Saturday, 23 August 2014

Jake Clemons @ The Basement, Sydney, Aug 22 2014

I'm normally loathe to mention Bruce Springsteen in a Jake Clemons piece but standing in a dark, low-ceilinged club called The Basement last night in Circular Quay I was struck by a mainstay of Jake's 2-hour set that recalled a mythic period in Springsteen's career. A time mythologised with Tolkienesque reverence, when a Frodo-like kid from Freehold stormed Mordor with nothing but a battered 6-string ...

And a greasy bag full of cheeseburgers.

The man and his blue-collar band converted clumps of fans in gin joints and junior colleges up and down the east coast but, unlike silk-wearing rock contemporaries, featured a superhuman black man on saxophone who made young white guys pump their fists and little pretties of every persuasion wave their hands. Perhaps sensing the incongruous dynamic Bruce began introducing a revamped 'Incident on 57th Street' with a fisherman's tale of how Clarence Clemons entered Springsteen's life by tearing off the door of a dump called the Student Prince one stormy Asbury Park evening. Recordings reveal the 25-year-old Bruce at his ballsy best: describing a moment that changed his life -- and mine, and yours -- with street passion and humour and brilliant showmanship. The kind of story you never forget, whether you heard it in person in 1975 or on a vinyl bootleg purchased at the Englishtown Flea Market years later.

So let's talk about 'Two'.

We're all witnesses to the passing of time but last night, hearing Jake describe his reaction to his uncle's death during an emotional cover of Ryan Adams's 'Two', I fully comprehended the spiritual echo of Clarence Clemons. From the Big Man "walking like there ain't no wind, ain't no rain" down the boardwalk before blowing into Bruce's life to Jake picking up the saxophone for the first time since his uncle's passing, filling his lungs, blowing, and feeling Clarence re-enter his life as notes took flight, it was clear: Two gifted singer/songwriters from different generations NEEDED Clarence to launch them to a plane we mortals rarely, if ever, tread.

The Master of Disaster may not be here to take us to that plane anymore, but his disciples can.

We witnessed that for ourselves last night at The Basement. And will do again tonight at the Bridge Hotel in Rozelle, in Sydney's inner west.

After a 30-minute opening set from Sydney-based Jordan Millar, Jake took the stage at 9:45 and stayed until midnight. He compared the venue to NYC's Bitter End, a West Village institution that dates to the days of beatniks and bongos. 

Jake singing 'Fear & Love'. He was practically at eye level with the crowd, a natural setting for a true man of the people. 

Matt told me after the show that his throat was sore. The dude's a trouper, as he sounded fantastic.

Matt, Jake and Brett doing 'Love'll Never Change'. Love this bloody song. As noted previously, Jake feeds off the energy of his audience, and this one was juiced. 

Jake speaking with his uncle on the phone after being asked to be Best Man #5: "Maybe, just maybe, you guys could, I don't know, live together for a year ..."

Double duty. 

In many ways the The Basement felt like an actual basement -- with the lights switched off -- turning my normally barely legible notes  into major earthquake Richter Scale readings. I believe this woman's name is Rachel. She and Jake sang a love song together. It was wonderful. 

Jake 'serenaded' a lovely woman named Cathy during an acoustic 'I'm On Fire' that segued into 'You're a Friend of Mine'. He prefaced his covering of Springsteen by saying "I never do this ... please don't judge me."

"It takes two when it used to take one ...."

Matt and Jake during a Circular Quay-shaking 'With a Little Help from My Friends'.

A post-show conversation with Brett revealed that he and Matt were fellow attendees of Berklee College of Music with guest percussionist Jackie Barnes. The son of Aussie rock legend Jimmy Barnes pitched in during the "With a Little Help ..." along with the Woman I Believe Is Named Rachel. Jake's Joe Cocker mannerisms were spot on. A true highlight of the evening.

I enjoyed the show in the company of friends from Canberra. Among them is a remarkable woman named Jing. This is her prosthetic leg. It was signed by Jake Clemons. 


Anonymous said...

Wow! I wish I was there! Brilliant post Joe Wall!

Tanya said...

I was there last night and it was all that and more!
What a talent Jake is

Anonymous said...

Fantastic articles and pictures for a fantastic group of musicians. Just love Jake and his band - good souls and beautiful music makers!