Saturday, July 31, 2010
'Sometimes I need a revelation...'
It was a beautiful evening in Brooklyn last night, just the perfect weather for an outdoor show at the Bandshell as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn series of summer performances.
And the music was just as beautiful; in fact, it turned out to be absolutely one of the best gigs I've been to for years.
Opening was The Low Anthem, the fascinating group of musicians out of Rhode Island whose latest album, "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin" is intoxicating and compelling. Even though their music has been described as "apocalyptic", there's so much about their accessible melodies that's fundamentally uplifting.
And they also have a saw player, more of which later.
During the intermission, as if the groove couldn't get more mellow, John Martyn's "Small Hours" played over the PA.
He's come a long way from Outspan Foster, but right now Oscar-winner Glen Hansard may well be Ireland's finest singer-songwriter. He certainly brings something of the best of everything to the table: a little of the passion and righteous anger of Christy Moore, a little of the songcraft of Paul Brady or Freddie White, and a lot of the melodic perfection of Van Morrison.
And in collaboration with the beautiful voice and piano of Marketa Irglova - whatever tensions may surround their personal relationship - his own music frequently makes the leap to the heavenly, while his musical references onstage show the breadth of his musical path. Their version of Morrison's "Into The Mystic" was stunning. Exactly the sort of life-affirming five minutes Van always wanted it to be.
In the end, the latest Swell Season album, "Strict Joy" could hardly be better named. But if there's a more perfectly melancholy song than this, I can't think of one right now:
The Brooklyn audience was with them all the way, through the silence and the storm that makes up their brilliant live show. The rest of the band are a perfect complement and it was also a highlight to have Clarence Clemons' son Jake on sax and Curt Ramm on trumpet in a great horn section.
I'd also forgotten what a simply outstanding rock and roll song The Frames' "Revelate" is. Thank God Glen reminded me last night.
Two of the world's great annual folk festivals were taking place over the weekend - in Newport, RI and Cambridge, England.
NPR did just a wonderful job streaming the performances from Newport, including, brilliantly, The Swell Season and The Low Anthem.
Cambridge always has a great and varied roster of artists and is always an excellent weekend. You can catch up with podcasts from Cherry Hinton here.
There's a couple of other 'mini-festivals' coming up in New York City this week: for Jazz guitarists in Greenwich Village from Monday, while next Saturday in Astoria, you can attend the the eighth annual Musical Saw Festival.
Like, it seems, everyone else in the country I went to see Inception earlier this week. Enjoyed it a lot. But here's something I have to admit I never expected...