Column

Best I've Ever Seen

Talking with artists about concerts and albums they'll never forget

Gary Stoller is an award-winning editor, author, and journalist. He's written for USA TODAY and loves Bob Dylan and Blue Rodeo.

Best I've Ever Seen

Talking with artists about concerts and albums they'll never forget

Gary Stoller is an award-winning editor, author, and journalist. He's written for USA TODAY and loves Bob Dylan and Blue Rodeo.

Gretchen Peters: No One Does It Better Than Neil Young and Rickie Lee Jones

I am not at all familiar with Gretchen Peters but she sounds like like a real artist herself.  You can see from her response that she really was impacted by both Young and Jones.  I too remember that artistic 'coolness' of Rickie Lee Jones' first album.  I don't think at the time I liked her enough to want to see her in concert (I was more of a 'rocker') but the way GP describes her show, it sounds like it was pretty cool.  Neil Young of course too, is just incredible.  I have seen him a lot since the mid-eighties and no matter what he's doing at that time, he always put his heart and soul into it.  I saw him supporting the Le Noise album.  Even though the whole show was just him and an electric guitar it was still riveting.  He's not afraid to be different and try new things.  Maybe I'll have to check out Gretchen's tour schedule...

Neil and Rickie are two of my faves to see live.  But, RLJ is by far the more underrated.  She should be in a class with Van Morrison.  The good thing about that is, you could of, and still can see RLJ up close in an intimate venue for $50 or so.  That makes it affordable to take your spouse and two teenagers for less than one ticket for Neil.  And, like NY she is still creating new and different music and still makes magic live.  I've been able to see her in northern california every other year or so.  In fact I have tickets for July 26.  You won't see her shows widely publicized, so you have to keep your ear to the ground.  In fact, her own website doesn't list the show I have tickets for...

How is her voice these days?  She is/was quite the smoker, isn't/wasn't she?  Cigarettes have killed not only the voices, but many great artists (Ian Anderson, Joni Mitchell, Dylan, Harrison) too.

Even though the cigarette was an early trademark, I have a feeling that she quit smoking quite a while ago.  I remember a show in SF back before smoking was banned at bars and restaurants, and RLJ had cards placed on all the tables forbidding smoking for health reasons "at the artist's request."  She said something during the show about protecting her voice.  She came through addiction problems in the early eighties.  I'd say her voice has continued to sound strong and steady with great range.  Her shows almost always have an experimental element.  She has been very demanding of her band and sometimes her audience, and is apt to scold either if she feels like it, keeping it real.