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The Hit List: You're no rock 'n' roll fun

In @jakeflorida's Hit List column, reviews of concerts by Graham Nash and Joan Soriano.

In January, Scottish novelist and part-time South Florida resident Irvine Welsh told the Chicago Tribune that he doesn't write much when he's here. Chicago, where he also lives, provides fewer distractions for the "Trainspotting" author, whose latest work of literary outrage, "A Decent Ride," was published Feb. 2.

"That's why I'm here!" Welsh told the Tribune's Nina Metz. "I normally would be sitting on the beach with a cocktail, but at least here I'm getting stuff done."

While Welsh has been away working on his next filthy masterpiece and filling Twitter with scatological soccer complaints and brutally funny jokes about Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the following is what he's missed down here in the land of rumrunners and No-show Rubio.

 

OUR HOUSE ... IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR STREET

Concert: Graham Nash, Thursday, Jan. 28 at Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale

Despite looking hale and alert, his chest exposed by an untucked black shirt and his bare feet cushioned by an ornamental rug, Graham Nash seemed like a man rehearsing his own eulogy. Days away from his 74th birthday on Feb. 2, the singer reflected on losses old and new, drug-fueled misadventures, long-ago but still-smarting confrontations and unhealable national tragedies. He brought up his recent divorce from his wife of 38 years. He twice talked about breaking up with Joni Mitchell in 1969. He even mourned days yet to come, singing in a new song, "Is my future just my past?"

Was this a major bummer? You bet it was. But for all his talking and singing about eroding time, failed romances and inevitable demise, Nash exhibited fits of defiance, particularly on heated-up renditions of "Immigration Man" and "Chicago." Underlying his recollections of falling out with the Hollies, sailing from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco with David Crosby and visiting Stonehenge on acid was the fact that Nash survived it all. The audience, most of whom could probably recall what Woodstock smelled like on Day 3, no doubt related. (And anyone who checked his phone during intermission, only to discover reports of Jefferson Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner's death at 74, could only hope that Nash wasn't doing the same backstage.)

Nash summoned that old anger again just before the encore, for an unplanned run through "Ohio," prompted by a scarecrow hippie in the front row who, standing to address the crowd, shouted, "No one has done more for the families of those killed at Kent State than this man!" Nash, looking annoyed but not surprised, asked Shane Fontayne, his touring guitarist and the only person sharing the stage with him, if they should play the song. He didn't need to wait for the answer.

As with any good eulogy, jokes were there to dull the pain. The targets were easy: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, occasional bandmate Neil Young. Even the audience came in for a poke or two. "I've made a lot of music in my life," Nash said at the outset of the show. "Now, I'm going to find out just how old you are." He knew the answer to that one, too.

Listen: "Chicago"

Read: "Graham Nash on loss of music legends Glenn Frey, David Bowie"

SINGLES GOING UNSTEADY

"Florida" by the Range

At NPR Music, Deforrest Brown writes: "The lithe, euphoric 'Florida' is an excellent example of the Range's fascination — as well as an inspired response to it. Bouncing on a juke-like rhythm section, an ethereal female vocal is paired with thick synth pads, picked guitar licks and slices of steel drums, creating music that comes off as robust and clean. Those informal vocals also warp 'Florida' towards the intimate, injecting a cozy, bedroom-made situation into club tropes. Suddenly, video-streaming wormholes share sonic space with rhythmic dance-floor asides, in an environment where both are presented as copacetic digital distractions. On the surface 'Florida' is a hyperactive example of digital-era mix-and-match aesthetics, but [James] Hinton turns this mix of zeros and ones into a profound affirmation of the human and the raw."

Translation: This is incidental music for a Ted Talk.

Listen, read: "Songs We Love: The Range, 'Florida'"

RICK SCOTT, GUITAR GOD

From "Seminoles unveil plans for guitar-shaped hotel, expansion" by Brian Ballou and Dan Sweeney, Feb. 2, in the Sun Sentinel:

"Artist conceptions for a colossal guitar-shaped hotel tower stretching 34 stories and containing 800 rooms were unveiled Monday morning during a news conference with Gov. Rick Scott. The tower is the feature attraction in the Seminole Tribe's $1.8 billion expansion plans. The structure looks every bit a guitar in scale but doesn't have a neck."

And for a reason no one can explain, the only songs that can be played on it are by Robert Johnson.

Listen: "Last Fair Deal Gone Down"

Read: "Seminoles unveil plans for guitar-shaped hotel, expansion"

SWEET JOAN

Concert: Joan Soriano, Friday, Jan. 29 at the Koubek Center in Miami

Two moments:

1. A man in the audience hands Joan Soriano the flags of the Dominican Republic and the United States. Problem: The American flag has been slid onto its stick holder upside down. In Spanish, Soriano asks the man to fix it. Handing it back, the guitarist loses his grip on the flag, and it lands on the floor. From the back of the crowd, a man — tall, granite-faced and with a mien that suggests years of practiced ignorance — yells, "Drop your own flag on the ground!"

The Trumpism is less alarming than the setting in which it has been delivered: the Koubek Center, a self-described "space for dialogue and cultural advancement" located just north of Southwest Eighth Street in Miami, during a heavily advertised event carrying the subtitle "Little Havana Social Club" and starring an artist known as the Duke of Bachata. What is Stonehead doing here? What response does he hope to hear? Why does he choose to feel so alone?

The audience — diverse, joyful, alive — ignores him, as does Soriano. Or maybe no one else heard him. A couple of minutes into Soriano's next song, one of the fluid, searching, earthen treasures from his recent album "Me Decidi," I turn to look at the man. He's gone, but the woman and teenage boy he'd been standing with are still there, trying to concentrate on the music, from a place they know too well.

2. "My guitar sings …" Soriano, between songs, says in Spanish.

"Like a chicken," his bass player adds, filling in the expected blank.

Soriano smiles and nods. "My guitar sings like a chicken," he says again. He repeats the line in English. He wants the laughter to be shared equally.

Under a tree on the edge of the courtyard, past the stringed lights that hang above the audience members' heads and beyond the standing heat lamps (an odd sight, even on a 55-degree Friday night), Stonehead is engaging in an old argument with himself, hoping that this time, at long last, he'll win.

Listen: "Me Decidi"

Read: "From the ground up: An interview with the Duke of Bachata"

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