OCTOBER 2008 (back)
Joan Osborne: Oct 25th at Highline Ballroom (Matt Morris opened)
It's hard to believe that it's been over 13 years since Joan Osborne released her major label debut CD, Relish, and her name became a household word when her mega-hit, One of Us (What If God Was One Of Us), could be heard everywhere you went. The Kentucky native had moved to New York several years earlier and was making a name for herself in the small clubs with her passionate fusion of gospel, soul, blues and rock before that melodic pop song changed everything.
Since then she's maintained a large and devoted following with releases that focused on soul and R&B classics, a few original tunes and even a credible stab at country music, but none have matched the commercial success of Relish. Her new release, Little Wild One, may or may not bring her back to that level, but it's certainly the most "Relish-like" work she's done since then. It has a number of melodic rock tunes and passionate haunting ballads, many written or co-written by Joan, with several candidates that could be commercial hits. (here's one)
Of the material from the new CD, my favorites were For The One I Love, Hallelujah In The City, Little Wild One, Rodeo and a song called Cathedrals, which she performed as a duet with opening act Matt Morris. (His solo opening set was very impressive bringing Jason Mraz and Jeff Buckley to mind at times). (Matt Morris)
The show also covered a cross-section of material from throughout her career opening with How Sweet It Is and including One Of Us, St. Teresa, Baby It's a Butterfly, Kiss and Say Goodbye and Only You Know and I Know, among others.
The Highline Ballroom is one of the best small venues in New York and Joan Osborne is one of the great female vocalists in music today. Needless to say, the combination made for a great evening. You should put Joan Osborne on your "to do" list.
Raul Midon: Oct 11th at Joe's Pub
The blurry hands is what it looks like in person as well. I've seen Raul maybe a dozen times in the last five years and each and every time he has managed to impress. This was my brother's first time and his comment, "I've never seen anyone play guitar like that" is the standard reply I get from most people.
I've written about Raul so often that I don't want to repeat myself too much, so I'll just say that his music crosses the borders of Latin jazz, soul, blues, funk and pop. His singing is easily compared to Stevie Wonder and his finger picking, strumming and percussive approach to guitar is unique and a joy to behold.
He just bought a home with a studio and said he's been enjoying having a studio where he can work with no time limits and no $150/hr charges. Consequently, he had several new songs to perform, my favorite was the beautiful ballad I Can Hear You Call My Name, along with fan favorites like Suddenly, I Wanna Be Rich and Pick Somebody Up from the first two CD's. (my video)
This 2:30 in the afternoon show was part of the Joe's Pub 10th anniversary celebration which involves 10 shows over two days featuring Allen Toussaint, Jill Solbule and Baby Loves Salsa, among others. It is no doubt one of the most prestigious music clubs in the world
Raul reminded everybody to vote and added that although it's not his place to tell us how to vote..... it rhymes with Mama.
Les Nubians: Oct 9th at Joe's Pub
Helene and Celia Faussart are French sisters (their mother is from Cameroon) who grew up splitting time between both France and Africa. In the late 90's, they released their debut CD, Princesses Nubiennes, a jazzy blend of soul, hip-hop and afro pop, which became the biggest selling French language CD in America at that time.
This show was billed as "Les Nubians Present Echos Nubian Voyager Poetry and Music from the Urban Edge". It presented a fusion of American and French culture with music and spoken word performance, and featured Queen Godis, John Bonzai, Souleymane Diamanka and Jamarhl Crawford performing solo and/or with the band and Les Nubians.
As a person who has not totally immersed himself in the world of hip-hop and spoken word performance, I have to say that this was fascinating. The flow of the show had enough changes of direction to never settle into a rut. An evening of all spoken word may have been a little too much for me, but with Les Nubians adding some of their beautiful soulful tunes, Queen Godis singing a song called Fire with audience participation, Senegalese artist Souleymane Diamanka rapping in Polish (that was a first!) and artist John Bonzai from France leading the entire troupe singing and rapping in French and English on a song called Don't Let Your Dreams Fall Asleep, there was never a dull nor predictable moment. (my video)
There was also some promotion of a certain political figure who has energized the thinking people of the world who care the positive things in life like art and being a force for good. Helene said "As far as France is concerned, he's already your president, we just need you to make it official in November". We have an appropriate expression that describes that scenario, it's called preaching to the choir. :-)
The Subdudes: Oct 4th at The Highline Ballroom
A little over 20 years ago, a group of musicians got together at Tipitina's in New Orleans for what was to be a one time set focusing on good songwriting and great vocal harmonies. The set went so well, that The Subdudes where born on the spot. They toured and recorded for 10 years before taking a break to pursue side projects which included The Continental Drifters. After 5 years apart, they reconstituted with three of the four original members, Tommy Malone, John Magnie and Steve Amedee, added two more friends, Tim Cook and Jimmy Messa, and have thankfully picked up where they left off. (my video)
This acoustic set was a very intimate affair which featured songs from both the early days (Need Somebody, All The Time In The World, Carved in Stone...) and newer tunes like Message Man, as well as material from their new release Street Symphony, including Poor Man's Paradise and the beautiful bluesy love ballad No Man. Actually, a young couple who had just gotten engaged requested No Man and then stood up and danced in front of the stage as if they were the only people in the room. It was very sweet and the feel good moment of the evening. (No Man)
When I refer to the show being very intimate, at one point they brought two guitars down into the audience and did an unplugged song in five part harmony while surrounded by the audience. Very impressive! Their music is informed by the traditions of folk, country, rock and blues but always flavored with the influences of New Orleans. This was a great show by a great band and I will almost certainly be seeing them again.
Cesaria Evora: Oct 3rd Carnegie Hall (Madeline Peyroux opening)
Over the past couple of years I've reviewed Lura, Sara Tavares and Mayra Andrade, all of whom have their musical and ancestral roots in the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. Cesaria Evora is the international musical icon who put Cape Verde on the musical radar and the artist to whom those others would certainly bow in respect and, like Wayne and Garth, declare their own unworthiness.
She's known as the barefoot diva for her habit of always performing sans shoes, and is the world's foremost ambassador for Morna, a musical style that blends the sadness of Portuguese ballads called Fado, with West African rhythms. Brazilian, Cuban and jazz influences also color Cape Verdean music. Here's a video with borderline sound quality, but this is a good representation of what it felt like: (Cesaria live)
I had the thought that some of these songs could make a depressed person do the deed, and I mean that as the highest musical compliment. I don't understand more than 10 words of Portuguese (actually, Cape Verde speaks a creole based on Portuguese) but the music evokes powerful emotions.
The group I was with included three Portuguese speakers, and after the show I mentioned that it was interesting that even songs that were obviously very sad, still made you want to dance. My friend Ileana, who is from Cape Verde and knows Cesaria, said most of the lyrics are about regret, leaving or being apart. I knew that without knowing it because I could feel it.
Twenty years ago, at the age of forty seven, Cesaria had her first international hit with a song called Sodade, which is a word that loosely translates to a feeling of longing, regret and nostalgia, and still it makes you want to dance. Since then, she's regularly released new CD's and toured the world, opening the doors of Cape Verde to the world and vice versa. (Sodade)
Madeline Peyroux made a big splash with her 1996 release Dreamland, on which she used an understated vocal style, often compared to Billie Holiday, to perform jazz, blues and country music in as mellow a mood as is possible. This show included some material from Dreamland and her next release, Careless, including her best known tune Don't Wait Too Long which she hinted we could imagine as a commentary on the current political environment, but most of the show featured material from her new release Half The Perfect World. (Don't Wait Too Long)
There were several high points in the show the foremost of which for me was her cover of Leonard Cohen's Dance Me To The End of Love. It had a nice jazzy swing which was when I found her the most appealing on other songs as well. (Cohen cover)
Other highlights were the Tom Waits tune Heart of Saturday Night which she did as a country ballad and Blue Alert which was bluesy but also had a little jazzy swing. There were a few occasions when I was missing some power in her voice. I know that's not her style, and maybe she's not capable of delivering it, but there were moments that I was almost mellowed into a coma. That's a minor complaint as those moments were fleeting and, all things considered, it was a nice opening set.