Tag Archives: Concert

Kasey Chambers in Philadelphia, 7/5/2017

How time flies. That’s a cliche, I know, but it seems just yesterday that Diane and I took our seats in an overstuffed couch positioned in front of the small stage at the Point, a now-defunct music club in Bryn Mawr.

The headliner that night, November 6, 2000: Kasey Chambers, a babyfaced 23-year-old country-folk singer from Australia. (Here’s the City Paper’s preview of the show.) The tickets set us back $12 (for the both of us). We were already fans, and were psyched to see her, though neither of us can now remember how we discovered her music. Was it through XPN? A review in a music magazine? A recommendation from a friend? A chance buy? However we came upon her, this much we do recall: She blew us away. Backed by a crack band that included her dad Bill, she delivered a rollicking set that routinely teetered from hilarious to profound, sometimes in the same song.

Two-and-a-half years later, at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, we saw her again at a highly anticipated (by us) show that I consider my Most Disappointing Concert Ever. She had a bad flu and, after a yeoman’s effort, called it quits after about 40 minutes (maybe less) of cutting short most songs – she’d start one only to realize 30 seconds or a minute in that she couldn’t hit the necessary notes. (It’s not the worst show I’ve witnessed, believe it or not. That “honor” goes to the Singer Who Shall Not Be Named.)

Anyway, she played the TLA in November 2004 – but we weren’t aware. So our last memory of her in a live setting was of that Keswick show; not that we held it against her. Her 2004 Wayward Angel album, to my ears, is an alt.country delight; her more-mainstream 2006 album Carnival is a gem; and Rattlin’ Bones, her 2008 release with then-husband Shane Nicholson is home to many neo-country classics, including the title cut. I’d continue down the line and lay praise on the albums that followed – except, somewhere in there, I lost track of her.

It’s easy to do. There’s so much good music, so little time and, in the case of Kasey Chambers, so little American press and radio.

And just as we missed that TLA concert and some of the albums that followed, we may well have missed this show. Natalie Merchant’s tour itinerary had her at Longwood Gardens this same night, July 5th, and I tried to score us tickets in March, but (for reasons too lengthy to go into here) came up empty. You can never truly know what you missed, of course, but as good or great as that show may have been, I’m grateful I missed it.

Quite simply, Kasey Chambers delivered what may well have been – and I don’t say this lightly – my Concert of the Year at the World Cafe Live. It mixed old-school country with rock and blues, humor and pathos, featured her still-crack band (which still includes her dad), and was topped off by her wondrous voice, which bypasses the ears for the heart and soul.

They opened with “Wheelbarrow” from her 2014 Bittersweet album…

…and played songs old and new. One highlight: “A Million Tears,” a song that dates to her classic 2001 Barricades & Brickwalls album.

Another: her cover of Little Feat’s “Willin’,” which builds from an acoustic gem into a full-band opus.

Some of the night’s highlights aren’t (yet) on YouTube – “Oh Grace,” during which Kasey was joined at her microphone by her bandmates, sent shivers down the spine; and “Ain’t No Little Girl,” the second-to-last song of her main set, featured a heart-stopping vocal performance that…wow. Just wow. Here she is at the City Winery in New York a few nights later singing it:

She concluded the main set with “The Captain,” which she wrote in her teens and, she says, is her favorite of all her songs.

The funny (and Dylan-esque) “Talkin’ Baby Blues” followed; and the night finally ended with what may well have been history: three generations of the Chambers clan on stage together for “Barricades & Brickwalls.” (That’s her son Arlo on harmonica.)

For my ears and money, it doesn’t get much better than that voice, its quiver and high notes; those guitars; and those songs, which mix Appalachian soul with a rock ’n’ roll heart. Over the course of the 18-song, 100-minute concert, Kasey Chambers guided us to heaven and hell, and all points in between, and left us wanting more. One can only hope that it’s not another 13 years before she comes around this way again.

The setlist:

Garland Jeffreys at the World Cafe Live Upstairs, 6/8/2017

Another night, another great show. Since March, when we saw the Staves, Diane and I have witnessed a string of magical concerts by favorites old and new. Some nights we’ve been the oldest folks in the room; others we’ve mingled with our middle-aged peers; and, at least once, I looked around and realized we were likely the youngest in attendance.

This night, Thursday June 8th, found us sitting with fellow travelers/longtime fans of Garland Jeffreys at the World Cafe Live Upstairs in West Philly; aka, a middle-aged crowd or, more to the point, our peers. It’s the smaller of the venue’s two rooms, and intimate as intimate gets. This was our view of the stage:

That’s the DuPont Brothers, a Vermont-based duo, who opened. Their songs and harmonies conjure the likes of Jackson Browne and CSN, among others; I look forward to exploring their music in the weeks and months ahead, and hope to see them again.

Then, it was time for the headliner: Garland took to the stage to the propulsive beat of “Coney Island Winter,” one of many highlights from his 2011 album The King of In Between

It was the perfect start to a rockin’ hour-and-change set that mixed latter-day songs, including a wealth of tracks from his sterling 14 Steps to Harlem album, with such past classics as “Ghost Writer,” “35 Millimeter Dreams,” “96 Tears” and “R.O.C.K.”

Somewhere in there, I found myself drifting back to a show in New York in maybe 2002 or ‘03 at the Village Underground, Joe’s Pub or…? Whenever, wherever, Diane and I had made the long trek up the railways to see the Brooklyn-born bard on his home turf, and – as has been the case with each of the dozen times (give or take) we’ve seen him since – he more than exceeded expectations. That night, he rocked the packed house and then, afterwards, greeted fans and friends alike.

Understand that, at that point, he and Diane had bonded through an in-depth interview she’d done with him for the original Old Grey Cat website (which, now that I’ve located it, I plan to resurrect here in the near-future). So when he saw Diane, as one might expect, he hugged her.

He also – totally unexpected – hugged me.

Now, I can count on one hand the number of men I’ve hugged. I’m of my father’s stock, in that regard; a handshake more than suffices. (I hasten to add, it’s a gender-equal disposition – other than my wife, mother and one or two others, a hug and/or kiss from a woman seems a tad touchy-feely to me. Juliana could well have written “Got No Idols” about me, in other words.)

Anyway, now 73, Garland’s still going strong, still writing songs that resonate with the soul – such as “Time and Again,” which he didn’t sing this night (but should have – even without his daughter’s beautiful voice, it would be powerful), or the title song to 14 Steps, which he linked with “Harlem Bound” from his 1973 solo debut.

And this night, as with that long-ago night, he hung out post-show to meet and greet his fans and friends. For my part, I attempted to circumvent the expected hug by asking for a photo instead – the first time for that.

It kinda-sorta worked.

 

Lulu at the Sellersville Theater, 5/31/2017

This night, a middle-aged and older crowd found itself returned to the halcyon days of yore, when they tore up the dance floor with the Frug, Freddie and Watusi, due to a wondrous spell cast upon them by the musical shaman on stage, the one and only Lulu.

Her cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” of course, was her first (U.K.) hit, peaking at No. 7 in 1964 – when she was 15 years of age. Her innate talent and effervescent personality quickly led to a co-hosting gig on Gadzooks! It’s the In-Crowd, a teen-themed TV music show, and thus was born a U.K.-centric career. She hosted a succession of variety shows and one-off specials, and scored a succession of hits, including Top 10 songs in five decades.

Fifty+ years on, her voice sounds remarkably the same as it did on that long-ago single. In fact, at her best then and now – such as with “Oh Me, Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby)” – she blends equal measures of R&B, soul and pop into a delectable dish –

That Jim Doris-penned song was one she brought with her on her sojourn to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1969 to record her New Routes album, a flawed masterpiece. (It and the following year’s Melody Fair, along with various singles and outtakes, are available on the more-than-worthwhile Atco Sessions: 1969-72 collection.) It was one of few songs that did better in the U.S., where it reached No. 22, than in the U.K. – and would be her last single to chart here until 1981, when she reached No. 18 with one of the night’s other highlights, “I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do).” Here’s the original version:

Anyway, that’s a lot of backstory to lead into this: Now 68, Lulu is undertaking what she should have done way back in 1967 – her first headlining tour of America. I pinpoint 1967 because, of course, that’s when the title tune to the iconic film To Sir With Love topped the Billboard charts for five weeks (on its way to being the No. 1 single for the year).

During the show, she mentioned how the record company actually relegated the song to the b-side of the Neil Diamond-penned “The Boat That I Row”; if not for American deejays, who back then held much sway over what made air, flipping the 45, the song never would have become iconic. Imagine that!

Other highlights included her tribute to David Bowie with “The Man Who Sold the World,” which she released as a single (produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson) in 1974; and her recollection of being in the studio with (ex-husband) Maurice Gibb and the Bee Gees when they wrote and recorded several classic songs. Fast forward to 6:33 of this fan’s highlight-like reel of the show for part of that:

Obviously, everyone in attendance expected to be entertained – it’s why we bought tickets to the show, after all. It was to be a fun night out. But the common refrain I heard from those around us while we left the theater and made our way to the parking lot was that “she was even better than I hoped.” Or, as Diane told a friend on the phone moments ago, “She was incredible. Unbelievable.” I’d second that.

  1. Shout
  2. The Boat That I Row
  3. The Man Who Sold the World
  4. Poison Kiss
  5. I Don’t Wanna Fight
  6. Run to Me
  7. To Love Somebody
  8. I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You
  9. Unchain My Heart
  10. Wait for Me
  11. The Man With the Golden Gun
  12. I Could Never Miss You
  13. Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby)
  14. Rock Steady
  15. Hound Dog
  16. To Sir With Love
  17. I Can’t Turn You Loose