music As if it were possible for the Pavilion to seem more cavernous, Robert Randolph and the Family Band testified to the (cold-rolled steel) rafters Thursday night, with help from some unexpected friends.
The band took the stage in full force, with Randolph bobbing and convulsing with every slide-pluck-slide of his pedal steel guitar, until he literally flipped his trademark black-fedora lid. He proceeded to work the crowd mightily during “I Need More Love,” which flowed smoothly into a grooving rendition of “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough.”
After a bluesy tribute to New Orleans featuring Randolph’s sister on vocals, Randolph broke out the always-rollicking “Shake Your Hips.” And then, to everyone’s delight, about 60 of Randolph’s adoring female fans took to the stage to do just that.
As entertaining as this sacred-steel dance squad was, the final guest to join Randolph brought the show to even greater heights. Fans got a preview of things to come in September, when Randolph returns to open for the Dave Matthews Band at the John Paul Jones Arena, as a typically Ray-Banned Boyd Tinsley sauntered out to join the band
The cherry? A 30-minute encore, beginning with a dulcet instrumental (“Isn’t She Lovely?”) followed by the re-emergence of the shade-sporting fiddler for “Soul Refreshing” and a roaring “Roll Up.”
Let the countdown to September 22-23 begin. Just be sure that, come show time, you aren’t left without a ticket to the John. (Paul Jones, that is.)—Steven Schiff
Baseball Roundup games The 2006 baseball season is in full swing, and the surprises are popping up as often as an intentional walk to Barry Bonds: The Mets and Brewers are starting strong, while the Nats clearly have more issues than Alfonso Soriano. But who cares about the meat world? We’re here to answer the question on every true fan’s mind: How well do this year’s crop of baseball videogames match up with their cover athletes?
PlayStation 2, Xbox, Gamecube
Cover athlete: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees Jeter’s team is known for buying its championships, so it’s apropos that 2K, the company that bought the exclusive third-party rights to the MLBPA roster (freezing out Electronic Arts in the process), is deploying him as cover boy.
Jeter’s a rock-solid hitter, and so is his game, which follows the trend of using the right analog stick to cock and swing the lumber. In fact, hitting’s the best part of this glitzily presented Big Show—going yard has never felt more natural or thrilling.
Fielding, though? Not so much. Jeter’s glove may be gold, but fielding is MLB 2K6’s Buckner Achilles heel. The controls are too complicated for their own good, and the AI makes some truly odd defensive decisions.
The pitching is also off: I complained last year about overpowered nobodies notching 10-plus strikeout outings. This year, pitchers are crippled by a new stamina meter, which, in the case of some hurlers (think the Twins’ Brad Radke) plummets through the floor after a few innings. Yeowch.
Box score: Looks great, but still needs tweaking to truly rule the Majors
MLB 06: The Show
Cover athlete: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
As Sox fans know, Big Papi’s all about the boom: Towering hits, team leadership and the occasional charge-the-mound burst of unbridled animal aggression. There’s plenty of boom—and beef—in this Show, and it begins with the deep array of modes, including freaky “deep franchise” and “create-your-own player” career options. (If you’re a purist, take a pass on King of the Diamond mode, which fails even as a bastardized batting practice sim)
The animations look spectacular—players like Ortiz look as intimidating as they do in real life—but I’m not sure even Ortiz could master the new (and overdue) batting mechanic, in which you deploy both joysticks in an attempt to nail the sweet spot and control the direction of your fly and ground balls. At first, it’s like trying to tie your shoes with one hand while facing Roger Clemens; once you begin getting hits, you’ll feel as if you’ve earned them.
Box score: Baseball doesn’t get deeper—or harder—than this.
NCAA MVP Baseball 06
PlayStation 2, Xbox
Cover athlete: David Maroul, former third baseman, University of Texas
You probably don’t recognize the Longhorn on the cover –and you’re not necessarily supposed to. With no MLB license to tout, EA is clearly hoping gamers will focus on the action, not the fact that you’ll be guiding Cal-State Fullerton through round-robin tournaments and using aluminum bats.
I hope they’re right, because—just like last year’s pro-based edition—this is a deep and entertaining baseball sim. Like MLB 2K6, the right analog stick cocks and swings the bat to send those liners to right. (Plus, you can hone your skills in a ramp-tastically addictive batting minigame.)
Behind the plate, the stick is great. In the field, the stick gimmick is a rookie bust. A throw meter is supposed to gauge the timing and strength of your relay tosses, but it’s awfully hard to read on the fly. Simple throws from short can easily pull your first baseman off the bag (hello, frustrating error). Still, nobody does the pitching interface better than EA.
Box score: Forgettably faceless, but still a serious contender.
Are You Going to Paul Curreri
City Salvage Records
cd Just as one might come clean with friend following a break-up, it’s O.K. in retrospect to say that Paul Curreri underwent a welcome transformation following 2004’s The Spirit of the Staircase. The folk-blues picker, who, for all his merit, once was synonymous with scruffy appearance, anemic vocals and acoustic songs that all sounded the same (or so said The Village Voice), has moved on.
His fourth album (and first live release), recorded in January at the Gravity Lounge, reveals another side of Paul Curreri, with a fuller beard and a newfound swagger in his voice.
Once again, Randall Pharr’s bass, Spencer Lathrop’s drumming and Jeff Romano’s production work all lend excellent support. But the extra electric juice definitely shows in Curreri’s performance on songs like “Bees” (off his first album, From Long Gones to Hawkmoth). The difference is like comparing Dylan’s John Wesley Harding version of “All Along the Watchtower” to Jimi Hendrix’s definitive version, or better yet, to ’70s-era Dylan channeling Hendrix and backed by the Grateful Dead.
Of course, the plugged-in arrangements of Are You Going to Paul Curreri don’t translate well for everything. “On Hopeless Love,” also from the first album, yearns for some of its former intimacy. Yet die-hard fans of the old Curreri will want to pick up the disc, if only for its new material.
“The Island Drag,” with its stream-of-consciousness style of storytelling, shows that Curreri’s recently acquired sense of daring extends even to his songwriting:
“I bet you don’t have heard of where I live at/ Every dirt up to the water round the edge/ Fish you eat I might’ve one time seen that/ For deepest treasure, hold my breath and dredge.”
As one female audience member (who didn’t sound at all like Curreri’s wife, Devon Sproule) yelled to the singer during the recording: “If I had panties, I’d throw them at you!” The same goes for this reviewer.