Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

cat_reviews

Iron & Wine Play Career-Spanning Show at the Space at Westbury

June 27th, 2014

Iron & Wine – the Space at Westbury – June 26, 2014

iron-and-wine-2013
When you go see Iron & Wine, you know what you’re going to get but also don’t know what you’re going to get. Of course, there are going to be great songs, lots of them, overflowing with unique lyricism, imagery and melody, and you know you’ll have Sam Beam there to sing them to you. What you don’t always know is who will be playing with him, which will set the tone and style of the show. In past years, the sound has followed as Beam has toured with horns or backup singers or a stripped-down band. On Thursday night at the Space in Westbury, Beam played what he thought was his first show on Long Island proper, backed by a steady-as-she-goes roots-rock band that might be equally comfortable backing Bob Dylan these days, and the music followed suit.

The show opened with a terrific set from the Secret Sisters, out of Alabama, their vocal harmonies resonating to almost cosmic effect, while their backing band rumbled with soulful blues rock. The voices, the music, the set—which ranged across multiple styles of rock and roll, including covers of Hank Williams and their take on an unfinished Dylan piece—and the Sisters’ Southern charm easily won over the crowd. Beam and his band opened their career-spanning headlining set with a high-energy folk-shuffle version of “Boy with a Coin.” Banjo, acoustic guitar, organ, bass and drums nicely accented Beam’s agave-nectar natural-sweetener voice. The band flipped among instruments to widen the sound, Jim Becker moving from banjo to mandolin to acoustic-wired-electric guitar; Rob Burger moving from organ to Rhodes. Songs of exquisite beauty, like “House by the Sea,” with some nice double-acoustic guitar picking, led up to some momentum-building blues rock on songs like “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven.”

And while the band nicely worked the material, the set’s highlight was at the halfway point when Beam cast aside the extra musicians, first with a gorgeous duet with Burger on “Joy,” off his most recent album, Ghost on Ghost. This was followed by an all-request group of solo songs that stole the show. The enthusiastic crowd was up for the task, asking for some A-list material. All were great, but two songs stood out: First, Iron & Wine’s made-it-his-own, pure-light-and-good version of the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights,” which certainly took away the breath from even the most cynical curmudgeon in the room. The poetic “Flightless Bird, American Mouth,” was second, Beam’s voice shocking the not silenced easily audience into a silence beautiful in its absoluteness. The remainder of the show was a cascade of hits, featuring great versions of “Woman King,” “Rabbit Will Run” and the dark, slow build-to-climax encore of “Lovers Revolution.” It was a reminder of how many great songs Beam has to choose from, but really, no surprises there. —A. Stein

 

 

 

cat_preview

Singer-Songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff Visits Mercury Lounge Tonight

April 23rd, 2014

Growing up in rural Missouri, singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff took to music early on, playing the drums at seven and picking up the guitar (“My mom showed me a few chords and then my best friend showed me a few more”) and beginning to write songs as a young teen. Looking up to the likes of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and the Band, it’s no wonder his music is raw and honest. Rateliff’s first solo album, the introspective In Memory of Loss (stream it below), came out in 2010. AllMusic compared his voice to M. Ward’s and Vic Chesnutt’s, and PopMatters opined that “the record is the sound of a man wrestling with his burdens in a creative fashion, with the help of an acoustic guitar and the backing of some friends on other ordinary instruments played with a strong passion. This style of music never goes out of style when done well, and Rateliff does the tradition proud.” Now based in Denver, Rateliff spent a considerable amount of time alone on the road in support of his debut, which provided plenty of time for him to write. “It’s sort of my way of dealing with shit. Unfortunately I’m not very good at communicating. It’s like my way to vanquish all of the shit that I’m holding on to,” he told Minneapolis Fucking Rocks. And along those lines, Rateliff (above, performing “Right On” for the Mahogany Sessions) recently released his follow-up, Falling Faster Than You Can Run (stream it below), as dark as it is beautiful. See him play Mercury Lounge tonight. Caroline Rose, who’s also used the road as a means to write material for her most recent album, opens the show.

cat_preview

All-Star Lineup Celebrates New Dylan-Tribute Album on Monday

March 21st, 2014

Bob-Dylan-80s
Bob Dylan made a name for himself as perhaps the greatest singer-songwriter of all time during the ’60s and ’70s. But to put it mildly, many think his output in the ’80s, after he’d briefly become a born-again Christian, not only pales in comparison, but it was actually his worst work overall. However the fact of the matter is the iconic ’60s- and ’70s-era Dylan outshines just about any other artist’s work in any other decade. And the truth is his seven albums in the ’80s actually do contain numerous gems. And to that end, ATO Records release the tribute album Bob Dylan in the ’80s: Volume One next Tuesday, filled with bands like Deer Tick, Langhorne Slim, Built to Spill, Blitzen Trapper, Lucius and plenty other talented musicians. And on Monday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a terrific gathering of musicians—including Langhorne Slim, John McCauley and Ian O’Neil of Deer Tick, Elvis Perkins, Spirit Family Reunion, Dawn Landes, Yellowbirds, Hannah Cohen, members of Tea Leaf Green, plus special guests—play a record-release party.

 

 

cat_preview

Madeleine Peyroux Plays a Pair of Shows Tonight at Music Hall

January 28th, 2014

Like Billie Holiday before her, Madeleine Peyroux, out of Athens, Ga. (by way of Brooklyn, Southern California and Paris), is known as a jazz singer despite her penchant for the blues. And while she’s most often compared to Lady Day, due to vocal similarities, Peyroux’s disparate influences include Patsy Cline, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. Her debut album, Dreamland (stream it below), arrived in 1996 to a fair amount of acclaim for such an unheralded 22-year-old musician. Despite the recognition for her work, Peyroux (above, performing “Guilty” in studio for WFUV FM) spent much of the next few years busking on the streets of Paris and recording with others. So her second album, Careless Love (stream it below) didn’t come out until 2004. But since then, the singer-songwriter-guitarist has remained busy touring and recording. Her most recent album, Blue Room (stream it below), released last March, recreates the country-meets-jazz theme of the Ray Charles classic Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Noting that this has been done before, Pop Matters says, “The cultural impact may be slight, but the music itself is quite gorgeous.” Madeleine Peyroux plays a pair of shows, one early and another late, tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

cat_preview

Frontier Ruckus Played to Their Strenghts Last Night

December 6th, 2013

Frontier Ruckus – Mercury Lounge – December 5, 2013


Taking the stage at Mercury Lounge last night, Frontier Ruckus went from the “check, check, check” warm up straight into an eerie and wonderful melody featuring acoustic guitar, banjo and a saw without a pause or word. Yes, you read that right, a saw, and actually the guy playing it, Zachary Nichols, went from the saw to the trumpet to the melodica and back to the saw in a matter of a couple of verses. It was that kind of set where lyrics piled upon lyrics, ideas upon ideas and songs upon songs with barely a moment to digest or appreciate. Still, fronted by Matthew Milia, the Michigan quartet worked the details, a phrase here, a bleat of a horn there.

Frontier Ruckus’s sound is an engaging folk—guitar, banjo and harmonies—a swirl of Welch/Rawlings and the Avetts with a lyrical prowess that harkens Clem Snide’s Eef Barzelay or Stephen Malkmus. It’s Milia’s words that kept the audience hanging—this isn’t really sing-along music, but many in the crowd seemed to know every juxtaposed lyric by heart. This is a band that rhymes chirping with usurping, and East Lansing with entrancing without a stutter or hesitation. “Eyelashes” mixed great instrumental interplay with an evocative chorus of “your eyelashes are like needles.” “Dealerships” was an early set high-energy highlight, Milia spitting out word after word like a long Dylan diatribe, leaving the audience dizzy trying to keep up.

Mid-set, Milia broke a string and rushed offstage without comment to fix it, leaving the band in an unexpected lurch. But without a skip in the record, banjo player David Winston Jones waltzed over to Nichols and they jumped right into a haunting instrumental banjo-and-saw duet on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as if they had planned to all along. Later, a new song, described as taking place in the past and the future, about getting drunk at an enemy’s funeral contained a wonderful lyric about how the “theme song to this sitcom don’t have shit on our best episode.” It was here that Frontier Ruckus had their strength, songs like “Careening Catalog Immemorial,” about finding a stash of porn in a Taco Bell parking lot, Milia and Co. unearthing the poetic in the crass and mundane, the epic in the contemporary everyday, with tasty musical accompaniment and barely a moment left to breathe. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | petersenzamici.com

cat_reviews

Houndmouth Just Might Be the Next Big Thing

November 18th, 2013

Houndmouth – Mercury Lounge – November 16, 2013


If late-night rowdy rock-outs aren’t your thing, I hope you steered away from Mercury Lounge Saturday night. If you’re not interested in being a part of jubilant, top-of-the-lungs sing-alongs, I hope you avoided Houston and Essex like the plague. If up-and-coming, in-your-face folk-county-rock bands just don’t do it for you, then you would’ve been wise to cross to the other side of the street as the midnight hour approached. Looking and sounding every bit like the next big thing, Houndmouth set the second sold-out crowd in as many nights ablaze with their high-energy show.

It’s a simple formula—good songs, played well. Houndmouth tore through most of their debut, From the Hills Below the City, mixing in sweet harmonies (loud and quiet) and guitar-solo jams, often within the same song. “Krampus” was an early set highlight and a model for the rest of the night: cathartic vocals, built to electric heights until the room was filled with people singing along and pumping their fists. “Hey Rose” mixed honky-tonk licks with evocative lyrics, like “wash your face and change your frame of mind,” and ended with one of those can’t-miss guitar solos from atop the drum riser.

The set list was filled with a mix of tour-sharpened album material, several new songs and a few covers. So their glorious “Halfway to Hardinsburg” came after a tasty Beatles couplet of “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight,” and a new one had them singing about “Mama’s in the kitchen.” The 70-minute set ended in big fashion with a build-’em-up rock-out of “Penitentiary” and a soul-lifting everyone-sings cover of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” with members of opener the Wheeler Brothers helping make big and loud bigger and louder. The band announced they’d return for multiple shows in bigger rooms, for sure, in the winter. So if you have no desire to see one of the best on-the-rise bands going right now, I strongly advise you to not grab tickets for those shows right away.
—A. Stein

 

 

cat_preview

A Fun Bob Dylan Celebration for a Great Cause

November 13th, 2013

Dylan Fest – The Bowery Ballroom – November 12, 2013


I don’t care who you are or what you listen to, everyone has a favorite Bob Dylan song. And if you were at last night’s sold-out Dylan Fest at The Bowery Ballroom—the second of two—there was a good chance you heard yours … and a good chance you didn’t. Close to two-thirds of the way through the show, about the time when Patrick Carney was on drums behind Lukas Haas, it became clear that at the rate the vocalists were rotating across the stage singing one Dylan song after another that it would take about a week to play all of the classic canon.

No matter, what we did get to hear was great. The constant stream of guests made the show fun, while the ready-for-anything Cabin Down Below Band made the show good. We got bluesy rocking Dylan, country Dylan, angry Dylan, sweet Dylan, sing-along Dylan (Mikki James on “Tangled Up in Blue”), sexy Dylan (Karen Elson going dark and slinky on “Cold Irons Bound”) and even some funky Dylan (Meshell Ndegeocello and Doyle Bramhall II fronting a great “Maggie’s Farm”). The pace was fast and furious and a hoot with a bottle of show-sponsor Jameson making the rounds and the production staff doing almost as remarkable of a job as the performers.

Take your choice of highlights, each performer seemed to pick the perfect song to cover: Norah Jones crooning “Just Like a Woman,” Ruby Amanfu and her wowza! vocals backed beautifully by bass, drums and pedal steel on “Not Dark Yet,” Jason Isbell and his wife, Amanda Shires, playing a stunning “Lay Lady Lay” and, my personal favorite, Elvis Perkins singing “Motorpsycho Nightmare,” the full band coming to a head, Perkins not missing a beat while he slyly sang the lyric “lookin’ just like Tony Perkins.” Random pockets of the crowd would ignite as their favorite song would begin, singing along to Dylan both well known and obscure. After Erika Wennerstrom and house bassist Austin Scaggs riled up the crowd with a sing-along “Like a Rolling Stone,” the night fittingly ended with “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” with a certainly fire-code-flaunting crowd of pretty much every musician onstage at once. They might not have made it to every great Dylan song, but, damn, they had a lot of fun trying. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com

(All ticket proceeds from both shows goes to Sweet Relief. Sweet Relief Musicians Fund provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability or age-related problems.)

cat_reviews

Heavyweights on the Hudson

July 29th, 2013

My Morning Jacket/Wilco/Bob Dylan – Hoboken Pier A Park – July 26, 2013

(Photo: Eddie Bruiser)

What a view! What a bill! What a night! With a stage bracketed by the Empire State Building on one side and the Freedom Tower on the other—and just about perfect outdoor-concert weather—the AmericanaramA tour landed at Pier A Park in Hoboken, N.J., on Friday night. It was an evening for the skyscrapers of live rock and roll to strut their stuff on the same stage. My Morning Jacket began with “Circuital,” Jim James’s acoustic guitar sounding crisp in the summer air. MMJ are masters of the festival set, providing the perfect balance of fan favorites and special moments while packing enough of them into a limited time slot to make it feel like a much longer show. And so within the first four or five songs, the Jacket seemed to hit a couple dozen different spots and styles: “First Light” with a Flying V guitar, Carl Broemel on sax and funky keys from Bo Koster, “The Way That He Sings” with James belting it out to the crowd, a sweet spaced-out “Off the Record” with scrape-the-sky guitar work, and the steel-and-acoustic guitar summer-sun beauty of “Golden.” The special moments came when Brian Jackson joined in on flute, matching James’s howling on a great drums-and-bass-driven “It Beats 4 U” and adding a groovy R&B feel to the Gil Scott-Heron cover “The Bottle.” The action-packed set ended with opener Ryan Bingham coming back for a perfect sing-along cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic “Don’t Do It,” in the style of the Band, multiple guitars manifesting the sound and energy of a full horn section.

Next up, Wilco, another fest-set vet, performed a set perfectly complementing My Morning Jacket’s. They opened with “Dawned on Me,” Nels Cline on a gigantic double-neck guitar that screamed, “Hey, why waste time with formalities?!” Like MMJ, they covered a wide range within the first few songs: “Misunderstood” heavy on the dynamics, the whole band playing to the perfection of the moment, twangy backdrop to Jeff Tweedy’s vocals on “Forget the Flowers” and a rocking “Handshake Drugs,” aka “Nels Cline Unleashed.” While Tweedy may never be Bob Dylan, songs like “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” might make you reconsider. Friday evening, it was literally played for the gorgeous setting sun, a full-color sonic masterpiece with the line “and the city kept blinking” resonating against the Manhattan skyline. Again, the great set got better when they brought out guests, first Warren Haynes for a bluesy “Feed of a Man,” featuring a Godzilla vs. Mothra battle with Cline. (Ironically, Haynes left for the most Allman Brothers-y Wilco tune, “Walken.”) After a let’s-just-rock-out section of “I’m the Man Who Loves You” and “I Got You (At the End of the Century),” they invited Ian Hunter onstage for the end of the set, dedicated to Maxwell’s. The Mott the Hoople frontman led the band through a folkie, “I Wish I Was Your Mother.” The set finished in large, this-is-the-big-city fashion: first Haynes joining with some beautiful playing on a great “California Stars” and then all of My Morning Jacket and Bingham on a fun! wow! cover of “All the Young Dudes.”

Not bad, right? But wait, there’s more! The granddaddy of them all, Bob Dylan and His Band, closed the show. Dylan is still getting it done, the Chrysler Building to the taller and newer high-rises, his voice approaching old bluesman growl. His set featured plenty of newer songs and old classics—plus a cover of “The Weight” with Tweedy, James and the J. Geils Band’s Peter Wolf—his band sounding great with a perfect mix of blues and country under a clear night sky. Compared to the opening sets, Dylan took his own pace, a natural gait of a man who’s done a few shows in his time. Personally, I was excited to hear two of my favorite Dylan tunes, “Tangled Up in Blue” and “She Belongs to Me.” What a night! —A. Stein

 

cat_preview

Quentin Stoltzfus’s New Band, Light Heat, Plays Mercury Lounge

June 26th, 2013

We haven’t heard much from Philadelphia musician Quentin Stoltzfus since his psych-pop project Mazarin released We’re Already Here in 2005, prompting Pitchfork to rave: “For real, it’s hard to find a track on this record that isn’t at once impressive in its craft and deeply lovable on a sensual level; you don’t even need to skip around to sing its virtues, you can just go down the track list in order.” Fortunately, in the eight years since, Stoltzfus found time amidst building studios and producing albums to write and record (and even record again) a batch of new material alongside friends like Matt Barrick, Peter Bauer, Paul Maroon, Walter Martin—better known as four-fifths of the Walkmen. (“It’s great to have good friends who are incredibly competent and who support and understand your ideas,” says Stoltzfus.) The end result is a band called Light Heat (above, their video for “And the Birds…”), and their debut self-titled album (stream it below) just came out on Tuesday. Interview calls it “a profound work that radiates a hip pop classicism, as much Dylan as it is Velvet Underground.” So don’t miss them tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge.

cat_reviews

Bowery Ballroom Crowd Takes a Seat for the Milk Carton Kids

May 20th, 2013

The Milk Carton Kids – The Bowery Ballroom – May 19, 2013


There were two rare occurrences at The Bowery Ballroom last night. The first was that the venue was set up with seats—a sit-down affair for the Milk Carton Kids. The duo, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, played in just a rectangle of light with four microphones onstage, one each for their voices and their guitars. Working largely from material off their new album, The Ash & Clay, the pair proved to be worthy of a seated show, better the audience to sit in hushed awe, savoring the fantastic two-part harmonies and every crisp note from the acoustic guitars.

While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it’s a two-way street, and if the Milk Carton Kids sound like they’re imitating the bluegrass-y folk of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, it’s just as flattering for the upstarts to be compared favorably to the gold standard of the genre. The music was a delight, early set highlights being the opening “Hope of a Lifetime” and “Honey, Honey,” the latter featuring the first of many great guitar solos from Pattengale, mixing bluegrass, country and old school swing jazz in a mix that could give Rawlings a run for his money. Music wasn’t the only thing they offered, though. For the same price of admission, the full house was treated to a two-man comedy team, a cross between Abbott and Costello and the Smothers Brothers, with Pattengale mostly playing the straight man to Ryan’s understated ramblings.

The banter truly felt like bits, Ryan starting off on one theme and then riffing his way through highbrow humor, drawing real laughter from the crowd. The line between the serious and the not so serious was thin for these guys, and at times nonexistent, like during “Charlie,” when a botched song became an opportunity for a one-liner or two. Still, it was the music itself that had the folks sitting at attention, the perfect blend of harmony and guitar playing in “Michigan” being a personal representative highlight. And that second rare occurrence? It happened right before the Dylan-esque, venue-appropriate encore of “New York”: a well-deserved standing ovation. —A. Stein

cat_preview

Josh Ritter Returns to Terminal 5 Tomorrow Night

May 17th, 2013

Growing up in Idaho, Josh Ritter heard the Bob Dylan/Johnny Cash version of “Girl from the North Country” on his parents’ copy of Nashville Skyline and knew he wanted to become a songwriter. Some dreams do come true, because years later, Ritter was named one of the 100 Greatest Living Songwriters by Paste magazine. The folk-leaning singer-songwriter has earned favorable comparisons to Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen (or as Mary-Louise Parker says, he “is usually compared to the legends, the ones you have been listening to since you were 15, the ones you love most”), and he’s put out a considerable amount of material on EPs and full-length albums. The most recent of which, The Beast in Its Tracks, written in the wake of the dissolution of his marriage, came out earlier this year. In praising it, American Songwriter calls it “a gracious, relentlessly honest, post-breakup record.” And Josh Ritter (above, playing “Joy to You Baby” on Late Show with David Letterman) has been out on the road, touring with the Royal City Band, ever since. See them tomorrow night at Terminal 5. And as an added bonus, the Felice Brothers, on their last night on the tour, will open the show.

cat_preview

Jim James Lights Up Webster Hall

April 30th, 2013

Jim James – Webster Hall – April 29, 2013


Jim James is a human sunset: the multihued snapshot-worthy phenomenon bridging day and night. So it made perfect sense that the stage backdrop for his way-sold-out Webster Hall show last night was an array of LEDs spoked like the rays of the sun as it passes over the horizon—and it even displayed the colors to match. Opening with “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.),” the lead track off his new Regions of Light and Sound of God album, James appropriately sang, “You need the dark as much as the sun” as his backing band laid down a vicious nighttime groove.

The rest of the show was essentially a live version of the album, a set that felt broken into a few smaller parts. The opening number coupled with the heavy keys-and-bass “Know Til Now” represented James’s “Don’t worry, Webster Hall, I brought my own disco” portion of the night, the audience matching the energy from the stage as best they could. Next was a quieter, more acoustic section, marked by the beautiful instrumental “Exploding” followed by the pretty-melody section highlighted by “Of the Mother Again,” the lights flipping between sky blue and cloud white while a very funky extended Rhodes vamp churned the crowd. The set closed with a dark last-purple-throes-of-daylight pairing, headed by “All Is Forgiven,” with a constant swell of bass guitar and a marked rise in intensity that was stretched out into wonderful, mysterious-shroud territory.

Throughout, James’s presence was the focus. His activity was like an ’80s movie montage of motion, touching the extended fingers of those in the front row with his own, like E.T. with a cosmic cure-all, dancing away like an extra in Footloose with uninhibited glee and even doing some sort of mutation of Daniel LaRusso’s crane technique. Still, when it came down to it, his band carried the show. Whether it was an early set drum solo, full-groove keyboard playing, heavy guitar distortion or the constant funky bass, members of the audience were constantly craning their necks to see who was playing what and from where which sound was coming. As they followed James through a five-song, B-sides and rarities kind of encore that included “His Master’s Voice” and “The Right Place” off the Monsters of Folk album, it seemed this band needed their own name, an identity of their own. I think Jim James and the Sunsets has a nice ring to it. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

(Jim James and the Roots play Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park on 6/18, and My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Bob Dylan play Pier A in Hoboken, N.J., on 7/26.)

cat_preview

Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 (Including Peter Buck) Tomorrow

April 25th, 2013

Singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock got his start in music while attending art school in early ’70s London. He played with several bands, including the Soft Boys, before launching a solo career with 1981’s Black Snake Diamond Röle. But Hitchcock didn’t decide to strictly go it alone, because following the release of two more solo albums, he formed the Egyptians, with whom, over the course of a 10 years, he put out a host of LPs, EPs and live recordings. And although somewhere along the way Hitchcock picked up the reputation for being an eccentric, he also earned comparisons to Bob Dylan (for his lyrics and deep repertoire) and John Lennon and Syd Barrett (for his voice). For the past decade or so, Hitchcock, known for his onstage storytelling, has been busy collaborating with others, doing the folkish Spooked with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and then three albums with the Venus 3—R.E.M.’s Peter Buck on guitar, Young Fresh Fellows’ Scott McCaughey on bass and Ministry’s Bill Rieflin on drums. Backing him with layered harmonies and jangly guitars, the Venus 3 bring out the best in Hitchock (above, doing
“Up to Our Nex” for Spain’s FIB). And you’d be silly to miss them—with Peter Buck opening—tomorrow night at Webster Hall.

cat_reviews

A Remarkably Good Show at The Bowery Ballroom

April 10th, 2013

Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau – The Bowery Ballroom – April 9, 2013


Chaos theory states that a butterfly flapping its wings in Asia affects the weather here in New York City. Through some incomprehensible series of actions and reactions, the two completely unrelated phenomena essentially communicate with each other. I think a similar incomprehensible series of actions and reactions explains the communication going on between the seemingly unrelated musicians onstage last night at The Bowery Ballroom. In this scenario, the parts of the butterfly and the weather were jazz-pianist extraordinaire Brad Mehldau and mandolin aficionado Chris Thile.

From the beginning, high-level interplay was on display, a long introduction that felt like a free-form-improv instrumental provided the opportunity for both musicians to assume the role of the butterfly—multihued, delicate, light—and the weather—unpredictable, blustering, occasionally torrential. These long fugues were interrupted by lyrics and vocals on songs like “Chopped Down Your Shade Tree” from Thile, bringing the concept of song and composition to the music before disintegrating back into superlative two-man jamming and then back again. Pieces stretched to 10 minutes and beyond, the duo showing no signs of running out of things to talk about, themes to pursue and then deconstruct. One of the few fully instrumental songs pushed the limits of their talents, simultaneously layering an Irish reel with blues and free jazz, like Ornette O’Coleman from Memphis for mandolin and piano, shifting to a mandolin swing reminiscent of David Grisman and finally relenting to jazz-standard territory with Mehldau stretching the exercise to a full 20 minutes.

The highlights within an essentially highlight-reel show were the covers. Each began as if just an instrumental vamp on a familiar melody before fully exploring the material to its fullest. These included Gillian Welch’s “Scarlet Town” and an instrumental version of “Long Black Veil.” Anyone familiar with Mehldau or Thile wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the centerpiece of their show was an awe-inspiring, exploratory take on Radiohead’s “Knives Out,” which had both men in top form, weaving in and out of the song’s themes perfectly. The set closed with Fiona Apple’s “Fast as You Can,” featuring a vigorous back-and-forth between the two, the whole set coming to a head in deep musical conversation. Perhaps the best for last, the encore closed with a perfect version of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” the jamming concise and on point, the audience, for once, literally not having to think twice about the chaos going on in front of them. It’s alright. —A. Stein

 

 

cat_preview

The Cave Singers Bring New Tunes to Music Hall of Williamsburg

April 4th, 2013

When his previous band, Pretty Girls Make Graves, called it quits in 2007, guitarist Derek Fudesco teamed up with former Cobra High drummer Marty Lund and former Hint Hint singer Pete Quirk to start a new one, the Cave Singers, to make rock music with a folk bent (think: Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie). The Seattle three-piece had enough material for their first album, Invitation Songs, within months of forming. A second disc, Welcome Joy, followed two years later, and after the third, the-more-electric-than-acoustic No Witch, was released in 2011, the trio became a quartet with the addition of Fleet Foxes multi-instrumentalist Morgan Henderson on bass. Their first album as a quartet, Naomi (stream it below)—perhaps heavier on the rock than the folk—came out a month ago, and the Cave Singers (above, doing “Swim Club” for Seattle’s KEXP FM) are currently touring the East Coast. See their high-energy live show on Saturday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg.