Solo concert, for the Redemption's Son 15th Anniversary
you could be in jail
i would rather hide
you've been loved
nation of slaves
honey and the moon
in the night
buy a bag
you are the dark
downtown (2nd time)
thank you to Denise for collecting this setlist
Sadly, there's no audio recording of this event.
If I am wrong, thank you to inform me by email.
Much like the career of multi-talented singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur himself, his 2002 album Redemption’s Son, went down several winding roads before people caught on to its brilliance. Stuck in major label limbo after being discovered by Peter Gabriel and delivering the landmark LP Come to Where I’m From in 2000, he was a critical favorite who suddenly had no one to distribute his material.
Redemption’s Son first came out overseas in May of 2002 and finally a deal was worked for its release late that November in the States. Since then, Arthur has been prolific to say the least, with a staggering 14 albums and 11 official EPs under his belt. He’s also been involved with several high profile side projects including contributing to Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli’s collective known as the Twilight Singers.
Today (June 23), the 15th anniversary edition of Redemption’s Son will be released on 180-gram double LP, double CD, and digitally. There are also nine previously unreleased songs which form a “lost album” which Arthur has named Morning Star. He’s currently on tour playing the record in full, with a show tonight in his adopted hometown of New York City, where last month he opened for the Afghan Whigs much-anticipated show at the legendary Apollo Theater. It was during that gig when Arthur plucked a girl decked out in a gold lamé from the audience while the Whigs were on the final song of their encore – and almost derailed the entire show at the same time.
Catching up with Arthur, he talked about that incident, the history of Redemption’s Son, the death of Chris Cornell and – perhaps the most important topic of all – what’s going on with his hair.
What was it like playing the Apollo?
That was my second time. I actually headlined and sold out the Apollo with my band Fistful of Mercy with Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison. The Apollo is, like, golden in my mind – I got to have a golden moment at it, you know? So it’s funny when that door got reopened. I’ve been friends with Greg [Dulli] for many years and he calls me up and says, “I’ve got a curveball for you,” and I’m like, “Uh-oh.” He says, “No, it’s a good curveball.” [laughs] He says, “Do you want to open for the Whigs tomorrow at the Apollo?” and I was like, I had 24 hours to prepare, but it was fun – I had a great night that night.
You looked like you were having a blast – especially during “Faded,” you were dancing like a madcap, pulled that girl up on stage…
Yeah, I almost blew it in the Whigs set [laughs], like when I pulled that girl up onstage. I was watching her dance, and I was like, “She needs to be up onstage.” When she first went to Greg’s – she went right for worship mode and I was like, “Oh no! Am I gonna have to bounce this girl off right now?” But then she killed it. It was awesome the way she did it – it was almost like we planned it, but it was not planned. And then I almost tripped over the guitar rig and stopped the gig which would’ve probably promptly ended my friendship with Greg [laughs]. But sometimes you gotta risk it all for magic – you know?
I think I was most struck by your shaved head – when did you do that?
I’ve been doing that off and on since, I mean, well my first album [1997’s Big City Secrets] is me with a shaved head on the cover. So I came out the gate with this as my look [laughs]. Then I became a hippie in front of everybody. It’s just one of those things; my hair tends to go “classic-rocker-bad-haircut” look, so I just shave it every now and again. It started to grow back in, and I didn’t know I was gonna open for the Afghan Whigs or I probably wouldn’t have done it, but I had just shaved it with, like, a beard trimmer two days before – because I didn’t expect to be out in public for a while. It wasn’t on purpose and I couldn’t “fast grow” hair” [laughs]. I want to do a cute David Bowie cut, like a mullet but spiky on top.
So Redemption’s Son. The record has quite the storied history. Do you think that’s part of the reason why it’s one of the fans’ favorite albums, because there was this period of difficulty in getting it out? Like, it’s available only in the U.K., there there’s cover changes, the track listing changes, then it’s out here.
Man…that was such a weird period. It was sort of when my relationship with Real World Records fell apart, which is thankfully totally back together. I was kind of having this moment of being the critic’s darling at that time. But [the music industry at the time] was so numbers-based and you’re dealing with major labels and I had all that critical acclaim but I sold like 20,000 records – like nothing at the time. Politics being what they were, I was in a state of being dropped by Virgin, but I was not dropped at the same time – it gets confusing, but I was trapped and in a holding pattern for a couple years there. And it was right when I shouldn’t have been – I was really, really going for it.
And now the Morning Star songs are all out.
Dude, it’s so gratifying, and instead of being like, “Oh, why didn’t this happen then?” It’s more like, it’s all now – it doesn’t really matter. And I’m more excited to play these songs than I typically am to play a new album. I love the album.
Looking back, what do you see in the Joseph Arthur of 15 years ago? Is there anything that makes you cringe, or parts that are like, “Yeah, good on that dude,” what do you see in yourself?
That’s a good question. I think I was writing really good songs and it’s just so funny to be investigating them and remembering where my head was and what I was doing and why I was deciding certain things. Then you realize, “Oh my god, there’s so many different ways I could’ve chosen to evolve.” It’s hard to explain, but this feels like a very forward-thinking time for me and yet completely appropriate to be reapproaching this album in particular. There’s no songs on it that make me fully cringe; there’s a couple where I’m like, “Really? You put that on the record and not that? Are you insane?” But at the time, you’re thinking in terms, like, that throws in a different flavor. What’s great is you can reinterpret things and fix things. I’m into that.
When you revisit something like Redemption’s Son in concert, do you have to tap into the same emotions you had at the time…
Oh that’s easy. Good songs are just like good outfits; you put them on and the dude of the day is wearing the clothes. A nice outfit, you’re gonna feel good any day even if it’s 10 years, “Oh – this old suit still fits!” you know? “And it looks good too!” [laughs].
Some of these songs you haven’t played live, so are you struggling with relearning any of them?
The struggling with me learning looks like this: procrastinating in beginning to learn [laughs]. So “yes” is the answer – it just means I haven’t attempted it yet. I know I’ll find a way into each of these Redemption’s Son songs.
Shifting to a more somber topic, you developed somewhat of a friendship with Chris Cornell in recent years and published a moving post on Facebook after his passing. How hard is his death on you?
[Let’s out a big sigh] There’s no way to quantify that. Ugh. Death is so shocking and beyond…it’s hard to talk about it. I didn’t know him that well – I described my level of friendship; it was a few times we hung out and it was nice. He is a sweetheart of a person, a really beautiful soul. He gave us a lot and he’s a legend, an amazing artist and just a beautiful guy. There’s not gonna be another one like that dude ever, ever, ever – that’s a one of a kind human.
For someone who always seems to be moving forward, Joseph Arthur is enjoying taking some time to look back.
The prolific singer, songwriter and painter has released 14 album and 11 EPs under his own name as well as collaborating with others (Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison in Fistful of Mercy; Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament and drummer Richard Stuverud in RNDM).
On the current tour that comes to Cleveland’s Music Box Supper Club next week, he’s focusing on his 2002 album, “Redemption’s Son.” A 15th anniversary edition will be released on Friday that includes nine previously released bonus tracks recorded in the same sessions.
“I thought about this yesterday, maybe there is a window, a 15-year window to be able to tour an album properly,” the Akron native said during a telephone interview last week. “By the time the record comes out, it’s already old. It’s not where you are artistically, and you’re extra vulnerable about it because it’s your new thing. The self-doubt demons kick in at high gear.”
Those issues weren’t a problem when Arthur revisited the album and the other material to prepare the reissue.
“What’s interesting is I’m able to listen to ‘Redemption’s Son’ now like I’m listening to the new Kendrick Lamar album, like a new artist almost,” he said. “Not that I don’t still relate to the songs, but there’s a healthy amount of distance now where I actually can see it and hear it and play it and get excited about it.
“The album has so much resonance in my life currently … It feels super current to me and not a look back, although I obviously am.”
The original plan was to include only three or four bonus tracks on the second disc and pair them with acoustic versions some “Redemption’s Son” songs, which Arthur recorded. But he believes the bonus tracks are better not sharing space with the new acoustic recordings. He views the bonus disc as a stand-alone album titled “Morning Star.”
“Honestly, when the bonus tracks first came to me, the nine tracks on ‘Morning Star,’ I thought, ‘How did this not make the record?’ ‘Downtown” should have made the record, ‘Pictures of a Life.’ They’re definitely as good as anything on the record, in some cases better. How did I pick ‘Buy a Bag’ over some of these other ones?”
But when he goes back and listens to “Redemption’s Son,” he has no regrets.
“There’s not a thing that drags on … It feels like there is just a flow to it.”
Arthur, who lives in Brooklyn, regularly performs at The Tangier in Akron the night before Thanksgiving, but that often is his only northeast Ohio appearance of the year. He said he still loves his hometown but he wanted to play somewhere else on this tour.
“It’s about time for that, to be more into Cleveland and open it up a little more, broaden the horizons.”
Singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur, an Akron native, has released 14 albums under his own name and 11 official EPs. He’s also been involved with several side projects such as Fistful of Mercy, a group that featured Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison.
Since this year marks the 15th anniversary of Arthur’s studio album Redemption’s Son, he decided he wanted to do something to honor the occasion.
He’ll play the album in its entirety, something he’s never done before, when he performs on June 29 at Music Box Supper Club.
Real World Records, the imprint run by Brit rocker Peter Gabriel, has just reissued the original album (with its original artwork) along with nine bonus tracks, all of which have been previously unreleased. The anniversary edition will be available on 180-gram double LP, double CD and digitally. It will be the first time the album has been available on vinyl.
In a phone call from his Brooklyn home, Arthur talks about each track on the album.
I think this was the first album where I started writing albums from the perspective of a character in a story. I did that later with The Ballad of Boogie Christ and The Family. The title is so close to Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” it might as well be called “Blowing in the Wind.” I was aware of that and decided to call it “Redemption’s Son” regardless of that. Starting it with the song might be a challenging equation because of the heavily Christian overtones even though I was thinking of the character. There would have been easier openers. At the time, the label wanted me to start the album with “Favorite Girl,” which is an interesting choice.
“Honey and the Moon”
That was just about a relationship I was in. I was young and in love and couldn’t commit myself at that point. It’s about that kind of heartbreak. It came from a genuine place. That was real. I think it resonated with people because I remember how much that was resonating in my own life.
“You Could Be in Jail”
That’s me singing the backing vocal track. I love this song. That was one of my favorites then and now. Nobody ever talks about it. I never played it live. I remember writing it based on this article I read about how cults work and pivoting that to larger relationships in general. You have to be careful.
“I Would Rather Hide”
That’s Pat Sandsone from Wilco playing the wicked guitar on that song. I met Pat and drummer G. Wiz when Roger Moutenot was producing. Pat and G. Wiz have been two of my best friends since then. Pat’s musical contributions on the album are powerful. Pat had this influence on this musical level that I hadn’t allowed people in before. With Pat, we were brothers from another mother but he’s such an accomplished musician. I’m a natural musician and I didn’t go to school. I do everything on an instinctual level. Pat is very schooled. He’s a ringer.
It’s like the first-ever Bon Iver song. Did I just say that? I’m not dissing Bon Iver or claiming anything. Culturally, it is falsetto acoustic and has a funky beat. It does have that sound. That song was Peter Gabriel’s favorite. He always made sure I would include that song and play it live.
I’m trying to think about when I wrote that. That’s one where Pat and G. Wiz are huge on. That’s one of the reasons why it sounds like it does. I can’t quite remember what the inspiration was. I’m born in September, so that’s part of the inspiration. It’s a break up sort of thing.
“Nation of Slaves”
The lyrics of that resonate with where we are now. The lyrics of that are now. That’s what I feel with this record. If it came out yesterday, I think it would still sound forward thinking. It’s still pushing. As far as a singer-songwriter record, I don’t think there’s a new one that’s as modern sounding as this one. I can’t believe this is 15-year album. I remember consciously trying to push the singer-songwriter landscape forward with songs like this. I feel like I’ve always tried to do that and I’m still trying to do that.
I find myself having fun sentences like this pop into my mind, “Apparently, I was in the habit of making masterpieces back in the day.” Unlike back then, the cat’s out of the bag that musicians and artists don’t have a cushy life as it was once thought. I don’t think everyone understands that, especially outside of the big leagues. That affords us the ability to congratulate ourselves when it’s appropriate and celebrate it. Everything happens from enthusiasm.
“Buy a Bag”
That was initially when I started the project. The bonus songs were really good. The record company wanted to make “Ghost” a single. I got into the bonus tracks and fell in love with them was chastising myself for leaving songs off. Initially when I put it on, and “Buy on a Bag” came on, I was like “Really? ‘Buy a Bag’ over [the bonus track] ‘Downtown’?” Now that I’m inside the record, I don’t feel that way. I think it’s important when it comes. The party has to keep going. In order to have the possibility of going from point A to point B, you have to have some dynamics. It’s about the sleazier side of life. It can’t just be “Dear Lord, forgive us for what we’ve done.” You have to show what we’re being forgiven for.
I think I was inspired by Yo La Tengo. I worked with Roger, who they worked with. I wanted a long instrumentally kind of song and those guys do that well. They do that quite well. I was angling for something like that. That’s an alternate tuning song. In re-learning the album, I had to figure out how to play it.
It’s about a lot. It has that whole slow outro — “in the darkness, you are naked/in the darkness, you are near.” It’s a predatory sort of song.
As a songwriter you write tons of songs and some of them get gold stars by them. It’s hard to understand why at the time. That one got picked by Real World. I hadn’t even planned on putting it on the record. They they never insisted but they strongly recommended I put it on the record. I’ve grown to have an appreciation for that song. I don’t know why I wanted to leave that one off. I resonate a love for Jesus and I don’t know where it come from. It’s just there. I won’t let Bill Maher talk me out of it.
“You Are the Dark”
A lot of it for me is based on the production. If I loved the production, that went a long way. I loved the harmony bass and the groove on it. It has a good vibe to it.
“In the Night”
The funny thing is that there was a journalist in the UK for Q or Mojo, and I remember doing an interview, and that was his favorite. He said he couldn’t believe I wrote it. I thought of it as this throwaway rocker but an energy track. That’s the reason I was including it. It’s an energy track to get us to the end. Now, I do appreciate it. It’s a Beatles-y thing.
It’s a very Hendrix-y guitar tone. I remember writing that about my friend having a breakdown. That was directly out of someone else’s life.
“You’ve Been Loved”
It definitely feels like the credits are rolling. It’s interesting because I’ve been obsessed with the new Kendrick Lamar album. Kendrick Lamar, his new album, which is so good, that’s his third album. That’s his Redemption’s Son. He’s in that place I was 15 years ago. Not that I was on the level of fame. I’m not equating that. But in the artistic journey that was something that registered to me. From this point moving forward, it’s cool to look back. There are certain ways I’ve left behind artistically. If something is easy, you don’t necessarily value it as much as the things you’ve worked for. But they’re still important. That’s my takeaway from learning all this stuff. It’s broadening my approach for how I’ll proceed from this point. It’s not like I’ll regress, but it broadens the whole spectrum.