In April 2016, an all-star band featuring R.E.M.‘s Mike Mills, Wilco‘s Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone, and many more gathered onstage at Glendale, California’s Alex Theatre to perform Big Star‘s classic Third/Sister Lovers in its entirety.
A live album and concert film from that performance will be released April 21st as Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live … and More. Ahead of the concert film’s premiere at the SXSW Film Festival on March 16th, Rolling Stone presents the supergroup’s take on Big Star’s #1 Record classic “In the Street.”
Other artists who participated in the Third performance included Brett Harris (who shares vocal duties with Mills on “In the Street”), the Posies’ Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer, Jessica Pratt, Robyn Hitchcock, Semisonic’s Dan Wilson, Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan, Kronos Quartet and Big Star drummer Jody Stephens, who played on the group’s disjointed 1978 masterpiece, one of Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The Third performance came about as a tribute to Big Star’s Alex Chilton, who died two days before a planned performance at the 2010 SXSW fest. The dB’s’ Chris Stamey approached Stephens about a faithful live rendition of Big Star’s Third, with Mills, Auer, Stringfellow and Let’s Active’s Mitch Easter serving as the backbone for the concerts.
Stephens told Rolling Stone of the concerts, “Chris Stamey emailed John Fry and me in late 2009. He had this idea of performing Big Star’s Third live complete with strings, core players and guest artists … up to 30 people participate in these. We both scratched our heads about why Chris might think this was a practical and feasible idea. Some 15-plus performances later scattered from Sydney to London, we, obviously, underestimated his passion, tenacity and organizational skills. We all keep coming together out of the joy of playing the music and the sense of community, both on stage and in the audience, that comes with it.”
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Mills added, “One of the best things about playing the music of Big Star’s Third (and of the first two records as well) for these last few years has been getting to know and play with all the other musicians who love, and were influenced by, these wonderful works. A key component to making this music come alive has been the core group of North Carolina musicians that Chris Stamey recruited for the early, and all subsequent, Big Star Third shows. Now, with the release of Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live … and More, an even bigger audience will get to see and enjoy what these truly talented musicians bring to the stage, and to the music of Big Star.”
Thank You, Friends will be released in a variety of formats, including a 90-minute concert film on Blu-ray or DVD, a two-CD live album as well as a concert-film/live-album set. Each features liner notes penned by writer Anthony DeCurtis as well as Stamey.
The live album follows a massive Third reissue that was released in 2016.