Porter Wagoner opened for The White Stripes and Grinderman last night at Madison Square Garden. (Have to admit, I was a little thrilled to be on the floor at the Garden, to look up from about center court and see all the banners and retired numbers surrounding me. Thought about dunking but didn't want to show off.)
Porter played just under 25 minutes, with the first 10 minutes one of those instrumental jams led by Marty Stuart that really huge stars get before they take the stage (Ray Charles was big on that, too). He was dressed in a royal blue Nudie suit, as you'd hope and expect. He shows his 80 years, seeming very frail with a tremulous voice and needing help on and off the stage. Dismissing the lead-in (The Wagonmaster's Comin'!!) and lead-outs by the band, Porter did five songs: something off the new one, Green Green Grass of Home, Rubber Room, The Cold Hard Facts of Life and one I didn't know. Still, it was a awesome to see him. He's on Letterman tonight.
I bailed on the Stripes 45 minutes in, half because I was tired and half because the sound seemed kind of...muddy and too vibrate-y to me. Not crisp. Maybe too big of a place? I dunno. It wasn't working for me, whatever the problem was. And I had already seen the excellent show at Irving Plaza. Grinderman was good, intense, and about what you expect from the always entertaining Nick Cave: lots of stalking around the stage, big theatrical movements, interesting anecdotes. Most interesting to me was that most of the music was pre-recorded: The drummer was live, but the bass and guitar were used only sporadically, to emphasize a bar or two. Half the crowd HATED them, giving their biggest cheer when Cave said "this is our last song". Maybe this was due to to all the uses of "motherfucker" that came across the speakers right before they hit the stage, or perhaps the straight-up-in-your-face SEX quality of the music, including "No Pussy Blues," didn't help their cause. People did not know what to make of them. The parents of all the 12 yr old kids there didn't seem amused. I was.