Tag Archives: Concert

Graham Parker at the Sellersville Theater, 5/12/2017

Last night at the Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, Pa., Graham Parker delivered an exemplary set that featured many of his best songs, including “Stick to Me,” “Heat Treatment,” “Discovering Japan” and “White Honey.” His sardonic sense of humor was on full display, too – his intros were often as funny, if not funnier, than routines delivered by stand-up comedians.

Accompanying him: Brinsley Schwarz – as in the guitarist, not the band. The longtime Parker sideman, who plays in the Rumour, handled electric guitar most of the night, and shined on his one excursion into the spotlight with “You Miss Again,” a song from his 2016 solo album Unexpected. Parker, for his part, played acoustic guitar.

Back to Parker’s intros: One of the funnier bits centered on the Sellersville Theater. He praised it, as it’s a great place with wonderful acoustics, and mentioned that he was impressed with many of the acts they book. “But what’s with all the cover bands?” he gibed. “The Almost Queens?!” (An actual “tribute” band, from what I just discovered.) He added, dry as can be, that he once saw an Oasis cover band and found it more enjoyable than the real thing: the faux Liam and Noel weren’t butting heads.

Ah, the things we rock fans find amusing.

I’d love to share a video of that or any intro, as well as several of the night’s songs, but taking pictures and “any recording of any kind” were strictly prohibited. Even if not, although we had excellent seats, two rather large shadows (i.e., the people in front of me) would have made it nearly impossible – as evidenced by the few pictures I snapped during the show’s last songs.

Anyway, I could and probably should delve deeper into the night’s specific highs – such as “Don’t Let It Break You Down,” when he integrated snippets of other songs, including the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” and the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” into it – but, honestly, there’s no point. For me, it was a good/great show. But Diane and our friend Luanne, who are both longer (and much more rabid) fans than I, were absolutely enthralled. They both raved about it – and about meeting Graham afterwards – on the ride home.

I hasten to add, about this last picture: My de-facto casual weekend garb since the 2016 election includes my “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Bill & Opus” hoodie that I picked up…last spring, I believe, after seeing an advertisement for it on Facebook. When out and about on chilly days and nights, it and my faux-leather jacket keep me warm – and, too, sends a subtle political message. But I also was not expecting to pose for pictures with Juliana, Courtney and Graham in succession…especially since I’ve only posed with one other artist, Rumer, in all my years of concert-going.

The set:

  1. Watch the Moon Come Down
  2. Between You and Me
  3. Stop Cryin’ About the Rain
  4. Fool’s Gold
  5. Devil’s Sidewalk
  6. Lunatic Fringe
  7. Socks ’n’ Sandals
  8. Disney’s America
  9. You Miss Again (Brinsley Schwarz)
  10. Heat Treatment
  11. Stick to Me
  12. Discovering Japan
  13. Long Emotional Ride
  14. Pub Crawl
  15. The New York Shuffle
  16. White Honey
  17. **You Can’t Be Too Strong
  18. **Don’t Let It Break You Down
  19. **Hold Back the Night

(** = encore)

Courtney Marie Andrews in Philadelphia, 5/9/2017

At the Boot & Saddle in South Philly last night, Courtney Marie Andrews delivered as magical and mesmerizing a set as I’ve witnessed during my 30+ years of concert-going. The 15 songs explored the highways, byways, colors and hues of heartbreak, heartache, life and death, and did so with deftness and charm. What blew me away as much as her lyrics and melodies: the clarity and power of her voice, which soars and swoops through the soul like no other.

In between songs, while tuning her guitar (which was replete with new strings), she shared stories about their inspirations and, too, her life experiences, from writing “Heart and Mind” at a truck stop following the 2016 election to interacting with the colorful characters she met while tending bar for a time. “Honest Life,” she explained, was heard as a gospel song by Jools Holland, who asked to play it with her when she appeared on his Later show in England.

The song, as does the Honest Life album as a whole, echoes the past while remaining rooted in the present; it’s an example of the amalgamation I referenced in my review, merging a myriad of influences into a unique and singular whole. It blows my mind every time I listen to it, in other words, and – live – it did so, again.

Other highlights included her first “funny” song, which was charming and droll. Some of the lyrics, as autographed by Courtney, are to the left.

“Put the Fire Out,” which closed the main portion of the set, was simply amazing:

That was to be the night’s last song, but after cajoles from the crowd she debuted a song she’d yet to perform live – no title was given, but the chorus mentions a “Long, Long Road.” Like the night’s previous 14 songs, one can hear the clarion call of the generations in it, from the tunes mined by A.P. Carter in the Appalachian mountains to the folk-country stylings of First Aid Kit.

Years from now, my hunch is that the 50-or-so folks in attendance will have ballooned to 1000 or more, as that many will lay claim to have been present. It will be the stuff of Philadelphia lore, akin to Joni playing the 2nd Fret coffeehouse on Rittenhouse Square in the late 1960s or Bruce, Jackson and Bonnie playing the Main Point in the early ‘70s. (That may seem hyperbolic, but…it is what it is.)

Here’s the set – with a few caveats. She didn’t mention song titles, so the “funny song” and night’s final song have what I think they may be called in parentheses; I’m likely wrong. I also am not familiar with the moving song she sang for her aunt, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer as she was writing it (she’s since rebounded and the cancer is nearly gone).

  1. Seaside Town
  2. Not the End
  3. Rookie Dreaming
  4. Table for One
  5. Heart and Mind
  6. Woman of Many Colors
  7. How Quickly the Heart Mends
  8. Honest Life
  9. 15 Highway Lines
  10. Irene
  11. Funny Song (“Drunk Needs a Drink”?)
  12. Song for Aunt
  13. Let the Good One Go
  14. Put the Fire Out
  15. New Song (“Long, Long Road”?)

Also: the Dove & the Wolf, who opened, were simply magnificent. We’re looking forward to seeing them again.

Afterwards, Courtney was kind enough to meet with fans and sign autographs, and posed for a picture with me – kinda like beauty and the beast, now that I look at it. (And I was so high from the performance that I forgot to get the Honest Life album, which I bought on vinyl, autographed! Next time, hopefully.)

And, last: Philly fans should note that Courtney will be back in town on November 2nd, when she opens for Hamilton Leithauser at the Union Transfer.

Of Concerts Past: Maria McKee @ the TLA in Philly, 9/18/93

Ah, Maria. Sweet, sweet, sweet Maria. Last night she tweeted a link to a YouTube video of a 1993 TV appearance with the Jayhawks…

…and I was thrust through a time portal to that very year, which is when I first saw her in concert.

Now, regular readers of this blog already know that I became a fan of her old band, Lone Justice, on April 17, 1985, which is when I first heard the “shotgun blast of sonic newness” that was, is and will always be (to me, at least) their self-titled debut LP. Time and circumstance, and a little thing called cash (and lack thereof), kept me from ever catching them in concert, however.

Flash-forward to 1993 and life was different. I was married, had a decent job and, best of all, had a wife who was (and is) as much of a music freak as me. By then, of course, Lone Justice was done and Maria was on her own, having released a stellar self-titled solo debut in 1989 and an even more stellar sophomore set, You Gotta Sin to Get Saved, in June 1993. In the weeks (months?) following that second album’s release, she made a series of in-store appearances promoting it and, on an unknown afternoon that month or the next, she stopped at Tower Records on Philadelphia’s famed South Street (aka “the hippest street in town”) to perform a few songs and meet-and-greet with fans such as myself. It’s when she autographed my Lone Justice CD cover. (it’s times like this when I wish I’d never stopped notating such stuff in a desk calendar.)

What I remember: She plugged in her guitar and ripped through three songs, including a kickass rendition of “Sister Anne.” As in, the MC5 song. And she literally kicked out the jams, ripped it to shreds, made it her own. What were the other two songs? Was she by herself or accompanied by others? Both fair questions, and questions I can’t answer. Only “Sister Anne” has remained lodged in my memory. (Diane says they were “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” and “The Way Young Lovers Do.”) Perhaps the mini-set ended similar to this clip from the Forum in London that same year, where she played “Sister Anne” back-to-back with the album’s title track (though, if Diane’s correct, there was no title track).

Anyway, she returned to South Street (the TLA, to be specific) in September to headline a proper concert—and again proved her mettle. Or is that metal? Granted, it was a too-short set of 75-80 minutes, but while she was on that stage, she commanded the audience’s attention. I seem to recall that “East of Eden” opened the show, but that the bulk of the night was devoted to her solo work.

That last clip mistakes the year – it’s from Maria’s 1993 appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. (Side note: I’ve always wondered if “Why Wasn’t I More Grateful” inspired “Life Is Sweet.”) The night also featured a sublime performance of “Breathe,” one of my all-time favorite songs. Here she is from a few years earlier performing it on the Night Music TV show:

In short, it was a raucous, rockin’ set intermingled with moments of high drama via her operatic ballads; and at the end, in a dramatic flourish, she slammed the microphone stand down before stomping off stage.

The set was similar to this, though I believe I’m missing a few songs.

  1. East of Eden
  2. I Can’t Make It Alone
  3. My Lonely Sad Eyes
  4. Goodbye
  5. I Forgive You
  6. My Girlhood Among the Outlaws
  7. This Property Is Condemned
  8. Breathe
  9. Nobody’s Child
  10. The Way Young Lovers Do
  11. Why Wasn’t I More Grateful
  12. You Gotta Sin to Get Saved

Other memories: It was general admission; we were at the foot of the stage; and, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s review, it was sold out. (I’d link to the review, but unfortunately the Inky now charges for its archives.) What else? A fan beside us had traveled from New York City, where he’d seen her the night before, and used his knowledge of opening act David Gray’s short set to sarcastically call out for his closing number several times, as he wanted him off the stage. (In a serendipitous moment, we ran into that same guy a few months later in NYC while we were there to see…I think it was Laura Nyro’s Christmas Eve show at the Bottom Line, but I may be mistaken. We bumped into him in a diner.) Back on point: the reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer mistook those jibes for enthusiasm.

Update 4/10/2017: I found this set list for the concert online, though I have doubts about its accuracy – 

  1. East of Eden
  2. I Can’t Make It Alone
  3. My Lonely Sad Eyes
  4. I’m Gonna Soothe You
  5. The Way Young Lovers Do
  6. Panic Beach
  7. This Property Is Condemned
  8. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
  9. Nothing Takes the Place of You
  10. Breathe
  11. Why Wasn’t I More Grateful
  12. Sister Anne
  13. Soap, Soup & Salvation
  14. You Gotta Sin to Get Saved
  15. Ways to Be Wicked

My doubts: I remember being surprised that Maria didn’t perform “I’m Gonna Soothe You,” which Christopher confirms in the comments below, and I recall “Nobody’s Child” (though that could be a memory from one of the other times I saw her). And I also recall “You Gotta Sin…” as the last song of the night. Oh, and “Sister Anne” again?! I hope I’d remember that… 

What I do remember: It was a great show!