May 2006             back

World Party : May 30th at Joe's Pub

In the early 1980's, Karl Wallinger was a member of the very successful Irish rock band "The Waterboys".  Not unlike George Harrison, it's when he left the band that we realized just how much he had to say.  In 1986 he formed "World Party", which just as easily could have been called "The Karl Wallinger Band", and released "Private Revolution", which blended social commentary with beautiful melodies and catchy hooks.

This show was advertised as a CD release party for their latest effort called "Dumbing Up".  I usually expect a CD release show to be a dozen new songs and a few old favorites mixed in. But "Dumbing Up" was actually released in England in 2000 and then, before they could organize an American campaign, Karl had a brain aneurysm which kept him out of music for five years. Consequently, this show was less a CD release party and more a welcome back party presenting a career retrospective.

The show included almost all my favorites including "Put The Message In The Box" from 1990's "Goodbye Jumbo"; "Vanity Fair" and "She's The One" from 1997's "Egyptology"; and "Ship Of Fools" and "All Come True" from the debut "Private Revolution".  In fact, the only song I'm sure was from "Dumbing Up" was the catchy rocker "What Does It Mean Now".

Karl's a great song writer whose songs have obvious Beatle influences with the great melodies and harmonies; but he also has a rocker or "Stones" influenced side with songs like "Is It Too Late" which utilizes the Bo Diddley beat.  He also performed a nice country waltz called "Sweet Soul Dream". Very eclectic.

Playing acoustic guitar and piano, he was backed by Dave Duffy on violin and mandolin and John Turnball on guitars. Both contributed vocal harmonies.  World Party has been a full band in the past but the songs worked beautifully as a trio especially with the great vocal harmonies.

He seemed very relaxed and happy to be back on stage, telling some amusing back stories for songs and being generally charming.  He promised to be back soon with a full band.  I will want to see that.

 

Pajama Game : May 24th  at the American Airlines Theatre (Harry Connick Jr., Kelli O'Hara, Michael McKean...)

I walked out of the theatre after this show, turned to Judy and said " This is how you're supposed to feel when you leave a musical....exhilarated". Of the four theatrical productions I've seen recently, this was by far the most enjoyable and the one I would consider seeing again.

This is a remake of the 1954 musical comedy which spawned the classic Richard Adler and Jerry Ross tunes "Hernando's Hideaway", "Hey There" (Hey there, you with the stars in your eyes) and the well known song and dance routine "Steam Heat" originally choreographed by Bob Fosse.

The story revolves around a potential strike over a 7-1/2 cent raise and a host of romantic relationships in a 1950's pajama factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  At the forefront of both issues are Sid Sorokin (Harry Connick Jr.) and Babe Williams (Kelli O'Hara). He's the new superintendent at the plant and is a handsome confident city slicker who's somewhat out of his element in Iowa. She's a young beautiful union rep in charge of the workers grievance committee. They have to navigate being on different sides of the raise issue while trying to get on the same side of the romantic issue. Can anyone say "conflict of interest"?

Both characters are beautifully fleshed out and you can't help but be charmed by both, but the story doesn't stop there. All the major relationships are unique and quirky. Michael McKean (Lenny of "Lenny and Squiggy" fame) plays the insanely jealous Hines who has a thing for Gladys (Megan Lawrence). The two of them did an inebriated version of "The Three of Us" which had me laughing from beginning to end. Hines also performed "I'll Never Be Jealous Again" with secretary Mabel (Roz Ryan) and I laughed so hard that I missed some of the lyrics. He was so impressive that it would be worth seeing this again just for him.

Also enjoyable were nerds Prez (Peter Benson) and Mae (Joyce Chittick). She constantly and amusingly makes herself available to him but he doesn't even know she exists because he has his eyes on unattainable women. It's a win/win when he finally realizes she's a perfect match. Besides being hysterically funny as a nerd, Mae un-nerds herself and impressively dances the lead in "Steam Heat" which was not changed very noticeably from it's original form and that's probably a good thing. Why try to improve Mount Rushmore?

Another of the many highlights of the show was Sid, Gladys and the company doing the familiar tune "Hernando's Hideaway". The choreography was energetic and they worked in Connick playing some boogie woogie piano. It was just fun!  In fact, the whole night was just fun. I should mention that it was directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall. Bravo!

This is a limited run but if there are any tickets available you should make this the next thing you do. 

 

Dedication for 7 World Trade Center : May 23rd at Ground Zero

                         

          Citizen Cope                                      Brazilian Girls                                       Suzanne Vega

This was a work day but I had to try to get over for this free show celebrating the opening of 7 World Trade Center. It was the last building to fall on 9/11 but the first to reopen. I missed half the show including Ollabelle, Lou Reed and Pharoah's Daughter but I did manage to see all the pictured artists.

Citizen Cope played solo acoustic and sounded great. I've reviewed him on these pages before and I love his last CD "The Clarence Greenwood Recordings". You should look into this artist. Suzanne Vega sang her two biggest hits, "Luka" and "Tom's Diner", plus a new song, "New York is a Woman" which she was performing for the first time. Her short set was very enjoyable.

Brazilian Girls are a dance band who are not Brazilian and only have one girl but she sings really well. They only did one song but had the crowd moving and I'm guessing it's a popular tune in the dance clubs.

Bill Ware and Vibes are a jazz trio who were joined by a guest singer/guitarist for one song of their three song set which finished up the festivities. He and his trio were great and I'll try to get her name because she was also very impressive. All the sets were short but enjoyable, a nice extended lunch break. Afterwards I jumped on the Path train and headed back west to New Jersey.

 

Jehro : May 15th at Joe's Pub

One of the numerous methods I have for discovering new artists is to go to a music store and just listen to things. I was in Barnes and Noble last week and they had this French artist as a featured CD of the week. I listened to the 30 second snippets of each song, went and listened to some other things, came back and listened to this one again and then bought it.

It's been described as Caribbean soul music which is a good description since it blends soul and pop sensibilities with reggae, calypso and Latin styles. Think Bill Withers, or Amos Lee if you know him, singing a Bob Marley song arranged for Sade and you have a vague idea of some of these songs. Two songs are sung in Spanish and the rest in English (I found out at the show that a French version is also available).  He wrote or co-wrote all the songs except for Stevie Wonder's reggae classic "Master Blaster" which I think could fool people into thinking it was an alternate version by Stevie himself.

I listened to the CD in my car several times and when I got home I went to www.jehro.com and found out he was playing a series of gigs in NYC over the next few days including this show at my favorite music venue. Talk about perfect timing.

Jehro (Jerome Cotta) sang and played acoustic guitar and was backed by Jean M'Ba N'Guema playing some very impressive acoustic guitar, which included lots of bass lines, and harmonies. They also used a drum machine which I usually hate but combined with their rhythmic guitar work the drums were a very effective addition.

My favorite song of the set was "Salima" a Latin Bolero which was the only song he sang in Spanish. I also loved the soulful ballad "Mama" as well as all the reggae tunes including "Everything" and "Rock You Tender" among others. While listening to the catchy pop song "Sweet", I imagined it blasting from radios up and down the Jersey shore all summer. These are the types of songs which are very accessible and could easily click with the public. I suspect that this will not be the last time you see this artist on these pages.

 

Hoboken Art and Music Festival : May 7th Hoboken, NJ

                             Red Molly is Abbie Gardner, Laurie MacAllister and Carolann Solebello

I showed up at this festival a little earlier than I originally planned just to see this acoustic country trio. I had seen them open for Aztec Two-Step a few months back and was really impressed (see November review). They all had solo careers before combining forces to form Red Molly, and now perform original material and an assortment of covers. It's their beautiful 3-part harmonies which make them stand out from the crowd. You can find out about their upcoming CD and see some pictures I took in the photo section at www.redmolly.com

  Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

New Jersey's own Southside Johnny fronts one of the best party/bar bands around. They take elements of blues, swing, doo-wop, 50's and 60's rock and roll and make it clear that, like their best known song says, "We're Having a Party". Their set included several of their best known songs like "Fever" and "I Don't Want To Go Home" along with some covers including The Left Bank's "Walk Away Renee" and The Stone's "Happy". The crowd sang along often and a good time was had by all.

I also stayed for a little bit of Cyro Baptista and Beat the Donkey. They're a colorful percussion group with a wild variety of percussion instruments. They were good, but like I said, I stayed for a little bit.