Saturday, March 12, 2005
It was a kind of unusual experience to not only see two events at the same venue the same day, but to be so unfamiliar with the artists, that when Keren Ann came out to open the show with no introduction, I wasn't sure whether it was her or A Girl Called Eddy. Although I knew of both artists by reputation and I'd heard a good sampling of Keren Ann's French language material courtesy of Jenn's iPod, I'd not heard either of their latest albums at all. I'd hoped to check out A Girl Called Eddy's latest during the week before the show, but Jenn's iPod files wouldn't play on my computer, thanks to iTunes' digital rights management, but that's an issue for another day.
In any case, it was kind of a treat to experience new music, hearing it essentially for the first time live. Both sets were highly enjoyable, however I think I prefer Keren Ann's more atmospheric French work to the more singer-songwriterly tunes she sang in English. A Girl Called Eddy writes and sings with a nice pop flair, however the reviewer who compared her to the Carpenters may have been stretching things a bit. Both sets left me wanting to hear the respective new records, which I will check out and report back sometime soon.
(post under construction, more to come)
A Girl Called Eddy
This Free at Noon booking was somewhat of a rare treat and not the least because Ivy hardly ever dents the WXPN playlist. Ivy is an occasional project of the husband and wife team of Andy Chase and Dominique Durand together with Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne. They were here this day to promote their new record, In the Clear. Although the music is entirely different from Schlesinger's other band, the songwriting and instrumental skills are at an equally high level and the success of Welcome Interstate Managers has likely brought some new curious listeners to Ivy's tent.
Having never seen Ivy before and having never heard the new album prior to the show, although the music and performance sounded fine, I was left with the impression that the band seemed kind of disinterested. Possibly because of the time of day or for other reasons that shall remain unknown, it seemed that they were somewhat going through the motions without much enthusiasm, even thought the concert was live on the radio and the live audience offered plenty of encouragement. (more to come)
In the Clear is one of the best new albums released so far this year. It combines atmospheric and soothing instrumentation with great songwriting and a pop sensibility characterized by Dominique Durand's vocals which can occasionally seem like a cross between Abba and Swing Out Sister. (more to come)
Sunday, March 06, 2005
For fans of either of these two fine bands or of soul and funk music in general, it doesn't get any better than this annual pairing of AWB and Tower of Power at the Keswick Theater. This year's concert was scheduled about a month earlier than usual (in 2006 it goes back to early April) and while the scheduling seems like a minor detail, the difference between winter and spring at this time of year seemed huge at the time. Both bands were in peak form, turning in sets that gave pure joy to the packed house on this the second of a two night stand. Here's my next morning post to the AWB discussion board.
It was another great show Saturday night at the Keswick. Both AWB and Tower of Power sounded as good as I've ever heard them, and AWB's song selection was absolutely perfect for the opening set length. The only thing missing from the set was anything from Living in Colour. The new jazzy version of "Work to Do" was neat, although the folks who complained that AWB went "smooth jazz" on Living in Colour are likely to have a field day with this. During "Cut the Cake" I was thinking about the fact that this song is thirty years old this year and still sounds as great as the day it was new - I remember playing it on the air during the summer of '75 when I was just a wee radio deejay.
Similarly, even though the TofP song catalog is loaded with cliche, many of the songs still sound as relevant now as when they were new ("Only So Much Oil," "What is Hip," "Diggin' on James Brown" etc.). Mike Finnigan, who's played with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Crosby Stills & Nash, filled in very nicely on Hammond organ for Tower of Power's normal keyboard player, Roger Smith. Oh, and with apologies once again to James Brown, lead singer Larry Braggs is still the hardest working man in show business. Here's the setlist:
Whatcha Gonna Do For Me
Oh Maceo (Fred killed as always)
A Love of Your Own
Walk on By (always great to hear this)
I'm the One
Cut the Cake
Cloudy (Klyde killed on this)
Work to Do (Nu Jazz Version w/Klyde on jazz guitar)
In the Beginning
Person to Person
Pick Up the Pieces
Tower of Power:
Soul With a Capital S
Just Enough and Too Much
Only So Much Oil in the Ground
I Got to Groove
Willing to Learn (Larry Braggs killed on this)
Squibb Cakes Medley:
- Ain't Nothin' Stoppin' Us Now
- You Ought to be Havin' Fun
- Don't Change Horses (in the Middle of the Stream)
Diggin' on James Brown
(To Say the Least) You're the Most (nice Hammond solo)
So Very Hard to Go
What is Hip
You're Still a Young Man
- You Got to Funkifize
- Down to the Nightclub (Bump City)
- This Time It's Real
- Knock Yourself Out (more great Hammond work)
Stephen "Doc" Kupka, Tom Politzer, Emilio Castillo
Larry Braggs, Adolpho Acosta, Mike Bogart
Friday, March 04, 2005
Vance Gilbert is one of a number of artists I had the pleasure of hearing for the first time at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in 1999. Gilbert quickly disarms the audience with an easygoing, slightly self-deprecating but always friendly and intelligent sense of humor; his music isn't bad either. Fast forward to Falcon Ridge 2004 and Gilbert seemed like an old favorite, especially entertaining in his Performance Skills Critique Workshop. So I was somewhat dismayed to learn, talking to him between sets at the Point, that he was not booked to play Falcon Ridge this year.
Gilbert's long form concert performance was more musically rewarding than the samplings you get at a festival; even his forty-five minute main stage set at Falcon Ridge only hinted at how good his own concert might be. Gilbert played a good number of tunes from his latest album Unfamiliar Moon as well as a sampling of his five previous releases. He seemed to really enjoy the Point, and he seemed especially knocked out by the enthusiastic response from his hometown crowd, in spite of little or no local airplay. Gilbert likes to joke about being a black man playing folk music but he embodies the best of both worlds, bringing a warm soulfulness to his music, with the possible exception of when he sings about fellow folkie Ellis Paul.
I so enjoyed the concert that I couldn't let it pass without dropping an email to Anne Saunders at Falcon Ridge about Gilbert's omission from the 2005 festival. Anne does the booking and even in my limited experience it is clear that she does an amazing job putting this complex musical jigsaw puzzle together every year. Anne wrote back to explain that they give him one year off out of every four and that is why he was not included in this year's festival. About three days later I got another email from Anne, saying that due to a cancellation, they booked Gilbert for this year's festival after all, saying "it seemed like the right thing to do." I'm not taking credit for this turn of events, but I would like to think that my email helped in some small way. Here's Gilbert noticing the camera; this was shot with normal 50mm lens from the table right next to the stage (click on photo to enlarge).