Saturday, February 17, 2007

Melody Gardot - Rockwood Music Hall, 2/16/07

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It was magic time Friday night at the Rockwood as Melody Gardot brought her band to one of the most intimate venues on New York's Lower East Side. Baby it was cold outside, but inside the Rockwood it was hot in every sense of the word. Mixing a few new tunes with selections from Worrisome Heart and a couple of covers, Melody gave another breathtaking performance.

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The Rockwood's performance room could not be any larger than about a thirty foot square and it was quite a challenge just to load in the band to the tiny stage amidst the packed house. Melody was in good spirits, joked with the crowd, and even squeezed in an unplanned encore, the gorgeous "All That I Need is Love" to send her audience home on a tuneful high.

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Melody at one point asked the band to disappear (not really possible in this venue) while she went solo acoustic for a new tune, "Baby I'm a Fool" which has a simply beautiful melody and lyric, almost on the order of "Gone". The gist is "Baby I'm a fool who thinks it's cool to fall in love," great stuff. The superb band consisted of Ken Pendergast on upright bass and electric guitar/bass, Charlie Patierno on drums, Patrick Hughes on trumpet, and Bryan Rogers on sax.

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Setlist:
My Soul is Weary (a new original in gospel style)
Ain't No Sunshine (Bill Withers)
Les Etoile (killing us all in French, nice trumpet solo)
Quiet Fire (burnin')
Worrisome Heart (cool electric guitar & bass in one)
Wicked Ride (beautiful jazz guitar sound from guitar/bass)
Baby I'm a Fool (awesome new song, solo acoustic)
My World (the bonus track on Worrisome Heart CD)
Love Me Like a River Does (cool & hot)
Goodnight (just a great song)
Encore: All That I Need (indeed)

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Buy Worrisome Heart exclusively at the Awarestore


Melody's website.
Melody's myspace.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lily Allen - TLA, Philadelphia, 2/12/07


Lily Allen's first tour of the states came through Philadelphia tonight, stopping at the sold out TLA. The delightfully abrasive cheekiness that makes Lily's myspace blog posts so refreshingly funny seems impossible for an artist with the degree of success she has already amassed in her native Britain. In concert she spits, she drinks, she smokes, she belches, she dances, she bounces, she liberally uses the f-word, and she sings her heart out with joyful abandon; she does all this with such cuteness and charm that the entire package is both unlikely and compelling.


Smile CD Single

I didn't catch the names when she introduced her band, but this group of keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, trombone and saxophone played the hottest reggae and ska groove for a group from outside Jamaica since the early days of the Hooters before they signed to Columbia. These guys killed it on every song. Lily was awesome too, nailing every song while dancing around the stage like she owned it, seeming as if she's been doing this forever. The songs which all sound good and catchy on the record really came to life in live performance, giving the sold out house a musical thrill ride. The crowd was even totally into the opening act DJ, to a degree that reminded me school dances in the junior high gym.


LDN CD Single

She opened with "LDN", which sounded just amazing with the live horn section. She did eleven of the twelve songs on Allright, Still plus two single b-sides "Cheryl Tweedy" and "Absolutely Nothing". Mid-set she did a pair of covers that she called her acoustic medley, the Keane song sounding really great in her reggaefied interpretation. She closed with "Smile" her big hit that is so addictive that it keeps on sounding great no matter how repetitively you listen to it. For her encore she came back with a great sounding Specials cover and closed with "Alfie" which also killed live. "Alfie" with it's humorous video seemed seriously goofy when I first heard it but I must admit it's growing on me by the day. Lily Allen is truly a unique talent and her show was great fun.

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Setlist:
LDN
Nan You're a Window Shopper
Knock 'Em Out
Shame For You
Littlest Things
Cheryl Tweedy
Everybody's Changing (Keane)
Naive (Kooks)
Not Big
Absolutely Nothing
Everything's Just Wonderful
Friend of Mine
Friday Night
Smile
>
Blank Expression (The Specials)
Alfie

There would be photos from the show posted here but my camera didn't make it past the door; cameras were supposedly allowed, except for cameras with detachable lenses. The thinking behind a policy that allows cameras, just not good ones is a baffler. Photos ©Lily Allen.

Lily Allen's website.
Lily Allen's myspace.

Lily Allen - Allright, Still (Capitol)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Music and Lyrics (Castlerock/Warner Brothers, 2007)



It may be kind of a cliche to open a romantic comedy on Valentine's Day, but the timing of the release may be about the only thing that's cliched about Music and Lyrics. I don't think either Hugh Grant or Drew Barrymore have ever been better in a movie. The script (most movies' downfall) is smart, funny, and when it comes to the music business it skewers the things that need skewering in a very funny way and it deals with the music business without dumbing it down in the slightest.


Drew Barrymore

The good writing is no accident. A quick look at the filmography of writer/director Marc Lawrence reveals that his background is screenwriting, the success of which has apparently afforded him the opportunity to direct. He wrote Life With Mikey (1993) which featured Michael J. Fox, The Out of Towners (1999) remake with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, Forces of Nature (1999) with Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck, Miss Congeniality (2000) and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005) both starring Sandra Bullock. His directorial debut came with Two Weeks Notice (2002) which he also wrote, featuring Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant.



Hugh Grant

Hugh Grant plays Alex Fletcher, an eighties has-been singer. Drew Barrymore is Sophie Fisher, a complex and brilliant writer who comes to Grant's attention by happenstance when she comes to his apartment to water his plants, filling in for the normal service person. She happens to be there when the paid hack lyricist begins to assist Grant in writing a song commissioned by Cora, a major teen pop star who travels complete with posse. The songwriting opportunity offers Grant's character a quick ticket back from has-been land where he is stuck playing amusement parks and high school reunions.

The supporting characters are well cast as well. Brad Garrett is great as the manager and will be well known to many viewers as the three time Emmy winning actor from Everybody Loves Raymond. Multi-award winner Kristen Johnston (Third Rock From the Sun) does a fine job as Drew Barrymore's older married sister who is also a huge fan of Hugh Grant's eighties band. Haley Bennett makes an impressive film debut as the teen singing star whose "people" tap Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore to write her next hit. Haley is also recording her first album as a singer in real life.


Haley Bennett

All of the original music is just perfect for the story - it was a great choice to use Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) for this. And shockingly, the credits reveal that Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore did all their own singing. The movie opens with a video of the big hit by Grant's band from the eighties and both the video and the original song are spot on perfect. The same video appears again during the end credits with VH-1 style pop-ups that are so funny it's almost impossible to follow who did what.



I can find almost nothing to nitpick in Music and Lyrics. The first kiss is slightly cringeworthy and the finale requires a wee suspension of disbelief, but overall this is a major winner as both a romantic comedy and as a music movie. It's right up there with High Fidelity (2000), School of Rock (2003), and Love Actually (2003), which are all movies that excel in many of the same ways. I thoroughly enjoyed Music and Lyrics.



Photos ©Castlerock/Warner Brothers
Music and Lyrics website.
Music and Lyrics on IMDB.

Music and Lyrics Soundtrack CD