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Big Star - Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live ... And More

  by Mark Rowland

published: 27 / 5 / 2017



Big Star - Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live ... And More

intro

Mark Rowland enjoys DVD tribute concert 'Thank You, Friends: Big Star's Third Live ... And More' which features Big Star members Jody Stephens, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer and also guests including REM's Mike Mills, Robyn Hitchcock and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy


Big Star are a brighter counterpoint to the Velvet Underground, both producing exemplary albums that garnered no attention at the time, but which influenced countless bands in the decades afterwards. Big Star’s career trajectory was almost the exact opposite of the Velvets’. While the latter became more accessible after losing John Cale, Big Star became darker and less pop-oriented after the departure of Chris Bell, culminating in 'Third/Sister Lovers', a sort of not quite album that stretched the band’s power pop into something looser, weirder, more abstract. The bands that Big Star influenced could almost be split into pre and post'Third'. While artists like Teenage Fanclub are clearly in thrall to '#1 Record' and 'Radio City', you can hear 'Third' in bands such as This Mortal Coil (who covered 'Kanga Roo' and 'Holocaust' from the album). While frontman Alex Chilton disowned the album for many years, it is seen by many as a messy classic. 'Third' formed the core of a series of tribute shows organised after Chilton’s death in 2010, with guests such as Chris Stamey (of dB’s fame) and REM’s Mike Mills. The Big Star’s 'Third' concerts have returned several times over the past few years, culminating in a show at the Alex Theater in Glendale, California last year. That last concert is immortalised on 'Thank you, Friends: Big Star’s Third and More', available as an album and concert film. In addition to the entirety of 'Third', several songs from '#1 Record', 'Radio City' and Chris Bell’s solo record 'I am the Cosmos' make up a 90-minute celebration of what makes Big Star great Jody Stephens, the last surviving original Big Star member, was joined by Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer (of the Posies and the latter day incarnation of Big Star), the aforementioned Stamey and Mills, Robyn Hitchcock, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan, among others. The non-'Third' songs are fairly faithful to their original versions, reminding you just how good Big Star was during their heyday. Hearing singers such as Tweedy and Stamey take on these songs also brings home just how far Big Star’s influence stretches across several generations of indie, alternative and alt-country bands. The second half of the concert, focusing on 'Third', expands the songs beyond their studio versions, with the help of the Kronos Quartet. Songs like 'O Dana' become big, country rock numbers. 'Nightime', with Tweedy on vocals, is in turn hugely orchestral and disarmingly intimate. 'Jesus Christ', with its horns and rolling timpani, could almost be an actual Christian rock song (only good). These widescreen versions of 'Third' songs bring out the essential Big Star-ness of them. As much as he may have tried to exorcise his pop instincts on 'Third', Alex Chilton couldn’t quite let them go. But it’s the tension between the pop and the weird that makes it so compelling.



Band Links:-
https://www.bigstarband.com/
https://en-gb.facebook.com/BigStar/
https://twitter.com/bigstarband
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Star


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