Tag Archives: Van Morrison

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Jump-Start the Workweek with Foy Vance at Roulette on Monday Night

September 29th, 2017

Before ultimately growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, singer-songwriter Foy Vance spent five years in the American Bible Belt with his dad, a traveling minister. And so he’s as equally influenced by Otis Redding and Nina Simone as he is the Belfast Cowboy, Van Morrison—Vance’s music a winning mash-up of blues, soul, jazz, rock and British folk. After fronting several bands, Vance (above, performing “She Burns”) finally put out his debut solo full-length, Hope (stream it below), which AllMusic notes is “as optimistic and mood-lifting as its title suggests,” in 2007. He’s since remained busy and in demand, releasing a slew of EPs and touring with the likes of Ed Sheeran. His third long-player, The Wild Swan (stream it below), out last year, was produced by Elton John and Sheeran and earned the musician comparisons to Bruce Springsteen. “The Wild Swan finds Vance offering up another master class in contemporary, Emerald Isle–infused roots rock,” says AllMusic. And like Springsteen’s catalog, Foy Vance’s music is best experienced live. Sunday’s show is already sold out, but you can catch him live on Monday at Roulette.

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After a Hiatus, A.A. Bondy Delivers at a Sold-Out Mercury Lounge

July 17th, 2015

A.A. Bondy – Mercury Lounge – July 16, 2015

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I don’t think anyone quite knew what to expect at last night’s A.A. Bondy show at Mercury Lounge, including the singer-songwriter himself. As Bondy described it, he’s been on “hiatus,” and his return to a New York City stage felt like anything but a given. Bondy spent the minutes before the set arranging his guitars and gear and light show (a single red spotlight) with a laid-back demeanor, toothpick in his mouth, Van Morrison streaming over the PA while the sold-out crowd patiently waited. Then he gave a nod, the house lights went down, the room went almost completely dark, save for that red light, and the chatting people immediately became utterly silent. It was almost eerie the way the room transformed, and it was only the beginning of a powerful, honest and surreal set of music.

Bondy displayed his initial unease, hopping up and down after the opening number, “The Twist,” explaining he was a “bit freaked out” and that he thought certain things might have been “forgotten.” And while some musicians thank a crowd for coming out to see them play, Bondy was clearly, deeply moved that his fan base—in any size or form—still existed at all. This openness continued throughout the late set as he worked through his material solo, that red light forcing angular shadows onto his face and the ceiling while the rest of the room listened in dark silence. Many of the early songs featured samples, light drum loops and synth, but this only brought into focus the stark, minimal feel from Bondy’s voice and guitar. But from the back of the crowded venue, these samples felt like a live band on stage, as if there were accompanying musicians just out of sight. He continued to lay it bare on songs like “Surfer King,” but as the show wore on, the set list felt secondary to the emotion coming from the stage.

For the first half of the show, the air-conditioning was off and the full room was hot and stuffy. In the darkness, it felt like a challenge: an ancient sweat lodge intended to trigger hallucinations. Bondy’s banter added to the effect, mixing random jokes and moments of profound insights (“Can you buy fear?”) with strange, tangential and almost surreal comments (“What if an elephant walked in the room right now? That would be cool”). During the second half of the show, it felt like the audience was actually a part of Bondy’s hallucination: an imaginary friend to reveal your innermost emotions and weirdest passing thoughts to, an inner monologue made public without inhibition. All the while, the music became stronger and deeper. “Route 28” was a highlight, no effects beyond Bondy’s aching voice and his open-hearted guitar playing, singing about the “killer inside.” Toward the end of the performance, he played “A Slow Parade,” singing about the “wild, wild sea,” and I realized how many of Bondy’s songs mentioned the ocean. To hear him sing about the sea with a voice that always seemed to somehow be verging on tears was to imagine a bleak, beautiful infinite thing. Whatever the audience expected from A.A. Bondy at the beginning of the night, they were given the absolute depths. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Meg Mac Ends American Tour at Mercury Lounge on Monday Night

June 26th, 2015

Influenced by the likes of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Van Morrison—plus pop music
and bluesy Americana—Australian singer-songwriter Meg Mac, who’s been compared to Adele, began her career with the release of a single, “Known Better,” in 2013. But she started making a name for herself Stateside thanks to an appearance at this year’s SXSW. Of course, Mac (above, performing “Roll Up Your Sleeves” live at SXSW for Audiotree Live) has also been winning over fans with her terrific self-titled EP (stream it below), which includes a cover of Bill Withers“Grandma’s Hands.” A full-length studio album is due later this year, but you don’t have to wait that long to see her because Meg Mac closes her current American tour at the early show at Mercury Lounge on Monday night.

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A 75th Birthday Bash Full of Smiles and Classic Rock

March 17th, 2015

Phil Lesh – Capitol Theatre – March 16, 2015

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead and, if you haven’t noticed, their music seems to be everywhere, a constant presence that transcends genre, age and geography. Part of that constant presence has been the band’s bassist, Phil Lesh, who, remarkably, turned 75 on Sunday and is celebrating (how else?) with a run of jam-filled shows at the Capitol Theatre. Monday night’s band of Lesh’s friends included Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule on guitar and vocals, Eric Krasno of Soulive on the other guitar, and longtime Lesh running mates John Molo and Rob Barraco on drums and keyboards respectively. The evening began with a session of noodling: free-form, aqueous improvisation that featured all five musicians interacting with the others, like wolves licking their chops before devouring helpless prey.

The set proper bounced back and forth between the Dead’s repertoire, older blues-based material like “Dupree’s Diamond Blues” and “Cosmic Charlie” interleaved with later-era groove-rockers like “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Alabama Getaway.” Of course, the songs themselves were merely starting points for various shades of space-outs and left-turn excursions. The walls of the Capitol Theatre were populated in tie-dyed fractal explosions that seemed to open up wormholes to past eras, 20, 30, 40 years back. Krasno’s clean-toned guitar played counterpoint to Haynes’s gritty licks, but Lesh was the constant force, running circles around his younger crew. Each measure of bass playing was a snowflake— clear, defined crystal, beautifully unique. The first set ended with an optimistic spring theme: “Here Comes Sunshine” brought a projected sunrise to the theater’s walls with Lesh pushing Haynes and Molo while Baracco glued together the sonic collage, segueing into the Allman Brothers classic “Blue Sky,” the ceiling turning a bright indigo as Haynes ceded the floor for Krasno and Baracco solos before shining his own big, Allmans-y turn.

The second set picked up where the first left off, another round of free jamming, Lesh slithering through multiple THC-soaked themes before charging through a few more covers: Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” and later Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” the band cracking open classic-rock radio and lacing it with LSD-inspired psychedelia. There’s often a concern with the various Dead-cover outfits about who will sing which song, but really it’s not a problem because the guy next to you will (probably) know most of the words and sing it out, loud and proud. The smiles and the twirling dancers were as integral to these shows as the weird set-list variations like the traditional “Help on the Way” > “Slipknot” > “Franklin’s Tower” being split up by “Just a Little Light” and “Uncle John’s Band” as the quintet mostly pulled off Monday night. Krasno shined best during the closing section, finding comfort in build-up solos and going toe-to-toe with Haynes. A supercharged ovation brought back the band for an emotional “Stella Blue,” Haynes belting it out as those in the smiling audience sang along, many swaying in one another’s arms. But no smiles were bigger than the constant one on the 75 year old leading the way. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(See Phil Lesh play the Capitol Theatre on Thursday night.)

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Two Nights of Michael Kiwanuka

September 18th, 2012

The TV show The Voice isn’t actually about Michael Kiwanuka, but it probably should be. Because his bluesy, soulful voice, which has earned him heady comparisons to Bill Withers, Otis Redding and Van Morrison, is his calling card. Kiwanuka (above, doing “I’m Getting Ready” on Later … with Jools Holland) grew up in North London with a thing for bands like Nirvana and Radiohead. Despite later becoming a session guitarist, he still did work of his own. The authentic, raw demos eventually caught the attention of Communion, which released his two EPs. Then things got progressively bigger: Adele invited the 24-year-old out on tour with her last year as she was ruling the music world. Then in January, BBC named the singer-songwriter the Sound of 2012 by the . And a few months later, he put out his debut studio album, Home Again (stream it below). It’s worth mentioning that despite talk of him having an old soul and the comparisons to legends of the past, Kiwanuka and his music are authentic and not just some retro throwback. “It would be easy to dismiss this all as a clever piece of calculated marketing,” says The Independent, “were it not for a soulful maturity in his voice that belies his age.” And, of course, the best way to hear that voice is live: Tonight at Webster Hall and on Friday at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

(Listen to Michael Kiwanuka play songs from his album and cover Jimi Hendrix for NPR.)