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Published: 2013/12/10
by Ron Hart

Alex Chilton
Electricity by Candlelight: NYC 2/13/97


Maybe it’s because I saw more shows there than any other club in New York City, but the closure of the Leonard St. location of The Knitting Factory was a particularly tough one to suck up in the great music club plague of Bloomberg’s four-term run as Mayor.

And just as yet another storied venue of the Metropolitan area shudders its doors forever in the famed Hoboken haunt Maxwell’s comes the release of a great archival live album from the old-new Knit (the old-old one was on Houston St.) primed with all the enjoyment and nostalgia to uncork a tidal wave of reminiscence sure to bowl over any former regular of the club.

On the night before Valentine’s Day in 1997, Alex Chilton was gearing up to play their second set of the evening before a capacity crowd of fans when a blackout occurred in that portion of the city. But instead of packing it in and calling it a night, the former Box Tops/Big Star leader borrowed an acoustic guitar from somebody and proceeded to do an unplugged hootenanny style show to the delight of the house. With his touring drummer Richard Dworkin sitting in for half the set, Chilton campfired his way through a vast array of covers so loose and freewheeling they’d be sure to make longtime acolytes The Replacements blush with jealousy ranging from Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues”, “Motel Blues” by Loudon Wainwright III, Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”, Pete Seeger’s “If I Had A Hammer”, Tom Jobim’s ‘The Girl from Ipanema”, Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” and a pair of Beach Boys tunes (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Surfer Girl”, respectively) among others.

This show would have otherwise been purely the subject of underground rock mythology had it not been for longtime fan Jeffrey Vargon, who snuck a tape recorder into the show to capture the gig for himself. In bootleg speak the recording is a VG+ audience copy at best. But its historic implications will undoubtedly cause even the most nebbish audiophile fan to overlook such sonic dings.

Little did Vargon know he would be providing such a rough cut diamond of a recording for fans still reeling from the passing of this undisputed treasure of American rock ‘n’ roll in 2010.

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