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Music DVD Review: Graham Parker & The Figgs – Live At The FTC

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As hard as it is to believe, this is Graham Parker’s first live DVD. I hate to say it was worth the wait, because over the course of a 34-year career, there were most likely a couple of other terrific concerts. But April 23, 2010 at the FTC Stageone in Fairfield, CT was a damn good one.

A great deal of credit must be given to The Figgs, a New York-based band Parker has utilized on and off for years. Guitarist Mike Gent is particularly outstanding on a number of tracks. But it is Graham Parker himself who makes the show sparkle. I would be hard pressed to name a performer who is more charming onstage than Parker is here.

Like Elvis Costello, Graham Parker has mellowed a great deal from his early “angry young man” persona. He is now more like the eccentric uncle who has an endless supply of hilarious stories. And one who just happens to write some amazing songs.

This show was part of Parker’s tour behind Imaginary Television, his 20th album. So it is not surprising that he devotes six of the twenty-one cuts to the current record. What is surprising is how well they stand up against classics such as “White Honey,” or “Blue Highways.”

“It’s My Party (But I Won’t Cry),” and ‘Broken Skin,” are wonderful. He even gets in a rare introductory guitar solo in “Broken Skin.” Another Imaginary Television tune, “Weather Report” features a searing guitar solo from Mike Gent, plus some pretty funny Al Roker observations from Parker.

“Mercury Poisoning” is probably his best known youthful diatribe. It was directed at Mercury Records, Parker’s first label – and is anything but a love song. It appears as one of the encores, and gets the strongest reception of the night. The night ends with “Soul Shoes,” another early favorite from Howlin’ Wind (1976).

This is a great performance, The Figgs are a tight band, and Graham Parker is a riveting onstage presence. But what really makes this DVD so special is the half-hour interview that is included as a bonus. Actually it is not really an interview at all, more like a monologue, and a pretty intimate one at that.

Parker sits on the stage at the venue a few hours prior to showtime, and just talks about his life. His stories are funny, interesting, and revealing. The effect on me was that I wanted the segment to be twice as long. It adds immeasurably to the already charmed impression one gets after watching him perform.

The Graham Parker & The Figgs – Live At The FTC DVD also includes a bonus CD from the concert. It is a nice extra, at least for someone like myself who listens to a lot of music in the car. For space limitations, two tracks from the concert do not appear on the CD, “Life Gets Better,” and “Snowgun.”

This DVD/CD combo is a must for Graham Parker fans. I also recommend it for those who have always been curious about him, but never knew where to start. This is about as good an introduction to the man and his music as one could ask for.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • http://thesonginmyheadtoday.blogspot.com Holly A Hughes

    Thanks for bringing our attention to this set — sounds fantastic! GP deserves to be so much better known; he’s truly one of the great singer-songwriters — and as this DVD no doubt proves, one of the great performers as well.

  • Greg Barbrick

    He is a terrific performer, and a brilliant songwriter. At least in my opinion he is.