They were somewhat fortunate: A number of local musicians were not there despite their best efforts. Juan Gonzalez of the Kathys told me he did not get a ticket, because, quote, “I fucked up.” He explained that he went hiking around Pioneertown after he showed up, thinking he was too early to get in line.

When I asked Brant Bjork toward the end of the show if he ever thought Paul McCartney would play Pappy and Harriet’s, he smiled.

“No,” he said. “But he should.”

Setlist

Save Us

A Hard Day’s Night

Juniors Farm

Can’t Buy Me Love

Let Me Roll It

I’ve Got a Feeling

My Valentine

1985

We Can Work It Out

I’ve Just Seen a Face

Love Me Do

Queenie Eye

Lady Madonna

Day Tripper

Ob-La Di, Ob-La Da

Band On The Run

Hey Jude

Encore

Hi Hi Hi

Birthday Song

I Saw Her Standing There

Below: Photos of the atmosphere at Pappy's, by Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

Published in Reviews

Goldenvoice's first-ever Desert Trip, from Friday, Oct. 7, through Sunday, Oct. 9, drew tens of thousands of fans from around the world to see Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Sir Paul McCartney, The Who and Roger Waters—and they're doing it all over again this coming weekend.

Independent assistant editor Brian Blueskye and photography contributor Guillermo Prieto (Irockphotos.net) were fortunate enough to take in the inaugural Desert Trip—also known by some snarkier folks as Oldchella and Agecoach—from the grandstands.

For a recap of day one, click here.

For a recap of day two, click here.

For a recap of the final day, click here.

Here are some images from the grandstands and from around the festival grounds, all by Prieto.

After a thrilling (if traffic-choked) first day of Desert Trip, attendees returned on Oct. 8 for Day 2—excited about the performance of Saturday headliner Paul McCartney.

But before Sir Paul took the stage, it was time for Neil Young and his current band, the Promise of the Real, which includes Willie Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Micah. Let’s just say the appearance of the stage was … odd.

On both stage right and left were large teepees with “Water is Life” painted on them; two smaller teepees flanked each of the large ones. The backdrop resembled a canvas bag of seeds, with the words “Seeds of Life. Indio, CA. Organic.” This was a reference to Neil Young’s latest album, recorded with the Promise of the Real, titled Earth, which references the plight of the small farmer, Monsanto, environmentalism and many other farming and environmental issues. Considering Young sits on the board of Farm Aid and was one of its founders, his interest in farming issues should come as no surprise.

Young took the stage as the sun was setting, but only after a few women pretended to plant and maintain seeds. He started off his set alone playing “After the Gold Rush” and his 1972 hit—and only No. 1 single—“Heart of Gold.” He continued with “Comes a Time” and “Mother Earth.”

At the end of his four-song solo set, men in white hazmat suits came out shooting tanks of air onto the stage, apparently meant to symbolize chemicals. The Promise of the Real then joined Young to play “Out on the Weekend” and “Human Highway.”

The song “Down by the River” featured an extended jam, with Young and Lukas Nelson trading impressive guitar solos. A few minutes later, Young joked with the crowd about how Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, would be closing Desert Trip with on Sunday night, saying, “Roger is going to build a wall and make Mexico great again!” After playing “Welfare Mothers,” Young suggested that it should become Donald Trump’s new campaign song.

Young closed out his set with “Rockin’ in the Free World,” joking that he only had 40 seconds left in his set and that he was going to try to play it in its entirety within that time. Thankfully, the song went on for about five minutes and was incredible.

Young’s set was energetic, mixing material new and old. The Promise of the Real proved to be a perfect backing band, ably handling Young’s Southern and country rock, and even his heavier rock material.

At 9:45 p.m., Paul McCartney walked onto the stage after the Beatles’ “Revolution 9” blasted over the PA system. He started his set with “Hard Day’s Night” and followed with “Jet,” which featured a colorful video on the big screen showing clouds in a pink hazy sky with a jet flying through.

“We’re going to have a party in here, Liverpool-style!” McCartney declared.

He mistakenly called the audience “Coachella” throughout much of his set, but he later on referred to “Indio” a couple of times. The first half seemed to be a warm-up, as he was clearly pacing himself. McCartney’s not Mick Jagger, who runs around onstage; he’s not Neil Young, who plays grunge-style guitar chords. He’s not a high-energy performer. And that’s just fine.

In fact, during the latter part of the first half of his almost-three-hour set, he slowed things down even more, performing the early Beatles/Quarrymen demo song “In Spite of All the Danger” in front of a hologram of an old, rundown house in the night. The hologram remained for “Love Me Do” and “And I Love Her.”

McCartney took the time to explain the meaning of the song “Here Today,” about a conversation that he and John Lennon never got to have—and how you never know how long you’ll be able to have conversations with people before they are gone. The emotional tune brought a few tears to people’s eyes—which was no surprise, especially given the news of the murders of two police officers in Palm Springs earlier that day.

After McCartney performed “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” things picked up and became more intense. He also brought out Neil Young to perform “Day in the Life,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” and “Give Peace a Chance.”

The performances of “Band on the Run” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.” made for great visuals on the video wall. The album cover of Paul McCartney and Wings’ Band on the Run album suddenly became animated, with each of the members on the cover talking to each other and laughing. “Back in the U.S.S.R.” featured animated pop art and footage of people in the old Soviet Union doing everyday activities—even Russian dancing.

The Rolling Stones ended the show on Friday with pyrotechnics—and McCartney outdid them during “Live and Let Die.”

Before the encore, people sang along to the chorus of “Hey Jude” for a few minutes as McCartney told the boys to sing it, then the girls, and then everyone. As for the encore, McCartney mentioned the Rolling Stones covered “Come Together,” so he had decided to return the favor and cover their first UK hit single, “I Wanna Be Your Man,” which was followed by “Helter Skelter,” complete with very trippy visuals. He closed out the night with “Carry That Weight.”

Published in Reviews

The unofficial nickname of Desert Trip, as everyone knows, is “Oldchella.” The jokes have been flying regarding the possibility of AARP discounts at the Empire Polo Club, where Goldenvoice is holding the three-day affair over two consecutive weekends.

After night one of Desert Trip, it’s official: The crowd at Desert Trip is certainly older than the Coachella audience. Nonetheless, the concert, featuring older legends of rock ‘n’ roll, still had an incredibly exciting vibe.

First up on Friday night, Oct. 7, was Bob Dylan. I’m a fan of Dylan’s recordings from the 1960s; I own all of them and know most of them by heart. But in the ’70s, he went electric and shifted his musical style—and his live shows can be a disappointment if you’re not a fan of everything he’s ever done. In fact, during one recent concert, he apparently did not have a song in his set list from before 1997.

Chuck Klosterman was right in his most recent book, But What If We’re Wrong, when he stated that Bob Dylan does not rock—instead, he serenades the crowd with his lyrics as he goes in whatever direction he wants to take.

Dylan started his set by hinting that he was going to play the classics. He opened with “Rainy Day Woman” (with many people screaming, “Everybody must get stoned!”) and followed with “Don’t Think Twice” and “Highway 61.” The structures of the songs, however, were altered to have more of a country or country-rock sound. Dylan was seated at his piano for most of the night as the giant screen behind him played vintage footage—of construction, a train moving down the track, people during the Great Depression, and so on. Later, “Twist of Fate” was the best song of his set.

It was an honor to see Dylan performing at Desert Trip. Hey, he’s Bob Dylan, and he can do whatever he wants. In his set, which was just more than an hour, he offered a nice mix of classics and more recent material.

As the intermission passed the hour-long mark, growing anticipation for the Rolling Stones could be felt throughout the entire festival. When the show finally began, it was magical.

The Stones rolled in, acknowledged the crowd, and started a two-hour set with “Start Me Up” and “You Got Me Rocking.” Mick Jagger mentioned the band has been in the recording studio recently working on Blue and Lonesome, which is scheduled for release in December. The band played one of the new tracks, a cover of Bukka White’s 1937 Delta blues track, “Shake ‘Em on Down.”

Just about every classic Rolling Stones track, with the exception of “Street Fighting Man,” was played on Friday night. Keith Richards performed “Slipping Away” by himself before the band, sans Jagger, backed him on “Little T&A.” One of the biggest crowd responses came during “Miss You,” as the audience sang the “ooooooh ooooooh” parts and danced to its funky rhythm. Even Sir Paul McCartney, in a private loge directly behind some media seats, danced along to the song with his wife, Nancy Shevell. “Sympathy for the Devil” featured a visual on the video wall of demonic scrolls and symbols.

“Gimme Shelter” featured amazing backing vocals; the female vocal lead who sang the chorus was phenomenal. Speaking of vocals: The encore started with the University of California Irvine choir singing the intro to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” before Mick Jagger and the rest of the band joined them.

After closing with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the sky lit up with a fireworks show that went on for about two minutes before the band finally took a bow.

I’d never seen the Rolling Stones live before, and I can now say that no DVD or live album does them justice. I don’t care how old they are: The band turned in an energetic, packed set. It was pretty damn awesome.

Published in Reviews

Ron Howard directs The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years, the first major Beatles documentary since The Beatles Anthology in the 1990s.

While the Anthology is still the most definitive account of the greatest band to ever walk the Earth—it’s damn near perfect—Howard does a nice job of culling footage snippets of the band during the short-lived touring days, screaming fans included (one of them being Sigourney Weaver, who is seen both in vintage footage and in a present-day interview).

The surviving Beatles—Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr—participate with interviews, while John Lennon and George Harrison have a strong presence in archived interviews. As with Anthology, there’s no narrator, just the voices of the Fab Four either recounting those crazy touring days or commenting on them as they were happening.

That stretch ended right before Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, when The Beatles became a studio band and eschewed live performances. As the film demonstrates, that decision came about not because they didn’t love playing together, but because they were basically afraid for their lives.

Hardcore fans will be familiar with most of the interviews and performances, although you will see and hear some surprises. This film is actually a great starting point for anyone looking to get to know more about the band. Keep this in mind when you check them out: This band did what they did in just seven years. SEVEN YEARS. That’s how long it takes many current bands to put out one album.

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years is streaming on Hulu.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

I had the pleasure of seeing Sir Paul McCartney at Coachella a few years back—a few decades after he made his debut with a little bar band from Liverpool. At a festival full of amazing up-and-comers, Paul vanquished them all with a Beatles-heavy set that paid beautiful tribute to mates George Harrison and John Lennon.

Paul McCartney and Wings: Rockshow, recorded in 1976, features Paul McCartney and Wings, the fine band he put together after calling it quits with that little bar band that wound up becoming the single greatest entity in rock/pop history. Here, we see McCartney, with wife Linda in tow, getting used to the idea of playing in front of large crowds again. (The Beatles quit touring in the late 1960s because they were basically afraid for their lives.)

The set is a mixed bag. He does make a few nods to the Beatles catalogue with nice versions of “The Long and Winding Road,” “Blackbird” and “Lady Madonna.” But this is mostly a Wings/solo McCartney affair, and for every “Live and Let Die” or “Maybe I’m Amazed,” there’s a “Silly Love Songs” or “Beware My Love.” His Wings stuff definitely had some gold—but it offered up some clunkers as well.

When I saw McCartney in concert here at Coachella, he handled all of the vocals with full-throated bravado. In Rockshow, he lets guitarists Denny Laine and the late Jimmy McCulloch handle quite a few tunes. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t what you want to hear when you pop in a McCartney Blu-ray. And as much as I loved Linda, she pretty much just took up space as a musician onstage.

The video actually warns light-sensitive people about its blinking strobe lights at the beginning. I thought that was silly, but I left the room for a second and returned to see my living room looking like a disco. They weren’t kidding.

Special Features: “A Very Lovely Party” is a little short containing backstage footage. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing