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Nada Surf performs “What Is Your Secret?” with John Roderick on backup vocals live at Bumbershoot in Seattle on 9/1/2014

Bob Mould: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Bob Mould came alone, except for his 1987 Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster. We provided the Epiphone Blues Custom 30 amp, which he promptly cranked. Needless to say, he announced his own Tiny Desk Concert without using the paging system.

Mould isn’t a shy man — his power chords will tell you that — but he’s humble and gentle. Many know Mould from his days with Hüsker Dü, an awesome punkish band from Minnesota that laid the groundwork for the Pixies and more. His subsequent work with Sugar managed to do something none of his other records did so well: Copper Blue sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

Beauty and Ruin is solo album No. 11 for Mould, and as you can hear from these songs, he’s all amped up and ready to go. Sweaty and happy, he makes “Makes No Sense At All” his final calling card — classic Hüsker Dü.

Set List:

  • "The War"
  • "I Don’t Know You Anymore"
  • "Hey Mr. Grey"
  • "Makes No Sense At All"

Anthrax - “A Skeleton in the Closet” (Chile on Hell DVD, 2014)

Great song, great sound, and former Shadows Fall guitarist Jonathan Donais does an admirable job at mimicking Danny Spitz’s solo, but he definitely needs to loosen up and move a little more. And I very nearly had a seizure from all the fast-cut split-screen nonsense.

Nickel Creek: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Check out the pipes on Sara Effing Watkins on the opening song “Destination.”

Nickel Creek was made to sing and play around a single microphone, so a Tiny Desk Concert seemed inevitable. All it took was a reunion tour — celebrating 25 years of Nickel Creek — to make it happen.

All three of the band’s remarkably talented core members have been to the Tiny Desk before. Chris Thile is a veteran, having played the Tiny Desk with friend and guitarist Michael Daves, then later in the same year with Yo-Yo Ma and others in a project known as Goat Rodeo. When The Decemberists performed a Tiny Desk Concert, Sara Watkins was there to play her fiddle and sing. Her brother, Sean Watkins, was also at the NPR offices earlier this year with the marvelous singer Tom Brosseau.

The trio, backed here by bassist Mark Schatz, has no equal. Nickel Creek has been doing this on and off since its members were kids, and what blows me away is the comfort and ease with which they navigate their instruments. That skill, and the creative force behind it, is a joy and a thrill to witness.

Set List:

  • "Destination"
  • "Rest Of My Life"
  • "21st Of May"
  • "Elephant In The Corn"

Bob Mould performs “Hey Mr. Grey” on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Bob Mould performs “The War” on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Two things:

  • Taylor Hawkins!
  • I’m always surprised at how articulated Mould’s playing sounds considering the fact that it looks like he’s just pounding away at that Strat.

Dream Theater - “The Looking Glass” (Breaking the Fourth Wall, 2014)

Queen perform “Stone Cold Crazy” live at London’s Rainbow Theater in 1974

One of my favorite Queen songs off my favorite Queen album.

Biters perform “Oh Yeah” live at the Goat Farm Arts Center for the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival’s Sound & Visions Experience

Eureka Machines’ Chris Catalyst and Davros cover A-ha’s “Take on Me” during their Golden Ticket pre-show set at the Borderline gig on March 22, 2014 in London

Coheed and Cambria perform “A Favor House Atlantic” on DIRECTV’s Guitar Center Sessions

Coheed and Cambria perform “Welcome Home” on DIRECTV’s Guitar Center Sessions

Scorpions perform “In Trance” for MTV Unplugged

The Scorpions filmed three live acoustic shows at the Lycabettus Theatre in Athens, Greece in September 2013 for an upcoming MTV Unplugged CD/DVD release. Here frontman Klaus Meine shares the stage with German artist Cäthe for the title track of In Trance.

Klaus’ voice still seems incredibly strong for 65, especially when you realize he is more than twice Cäthe’s age.

Something Somewhere Has to Break

The Police perform “Synchronicity II” at the Omni in Atlanta in 1983 on the Synchronicity tour

As I was sitting at a near standstill on I-40 on my way into work today, the absurdity of my 45-minute-plus one-way daily commute and mundane workday suddenly hit me, and all I could think of were these lyrics from the Police’s “Synchronicity II”:

Another working day has ended
Only the rush hour hell to face
Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes
Contestants in a suicidal race

Complaining about my current work situation aside, this is one of my favorite Police tunes—latter day Police anyway—with an edge and aggression not found on the rest of the Synchronicity album. I searched high and low for a clip of the original post-apocalyptic video with its Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome feel and Sting & Company precariously perched atop piles of junk, but I had to settle for the performance from the November 2, 1983 show at the Omni in Atlanta during the Synchronicity tour.

Great song, and generally great performances. Here are a few other takes on it. Enjoy!

The “Andy Summers cam” angle of the same performance

Live in Oakland, CA in 1983

Slower, jazzy live version from The Police Reunion Tour at the Tokyo Dome in February 2008

Owen James performs a cover of “Synchronicity II” for Ont’ Sofa Sessions

10/30/2013 Update

A certain rock ’n’ roll snob was able to track down the original video for me. Thanks, Jay!

The Police - Synchronocity II

Foo Fighters perform “Aurora” on Austin City Limits on September 28, 2008 as part of the Austin City Limits Music Festival

One of my favorites from There Is Nothing Left to Lose.