Tag Archives: World Cafe Live

Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer in Philadelphia, 8/25/2017

Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer’s new album, Not Dark Yet, is a sublime set that finds the sisters adding a wondrous luster to borrowed gems penned by the likes of Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt and Merle Haggard, among others. In a way, it’s the sonic equivalent of jewelry row in Philadelphia – or, to change metaphors, an exhibit at the Museum of Art. Each painting reflects and transcends the reality that birthed them. But when the Moorer sisters performed the same 10 songs last night at the World Cafe Live in West Philly, it was as if those paintings morphed into a spellbinding motion picture filled with shadows and light.

Shelby, for her part, radiated a colorful Janis Joplin-like vibe. “Thank you for coming out on a Monday night,” she crowed at evening’s start, apparently unaware – until the laughter kicked in – that it was Friday. Allison, on the other hand, maintained a more restrained demeanor. But when their voices blended together as one, such as on this Louvin Brothers classic…

…or this Jessi Colter classic…

…well, what can be said? The magic they created was astounding. In a similar vein, when they weaved their voices in and out, and traded lead vocals, such as on Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet,” the stark beauty of the confessional (“Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear/It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there”) stunned the audience into silence.

By far, the most moving moment of the set – at least for me – came with their rendition of Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms.”

On album, as the clip above shows, it’s hypnotic. But live? It’s an epiphany. I’m kicking myself now for not recording it.

I’d say the same for their entire 80-minute (give or take) show. It was a mesmerizing night filled with shadows and light, darkness and hope, the chosen songs shedding insights into life itself, though those insights are damned difficult to put into words.

One of the things I most enjoyed: their obvious affection for one another – and the music. At one point, Allison stepped close to her sister and seemed to encourage her to take the next verse; Shelby mouthed “you sure?” – and then did so with relish. And Shelby, when waiting to chime in on the chorus or take the next vocal, looked like a supernova in the midst of a musical galaxy, burning brighter with each chord. It was cool to witness.

One more thought: Obvious from the featured clips is that none of them are mine. We had front-row seats, which gave us a great view of Allison – especially when she sat at the keyboards in front of us – but a somewhat distant view of Shelby. Rather than swing my iPhone back and forth (and give myself whiplash in the process), I took a few pictures and left it at that.

Here’s a good one of Allison:

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Garrett Kato in Philadelphia, 7/5/2017

I’d be remiss in writing about Kasey Chambers’ phenomenal show at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia without mentioning the opening act, Garrett Kato. He found himself on the tour, he said, because of Kasey’s grace. She heard him busking on a street corner, bought his CD and, later that same day, wrote about how good he was on Facebook. It took his girlfriend to explain that Kasey is sort of (and sort of not) like Dolly Parton in Australia. They eventually bumped into each other in a recording studio – and now he’s not only opening for her on this tour, but manning the soundboard.

Such small acts of kindness are less small to those on the receiving end, of course, especially one who’s an up-and-coming singer-songwriter. (The terrain has changed so much from the days of yore that, honestly, I wonder sometimes why so many still choose that path. But that’s a post for another day.)

Anyway, I wish I knew the names of all the songs he performed, but aside from a very cool cover of “My Girl” I can’t. Oh, and this one, “The River Mouth” –

When he got to the part where he incorporates “Dancing in the Dark” – well, I have a bruise the size of Nebraska on my arm now thanks to Diane, who was so excited to hear a bit of the Boss that she began punching me.

Obvious by the fact that the clip is from Columbus, I suppose, is that no one in the audience captured this night’s performance (or, at least, uploaded it to YouTube). That’s no reflection on him and his talent, just – speaking for myself – the realities of battery-operated devices. Not only are his songs damn good, but he has a disarming stage presence – and a wondrous grainy texture to his voice. Here’s another song, also from Columbus, that he sang in Philly:

He also reflected on his move, seven years back, from Canada to Australia, which became more-or-less permanent when he met a girl there and they had a baby. He also shared a funny story of writing a sweet song for his mom when she was going through a tough time… only to have the producers of Bad Moms ask to use it in the movie. He then had to call his mother and explain that a payday would have to trump his heartfelt sentiment. (It was funnier when he told it. Trust me.) The song is “Sweet Jane” – not to be confused with the Lou Reed/Velvet Underground classic – and is well worth the listen.

Here’s a version he uploaded to YouTube:

 

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: