Category Archives: World Cafe Live

Of Concerts Past: Sid & Susie in Philly, 9/9/2009

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Sid, of course, is Matthew Sweet; and Susie is Susanna Hoffs. They began working together in the 1990s as 2/5s of the band Ming Tea, whose music was featured in the Austin Powers films – no doubt because one of the other members was Austin Powers himself, Michael Myers. The two apparently enjoyed the experience (and each other) so much that they kept on keeping on, eventually releasing the delightful, 1960s-themed Under the Covers, Volume 1 album in 2006 and Volume 2, which mined the music of the 1970s, three years later.

I wrote about both in my review of Volume 3, which navigates the 1980s, a few years back, but the short and sweet of that is this: I loved the first and liked the second. The former was a perfectly cut jewel; the latter was equally polished, yet not without its flaws.

Not flawed enough to stop us from getting tickets to see them in concert, mind you. That said, for whatever reason, we learned of the World Cafe Live show days (weeks?) after it went on sale and wound up stuck in what were, for us, not-so-good seats: at a table a fair distance away from the stage, adjacent to the soundboard.

Susanna, if I remember correctly, had flown into Philly that afternoon, having played with the Bangles the night before in Florida. They hadn’t rehearsed, and for much of the night she referenced lyric sheets – and still messed up the words from time to time, as this video of the night’s second song shows –

But come this night, at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, bad seats and no rehearsals didn’t much matter. Matthew was funny; and Susanna was charming. Their love for the music shone like diamonds, and the show was an absolute delight – even with the vocal intrusions of a rather intoxicated gent who kept yelling for Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me” even after they performed it.

Anyway, as the above clip shows, it was just Sweet, Hoffs and guitarist Paul Chastain (of the power-pop band Velvet Crush) on stage.

Here are some more clips:

And what may have been my favorite moment of the night:

Other highlights included delectable renditions of “You’re So Vain” and “Different Drum.” I remember, though, when the show ended, being a bit bummed that they hadn’t attempted my favorite song from Volume 2, the download-only bonus cover of Blondie’s “Dreaming,” or the drop-dead gorgeous version of the Bee Gees’ “Run to Me” from Volume 1:

In any event, the set list (borrowed from a favorable City Paper review) was thus:

I’ve Seen All Good People/Your Move (Yes); Willin’ (Little Feat); Second Hand News (Fleetwood Mac); You’re So Vain (Carly Simon); (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding (Elvis Costello); Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young); Different Drum (Stone Poneys); Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young); She May Call You Up (The Left Banke); Hello It’s Me (Todd Rundgren); Couldn’t I Just Tell You (Todd Rundgren); All the Young Dudes (Mott The Hoople); And Your Bird Can Sing (The Beatles); Baby Blue (Badfinger); It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob Dylan); Maggie May (Rod Stewart); Back of a Car (Big Star); In the Long Run** (The Carrie Nations); To Sir With Love** (Lulu); In Your Room-Manic Monday** (The Bangles); I’ve Been Waiting** (Matthew Sweet)

(** = Encore)

Rumer @ the World Cafe Live, 4/7/2015

Rumer closes the show with "Thankful."

Rumer closes the show with “Thankful.”

I wake up early, yet generally don’t leave for work as soon as I should or could. There are occasional days when I’m out the door by 7am, true, but more often I dawdle around online while downing my coffee and holding Tyler, the Cat, on my lap.

By 7:45am, though, I’m almost always on the road and, on good days, make it to the office by 8:30am. On a bad day? Make it closer to 9am. The ride home is usually a little better, especially if I leave closer to 6:30pm than 6. Some nights, though, the commute is interminable – the other day it took 45 minutes to move two miles. The one saving grace? My Pono Player plugs into my car stereo via the aux jack. So whether I’m cruising or crawling, the music flows and, traffic be damned, I enjoy myself – well, as much as can be expected. I’d rather be listening at home.

Some days I click “shuffle” and enjoy the radio-like experience of not knowing which songs will float forth from the speakers. But, as often as not, I’m obsessing over one artist or album. This past week has been like that, as I’ve listened almost exclusively to Rumer, who we saw at the World Cafe Live on Tuesday, April 7th.

I’ve written before about how her music conjures the era when adult pop, soft rock and bell-bottom jeans were in fashion – or, at least, were an acknowledged fashion. Her voice is honey for the ears; and her songs balm for the soul. They mean something.

The night started, however, as many such forays do, with a stop-and-start ride into the city that took much longer than planned, primarily due to rush hour and a spritzing rain, which generally ensures that everyone, everywhere, goes slow. So we arrived 30 minutes late for our 6:30 reservation – eating upstairs this night, not downstairs, due to our front-row seats. (If our seats had been at a table downstairs, we could’ve eaten there.) Yet, there was an upside to the delay: the soundcheck of the Dove & the Wolf, who were performing upstairs later that night.

Never heard them before, but plan to again. In any event, we made it downstairs and to our seats just as the opening act, John Brandoli, began his solo set. He would’ve come across better with a band, I think, but did a fine job on his own. His cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” was especially nice.

Rumer didn’t disappoint when she and her band hit the stage. She started with “Intro (Return of Blackbird),” the snippet that leads off her 2014 Into Colour album, but instead of expanding into the uptempo “Dangerous,” she sidestepped into “Am I Forgiven” from her 2010 debut, Seasons of My Soul – one of my Top 10 Albums of All Time, I hasten to add. It’s an amazing set.

I could, and likely should, write an in-depth review of everything that followed. But, really, me saying “It was great” after each song would get old. So, instead, I’ll post this, a picture of the night’s set-list –

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– except, it’s not quite accurate. She substituted the pleading “Take Me as I Am” for the aching “On My Way Home.”

Another highlight: “I Can’t Go for That,” the Hall & Oates classic she sang with Daryl Hall on Live From Daryl’s House a few years back.

“Better Place,” a celebration of everyday people, was even sweeter and more transcendent than on album. I think of it as It’s a Wonderful Life set to song: “You make the world a better place,” she sings – and it’s true. Most of us do, but never realize it.

Her songs are imbued with kindness and a universal love even when, as she often does, she tackles atypical themes in her lyrics – depression, acceptance, fitting in, death and letting go. Her spirit is immense in song, just as it has been in the fleeting moments I’ve talked with her offstage. It would be easy, and must be tempting, to avoid fawning fans such as myself, yet after each of the three shows we’ve seen she’s stuck around, greeting people, signing CDs and set lists, posing for pictures, asking and answering questions, and always, always smiling.

The only downside to the night: our seats. Front row, center, is theoretically perfect, but the reality is that the monitors block part of one’s view; and the overhead lights (as seen in my videos) come close to causing blindness.

(And many thanks to my wife Diane for the perfect shot that tops this post.)

The Bangles in Philadelphia, 10/4/2014

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We arrived late. I let Diane off in front of the World Cafe Live and proceeded to hunt for a place to park, my eyes on the clock: 7:27pm, a little more than half an hour before the show’s scheduled start. Rows of parked cars lined both sides of Walnut Street. No spots. It was a typical latecomer’s nightmare, in other words, and the capper for what was a tough week. Up 32nd Street I drove, then east on Chestnut. No spots.

However, a slightly hidden (and small) parking lot on South 31st Street, caddy corner to the WCL’s downstairs alleyway and entrance, has been free to the club’s patrons in the past. Diane reminded me of it before she departed the car, but given the hour I seriously doubted any spots would be left. Still, street parking nearby can sometime be had.

But not this night.

No matter. A few spots remained in the lot. Hallelujah! I pulled in, parked and hurried to the club to find Diane, and soon enough we walked into what was a packed room. Oh general admission, how I hate thee! No seats or tables on the main floor or even in front of the bar this night, just people taller than us milling about, including at the foot of the stage – where, if seats weren’t to be had, we definitely wanted to be. An elbow here and there later (I’m joking) and we snaked our way to about a yard away from our goal.

And then it happened: “Why don’t you move here?” suggested a guy, who was with his wife, to Diane. He gave up his spot at the foot of the stage, in other words, so that she could see. Acts of kindness, especially at concert venues, never cease to surprise me. (Roger, if you ever read this, thank you again!)

At about 8:20pm, the lights dimmed and the Bangles – Susanna Hoffs, the Peterson sisters (Vicki and Debbi) and a (male) bassist whose name I didn’t catch – kicked things off with a rockin’ rendition of “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” their hit cover of the Simon & Garfunkel chestnut.

And thus began an incredible concert that Diane perfectly encapsulated about halfway through. She leaned back to me, pointed to the stage and exclaimed, “This is my kind of girl power!” I can only agree, but – of course – I’m a partisan. As I’ve written about elsewhere, I’ve been a fan of the Bangles since the early ‘80s.

The set was made for hardcore fans, featuring the expected — “Manic Monday,” “If She Knew What She Wants,” “September Gurls,” “In Your Room,” “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Eternal Flame” – alongside such All Over the Place gems as “Hero Takes a Fall,” “Going Down to Liverpool,” “James” and “Live,” along with some songs that predate those, such as their first-ever single, “Getting Out of Hand.” Also on the docket: jewels from the 2011 Sweetheart of the Sun album, such as “Anna Lee,” “Ball & Chain” and the rockin’ Nazz cover “Open My Eyes.”

In short, it was garage-rock heaven: to-die-for vocals and harmonies, catchy melodies and stellar musicianship. These gals rocked the house, and then some. Here’s a sampling:

Of course, just as at the First Aid Kit show, the general-admission aspect of the night turned tiresome after a while. About the only solace: I wasn’t the only one tired, as the crowd was made up almost entirely of middle-aged folks like me (though I did notice a few younger faces).

The only other negative: my freakin’ iPhone 5, which froze up while recording “Going Down to Liverpool.” (iOS 8 has not been playing nice with it.)

Oh, and one more negative: that parking lot? It’s not free anymore. I got a $35 parking ticket. C’est la vie.