Tag Archives: M. Ward


Jenny Lewis Celebrates a Tenth Anniversary in Style

September 15th, 2016

Jenny Lewis – Capitol Theatre – September 14, 2016

More than a decade ago in San Francisco, I patiently perched in a stairwell awaiting the live debut of Ms. Jenny Lewis’s initial solo effort, Rabbit Fur Coat. Sure I grew up watching Troop Beverly Hills, but what fascinated me was how she seamlessly dipped in and out of formidable bands like Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes and the Postal Service. Lewis always has been a thoughtful songwriter and it especially showed in her time with Rilo Kiley, however this next step pushed the singer into a career all her own. She and her backup singers, the Watson Twins, were late due to traffic but well worth the wait as they glided down the aisle holding candles to approach the stage—it was an unforgettable show in an intimate 250-seat venue. When word got out that the trio would take out the record for a 10th-anniversary spin, I had to be there. Previously selling out two Beacon Theatre shows last winter, Lewis returned with the twins to play Capitol Theatre last night.

The trio, donning the dresses from the album cover, entered stage right singing in harmony to open with “Run Devil Run,” candles in their hands just as they had years prior. The room was flooded with nostalgia as they played Rabbit Fur Coat in its entirety with a full band. Gems included lap-steel accompaniment on “Happy” and Lewis returning post-wardrobe change to croon the title track in a black embroidered jumpsuit complete with fringe. Although missing the backing vocals of M. Ward and Ben Gibbard, “Handle with Care” fleshed out the classic cover with additional guitar. The petite singer added a heavy dose of electric organ on “Born Secular” to fill the room, but it was her soaring vocals that sent chills to fans’ hearts.

After a brief intermission, Lewis emerged to play largely from her latest album, The Voyager. A gentleman politely asked if it was OK to stand for “Just One of the Guys” and was soon joined by another man. The catalog was broken by a cover of the Shirelles“I Met Him on a Sunday,” performed a cappella by the trio. But the real treat was a deep dive into the Rilo Kiley days for the soul-infused “I Never,” which Lewis dedicated to the Cap’s most frequent artist, Phil Lesh. The oldie was paired amongst her most recent work with New York City band NAF (Nice as Fuck), on “Door.” Dueling guitar solos concluded the evening on the crowd pleasing “She’s Not Me,” and there was no doubt that 10 years later, the storied album holds up. —Sharlene Chiu


Jenny Lewis and Friends Charm Sold-Out Beacon Theatre

February 5th, 2016

Jenny Lewis – Beacon Theatre – February 4, 2016

Track-by-track celebrations of iconic albums have a way of turning into respectful museum visits: look, nod, appreciate the graceful aging, shrug. So perhaps the most remarkable thing about Jenny Lewis’s salute to Rabbit Fur Coat at the Beacon Theatre last night is how immediate, how engrossing and how alive and un-nostalgic it felt. The exceptionally charming Lewis was already indie-rock royalty by the time she joined hands with the Watson Twins and M. Ward for Rabbit, but to hear the reunited ensemble—Lewis and the Watsons, with Ward ducking in and out to color and shade certain songs—tackled its 12 selections a decade later suggested even greater layers of depth to a collection of music that was already cavernous.

Rabbit Fur Coat is an album you take your time with, and it’s interesting to note how many critics back in 2006 were respectfully pleased but not gushing in their initial praise. The LP has soul, country and antsy indie-rock shades. It has lovely bluegrass-style harmonies. It sounds pastoral, almost twee, but you listen through that initial reaction and you hear the humor, the melancholy and the haunted aspects. Flow-wise, the show was the same as it’s been all tour: performing Rabbit Fur Coat start to finish, followed by an intermission and then a second set drawing on other Lewis albums, Rilo Kiley material and a stray cover or two. Dressing up the Beacon Theatre beyond its usual majestic charms seems like gilding the lily, but not in this case: warm purples, vibrant, sparkly outfits, rainbow-colored and wave-textured this and that.

From the start, the mood was spiritual. Lewis and the twins walked to the stage, singing “Run Devil Run,” using the Beacon’s natural acoustics, and then proceeded to balance the sometimes-overlapping tones of the church and the barroom, whether in Ward providing spindly guitar on “Happy” (and the audience joining a sing-along during its reprise eight songs later), or the spooked waltz of the title track played with the barest accompaniment, or the country-gallop-’60s-girl-group-psychedelic-folk mélange of “You Are What You Love,” or the now-famous cover of the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care” that infused more Laurel Canyon soul into the original while keeping its edges rightfully burnt. As ever, Lewis sang lines like “Are we killing time?/ Are we killing each other?” like they couldn’t come from anyone else: sad, philosophical, determined, faintly wry, probably all of those things. The standouts among Lewis and team’s superb second frame included “I Never,” a beloved Rilo Kiley number, and “Red Bull and Hennessy,” a newer tune that’s been rightfully compared to Fleetwood Mac. By the end, it was a choose-your-own-highlight” kind of night—the best kind, with much to consider.
—Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson


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.


Haim Pack Webster Hall

September 4th, 2013

Haim – Webster Hall – September 3, 2013

The iconic long blonde locks of Californian lasses have been idolized in music from the Beach Boys to Girls (Christopher Owens). However, a trio of brunette sisters, Este, Danielle and Alana Haim, might be changing the West Coast lexicon. Playing collectively as Haim, these siblings evoke R&B into folk-pop heavy compositions. While fans await the release of their full-length album, Days Are Gone, later this month, the sisters headlined a sold-out Webster Hall last night. Having been to quite a few sold-out shows at the venue, I’ve never seen the rafters so overfilled with onlookers or a bottleneck at the entrance for the floor. The sisters definitely took notice, exclaiming “This is the craziest thing.”

Haim treated the crowd early on with fan faves “Better Off” and “The Wire.” The latter was reminiscent of M. Ward’s “Never Had Nobody Like You” with a noticeably similar rollick. There was no doubt that when Danielle’s guitar shredded the familiar chords of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” that this wasn’t any ordinary rendition. Her skills confirmed why the likes of Jenny Lewis and Julian Casablancas asked the middle Haim sister to tour with them. Early ’90s R&B influences were best heard on “Falling,” where the audience joined in to sing “Don’t stop, no one’s ever enough/ I’ll never look back, never give up/ And if it gets rough, it’s time to get rough/ But now I’m falling.”

The youngest Haim, Alana, couldn’t withhold her glee from announcing the gig was better than her 21st birthday to jumping around onstage to incite the front row. As the set neared its end, Danielle commanded for “the ceiling to fall down,” as she barreled into “Forever” and Este’s heavily laid basslines caused an eruption of claps. The trio returned for a one-song encore and delivered a venomous “Let Me Go.” The evening concluded with the sisters in a drum triangle, beating down on the skins as if they were taiko performers. There’s no question that Haim stamped their names on New York City. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | petersenzamici.com


The Rain Is No Match for She & Him

July 9th, 2013

She & Him – SummerStage – July 8, 2013

The rain began to fall just a few minutes before She & Him were slated to go on last night at SummerStage. First I heard the shouts from the other side of the crowd—they got hit before I did. Seconds later, feeling the beginning of what turned into a torrential downpour, I asked a group of volunteers who took shelter under the same tree as I did: “What’s your rainout policy?” They replied, “The show goes on rain or shine.” So it seemed like we were destined to watch She & Him through a sea of umbrellas in Central Park.

But the storm only lasted a few minutes. We were wet, but we weren’t ready to head home defeated. And then Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward walked onstage. The two have been making fun, sentimental music for five years now, and they quickly helped us forget about our soggy feet and sagging shirts. Deschanel is probably best known for her roles in Elf, (500) Days of Summer and New Girl, often playing characters with a heavy dose of her own personality. She sings and charms the heck out of us, and that’s exactly what Deschanel did while performing last night, while Ward’s gruff vocals and almost fatherly demeanor guided the backing band through the set.

But it was when the stars of She & Him were alone together that they really shined. Their spare rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” capped the night, with Ward providing shrewd, reverb-heavy guitar and Deschanel belting out and holding onto notes until the very last possible moment. And when the show ended, we went home to hang our drenched clothes in the shower, with harmonies stuck in our heads.

Photos courtesy of Chris Becker | www.artistsweetsbecker.us


Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See She & Him on 7/6

July 2nd, 2013


Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward teamed up in 2008 for the very first She & Him album, Volume 1. The LP and the ensuing tour, rounded out live with Mike Coykendall (bass), Scott McPherson (drums) and Chris Scruggs (pedal steel and mandolin), were so well received that the duo teamed up again for Volume Two, A Very She & Him Christmas and this year’s acclaimed Volume Three (even Pitchfork liked it). And now they’re coming to NYC for two SummerStage shows. Tickets remain for 7/8, but the 7/6 show is already sold out. Want to go? Try to Grow a Pair from The House List. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (She & Him, 7/6) and a brief message explaining your favorite unique thing to eat on the Fourth of July. Eddie Bruiser, who’s always looking for something new and different, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck—and happy Fourth.

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M. Ward Plays for the Moment

August 8th, 2012

M. Ward – Celebrate Brooklyn – August 7, 2012

The nights are cooler now. After months of record-breaking heat, dusk is finally a time for relief. It makes evening activities tranquil and comfortable. It gives us opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. And if you sit under the cover of trees at the Prospect Park Bandshell, there are few better late-summer events than a Celebrate Brooklyn concert. They create a special environment by pairing live music with a beautiful setting. So last night, at the final ticketed show of the season, we got it all: the perfect scenery, weather and lineup of acts.

M. Ward, the night’s highly anticipated headliner, came on after some prompt stand-up by Wyatt Cenac and a hushed set by Yo La Tengo. Ward, a unique American musician, mixes elements of rock, folk and blues along with his melodic yet gravelly voice and creates something all his own. His guitar work is magnificent too. During “Rollercoaster” he evoked the namesake’s unbalanced feeling with an effective slippery riff. And in other places, he was simply the full package—masterful songwriter and spot-on performer.

“Chinese Translation,” from the album Post-War, is a clever piece of imaginative folklore concerning an inquisitive protagonist and a sagacious elder. It was also made all the better by Ward and his band’s light touch. They knew how to blow the lid off at times, like during “Primitive Girl,” but the quiet moments were my favorites. An encore violin-and-keyboard duo of Daniel Johnston’s “Story of an Artist” was beautiful and apropos. Ward slyly dedicated the song to “the artists in Brooklyn.” He surely knew his audience and played perfectly for the moment. —Jared Levy

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com


M. Ward Plays Celebrate Brooklyn and You Might Go for Free

August 3rd, 2012

The extremely talented singer-songwriter M. Ward—he of the raspy voice and evocative storytelling (and Him to Zooey Deschanel’s She)—has a terrific new album, A Wasteland Companion. And alongside Yo La Tengo and The Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac, Ward (above, performing “Primitive Girl” for Conan) plays the Prospect Park Bandshell as part of Celebrate Brooklyn next Tuesday. And because we’re feeling generous, The House List is offering up a pair of tickets. Want to go? Fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (M. Ward, 8/7) and a brief message explaining your favorite Summer Olympic sport. The winner will be notified by Tuesday. Good luck.

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Such a Night

May 14th, 2012

M. Ward – Webster Hall – May 11, 2012

It felt like summer had just arrived in New York City on a warm Friday night. Things were even hotter inside sold-out Webster Hall when M. Ward descended on to the stage as the “Post-War” interlude slowly grooved. Those in the crowd cheered as he dug into the older album Post-War, early into the show, and then sang along to “Poison Cup” and “Chinese Translation.” Ward was packing oldies but goodies to please longtime followers (pre–She & Him). He even delved deeper into his catalog, touching upon “Fuel for Fire” from Transistor Radio. Although the singer-songwriter let his tunes speak for him most of the show, Ward confessed, “It’s still early in the night, but you’re my favorites.”

Upon cheers he sang, “New York, I’m falling into a deep, deep depression.” But those lyrics from “Pure Joy,” the last track on his latest, A Wasteland Companion, were the opposite of what he was feeling. Chris Scruggs added the melodic reverb of the lap steel on “Clean Slate,” another off his latest. Ward’s twangier rendition of “Magic Trick” had quite a few couples dancing. And he treated the audience to a few covers, like John Fahey’s “Bean Vine Blues, No. 2,” Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” which appears on his last record, Hold Time, and Daniel Johnston’s “To Go Home.”

Rachel Cox provided backing vocals for “I Get Ideas,” and also stepped in for Zooey Deschanel on the rollicking Budweiser-selling “Never Had Nobody Like You.” There was no doubt there would be an encore and Ward sure didn’t disappoint. He unveiled a sweet take on “Such a Night,” made famous by Elvis Presley, followed by a floor-shaking cover of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” The latter was a special Record Store Day–release B-side. While the longtime live favorite would have been enough, Ward brought out one of his Monsters of Folk cohorts, Conor Oberst, to end the night with “Vincent O’Brien.” —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Mina K


M. Ward and Kurt Vile Are Coming Our Way

August 8th, 2011

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Matt Ward grew up in California, and his West Coast sensibility combined with the country and gospel influences of his youth have long informed his music, first as a member of the folk trio Rodriguez and then on his own as M. Ward. His first solo album, Duet for Guitars #2, Ward’s take on Americana, came out in 1999. Since then the talented musician has filled another five LPs and a few EPs with his sweet songs and gravelly voice. But you can also judge a man by the company he keeps, and Ward (above, playing “Poison Cup” for 101.9 KINK FM in Portland, Ore.) is no slouch in that department, recording and touring with Jim James, Mike Mogis and Conor Oberst, as part of Monsters of Folk, and putting out two albums with Zooey Deschanel as She & Him.

Kurt Vile, another talented singer-songwriter-guitarist, this one from Philly, has put out four stellar albums. The most recent of which, this year’s Smoke Ring for My Halo, features pounding drums and plenty of guitars. And when backed live by the Violators, Vile (below, performing “Hunchback” last year at Mercury Lounge) is one not to miss. So don’t. See M. Ward and Kurt Vile & the Violators play The Wellmont Theatre on Thursday.

She and Him and The Bowery Ballroom

March 31st, 2010

She & Him – The Bowery Ballroom – March 30, 2010

(Photo: Jennifer Macchiarelli)

(Photo: Jennifer Macchiarelli)

Generic doesn’t have to be a bad word. There can be great comfort in the familiar, standard and unadorned. With a band name like She & Him, the duo of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel plays to this comfort. Last night they performed a standard 70-minute set (plus encore) of music from their two generically titled albums (Volume One and Volume Two) for a sold-out crowd at The Bowery Ballroom. Backed by a full band (“them”), they opened with “I Was Made for You” from One, followed quickly by “Thieves” from Two. Immediately the show was transported to an amorphous “then”—Deschanel singing her original songs about the familiar: loves past, present and future in a swirl of unadorned pre-Beatles pop.

As the show wore on, even the banter was vanilla flavored (“Where you from?” “What’s with all this rain?”). But the music easily transcended the blandness of black text on a white background. Ward’s guitar was a grease fire of quick solos and well-placed slide playing that stood out prominently in the mix and caused Deschanel to gleefully hop up and down in an endearing dance mimicked throughout the crowd. Above all else, her voice was a cozy, terry-cloth bathrobe—soft, comforting and warm, and just about perfect for a rainy night. In the middle of the set, the band left she and him alone, with Ward on acoustic and Deschanel in front of the microphone for a couple of songs, including a magnificent “Brand New Shoes.” It was stripped down and simple and as generic as it gets. It was also the most powerful moment of the night. —A. Stein


Spend Two Evenings with Monsters of Folk

November 3rd, 2009

Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (of Bright Eyes), Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) and M. Ward have put together their significant talents to form Monsters of Folk and to record a terrific self-titled album (stream three songs here) that has taken them out on the road and earned them favorable comparisons to the Traveling Wilburys and Crosby, Stills and Nash. They recently played Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit, and tonight they’re performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. But if you want to see these MoFos in person—playing a mix of originals, covers and songs from their respective catalogs—you’re got two chances: They play United Palace on Friday and the Beacon Theatre on Sunday.

(Check out the the video for “The Right Place,” above.)


Beware of Monsters of Folk!

September 15th, 2009

Monsters of Folk
Like Godzilla or that thing from Cloverfield emerging from the East River, the Monsters of Folk are descending upon our fair city (United Palace on November 6th and the Beacon Theatre on November 8th). Although these monsters—singer-songwriter and guitarist M. Ward, Bright Eyes’ singer-songwriter and guitarist Conor Oberst and multi-instrumentalist and producer Mike Mogis and My Morning Jacket’s singer-songwriter and guitarist Jim James—are far more talented than scary. This supergroup formed in 2004, and they finally have an album, Monsters of Folk, coming out next week. The tour begins next month, and you should expect at least a two-and-a-half-hour “musical event” consisting of well-crafted material from the album, covers and original My Morning Jacket, Bright Eyes and M. Ward tunes, plus a whole lot of guitar. But don’t just take out word for it, check out this American Songwriter interview with the four-headed beast. And if you want to get on this ride, get in line ’cause tickets are going fast.

(Check back with The House List next week for some more Monsters of Folk info.)