Monday, March 30, 2009

Marianne Faithfull
City Winery
New York City

Marianne Faithfull doesn't tour near enough and she tours this side of the ocean even less. Back in ought-six she was on what was purported to be a North American tour. It launched with the annoucement of a few dates on the west coast; Vancouver and maybe, Calgary, and a lone date, a few weeks later, in NYC. I assumed the Toronto shows would be announced at anytime. Except they weren't and it was so long, Marianne.

It's not that she hasn't kept busy with book writin' and movie makin' but it's the music that draws me. The 2008 Tour was cancelled due to health reasons so another opportunity was missed. When I saw this City Winery show I became a walking 52 year old version of The Demics punk classic, crying, "I wanna go to New York City!"

So we found ourselves last Friday landing at Newark, hopping the monorail to the NJTransit train link which finally deliverd us into Penn Station. At this point we were half-way to our destination. OK, maybe a little more but did anybody notice how big that place was?

There was a Friday night show at the Winery but Cece and I chose to use the two days we had to cover a lot of ground in Greenwich Village and SoHo. Then, when we were done, we covered it again. A leisurely weekend of walking in the sunshine, watching the park artists or the kids at the 4th Street Courts. Passed most of the Dylan signposts; the MacDougal Ave condo, the Village Gate, the apartment at 161 4th street, saw the place where the bricks fell on Grand St and more than one or two vacant lots.

Saturday found us in the company of a friend from just outside the city who we convinced to venture in for a little cabaret-style evening of entertainment.

The pre-show music was well selected, most notably the Dylan tunes. Not just the run of the mill hits either as we got cuts from Planet Waves and Hard Rain.

Marianne's story is one of innocence, coming-of-age, falling-from-grace, picking up all the pieces and kicking some serious ass when it comes to beating back the obstacles life will toss at you. She's a survivor;a survivor first of her time, then her weakness, her demons and finally random acts of unkindness that befall some more than others. And the songs she picks...well, they run the gamut too.

Easy Come, Easy Go (see link below for songs/lyrics) is the new album and tonight is it's showcase. The first half of the show is heavily weighted to the new material with the odd sprinkling of songs from her impressively vast repertoire.

Marianne walks onstage, adorned in a blue double-breasted Sgt Pepper jacket that stays on only for a song. She's looking great

She opens with an apropos tune; Times Square. Thought it was If Not For You, as it shares a similar chord progression, but I guess it's time to drop the Dylan stuff for the night. Marianne jumps right into the boozy-bluesy feel we're going to get this evening.

"If alcohol could take me there/I'd take a shot a minute/And be there by the hour/Take a walk around Times Square/With a pistol in my suitcase/And my eyes on the TV"

Backed by a crack-band of local musicians we are already being treated to more than a night with a songstress. Throughout the evening the intricate interplay of the big band is as impressive as Marianne's strong performance. The lead guitar work is blistering.

Down From Dover may have been played too early in the evening to get its proper due...from the audience. We were still settling in, cracking open our first bottle of wine after the glass full that came with dinner. Marianne, fortunately, wasted no time finding her groove as she delivers a heart-wrenching tale of love-lost twice. This was jaw-dropping good. One thing about that Dolly Parton chick, she can write a song.

The set continues with a generous helping of the varied and eclectic songs that make up the new record. From the folksy Decemberists tune, The Crane Wife 3, to the jazzy Ellington tune, Solitude. There's an almost 7 minutes version of The Espers Children of Stone and a terrific, salacious, interpretation of Bessie Smith's Easy Come, Easy Go. The old-new balance is kept with the inclusion of Neko Case's Hold On, Hold On, parenthetically, 'the devil I love', which kind of takes the place of Marianne's own Vagabond Ways in the set list. Kimbie was eerily reminiscent of Dylan's Alberta, and probably 20 other songs floating around in the back of my head. The yin of that song is balanced by the yang of Black Rebel Motorcycle Clubs Salvation.

The band kicks into a hard version of Broken English, a song even more appropriate today to the current geo-political mess we find ourselves in than it was in the early '80's, when it would merely have been prescient. "What are we fighting for?" she asks, and refutes the sophomoric, inevitable, knee-jerk answer, even before it's offered, with the next line, "It's not my security."

"it's just an old war/not even a cold war/don't say it in Russian/don't say it in German/ say it in broken english"

Marianne does a nice little trick in this song. She submerges the last syllable of the title so when she sings, 'broken english', what we get is 'broken eng...'. It's almost like an aural representation of the written's broken.

A lovely rendition of the melody from Mack the Knife preludes Randy Newman's cabaret-style In Germany Before the War. You can see that Marianne was born to sing songs in this style. She's a performer, more than a rock artist, and her phrasing, while not bombastically obvious, gives each song a gut-level poignancy that makes them her own creation. She follows with an original composition, Crazy Love and then is soon into introducing her wonderful band.

As good as it's been so far, the closing segment of this show is powerful. It starts with Shel Silverstein's Ballad of Lucy Jordan. A song from the point-of-view of an isolated suburban woman whose life is filled with 'mother' and 'wife' but lacks a certain "me" component. Marianne, who has a polyannish quality to her thinking, has been interviewed on the content of this song and she refuses to see it as a suicide resolution. Her interpretation is a positive one, the lady in question is led to her car by a benevolent sole, past the crowd, to enjoy her moment in the Paris springtime. Of course, it's only a song and the best usually have different meanings for different people. The conflict, in the case of this song, rests on the listener's interpretation of the last verse.

"The evening sun touched gently on the eyes of Lucy Jordan/On the rooftop where she'd climbed when all the laughter grew too loud/And she bowed and curtsied to the man,/ who reached and offered her his hand/And led her down to the long white car that waited past the crowd/At the age of 37, she knew she'd found forever as they rode along through Paris/With the warm wind in her hair"

Shel left out whether they took the stairs.

Marianne left nothing out as she infuses the song with all the emotions attendant in the words...and more. When the "kids are off to school" and the "husband is off to work", it's not the part of the day where Mom gets a little time to herself. She is, rather, abandoned, resulting in an ennui that saps her ability to do anything constructive. The minutiae of 'rearranging flowers' or 'clean(ing)...for hours' is well juxtaposed against the Janovian release of 'run(ning) naked, through the shady streets, screaming all the way.' Though her voice is a little raw from last nights effort, she shows some emotion in the delivery and you can SEE, not only hear, her desperation.

The stage patter throughout the evening has been delicious. She has a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of her place in pop-culture and she hits, briefly, not incessantly, on those signposts of her life that revolve around her being 'Mick's chick'. Someone passes her a hat from the audience and she relates that in 1966 she was deemed the preeminent 'hat wearer' by a hat producing company for their own self-promotion. She lightheartedly reports that she didn't get paid for one did in those days, but there she was; "I'm sellin' fuckin' 'ats".

Following Lucy Jordan she comments on the 'hit' stature of her songs. "Oh, ya, all the hits now, you know. We are all laughing ironically about that. You do know they weren't hits...or you've forgotten" she says, and after a brief chuckle follows with the truism; "I don't care anyway...they're hits to me." Me too, Marianne.

Nearing the end of the show she talks about her limited musical ability. "All I do is sing, that's all I can do," but closes with the new mantra for those who've been given a second chance at evaluating what's real and what is not; "I'm going to keep singing till my boots fall off." While that may be a mixed, or confused metaphor, her desire to die a Tommy Cooper death leaves little doubt about her ambition to keep on keepin' on.

Sister Morphine comes out of the '60's to warn us all off things that make us feel too good. Again her phrasing is powerful as she spits out the lyrics, emphasis falling on the front or back of lines depending on if she wants to hit you coming in or leave something lingering. Her disdain for the power of drugs is evident in the way she introduces 'cousin Cocaine'. The visual, standing on stage with a combative look on her face, added even more ooomph. My bet is Marianne treasures putting this one out there, just to remind the demons who is in charge now.

The next song is like no other in the rock pantheon. Written from a males point of view, it's about taking a tongue-lashing from your woman...and not the good kind. Infidelity from her POV. It's harsh. It's expletive filled. It could be considered obscene in Boston and south of the Mason-Dixon line. The album version has the angriest guitar you've ever heard. This live version is not as caustic as the musical mood is somewhat tempered by strings and keyboard, though Marc Ridot's lead is impressive. The vocals, however, are still a sharp kick to the balls. "Why'd You Do It?" is a big fan favourite as the audience unleashes a wave of approving hoots when the opening chords start up and raucous applause at the end.

Marianne allows herself one pat on the back tonight when she observes: "I must say, that was kinda perfect."

Now that we've gotten that out of our system...the show closes with three wonderfully melodic tunes; her own hit, a Jagger/Richards composition, As Tears Go By, Merle Haggard's Sing Me Back Home and a traditional folk song Marianne recorded with The Chieftains, Love Is Teasing (Love Is Pleasing).

Having finished our second bottle of wine we sit at our tables sharing some conversation as the roadies break the stage down around us. As they close the place we stumble out into the NYC nights with a Beaujolais glow, confirmation this was a trip well worth taking.

Marianne Faithfull
City Winery
New York City

keyboard & accordian Rob Burnslead
guitar Marc Ribot
drums Joey Baron
sax Lenny Pickett
horns Marty Allen
bass musical director Greg Cohen
guitar Ryan Scott
violin Christina Cotta (costa?)
cello Christopher Hoffman

Disc 1

Track 01 Intro/chat
Track 02 Times Square (M.Faithfull)
Track 03 Down From Dover (D.Parton)
Track 04 Children of Stone (The Espers)
Track 05 The Crane Wife 3 (Decemberists/C. Meloy)
Track 06 Solitude (D.Ellington)
Track 07 Hold On, Hold On(Neko Case)
Track 08 Easy Come, Easy Go (Bessie Smith/W. Jackson & E. Brown)
Track 09 Broken English (M. Faithfull)
Track 10 Mack the knife/In Germany Before the War (R. Newman)
Track 11 Crazy Love(M.Faithfull)
Track 12 Kimbie (J.C.Frank)
Track 13 Band Intro
Track 14 Salvation (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club,Hayes, Turner & Jago)

Disc 2

Track 01 Ballad of Lucy Jordan (S. Silverstein)
Track 02 Sister Morphine (Jagger/Richards)
Track 03 Why'd Ya Do It? (H. Williams)
Track 04 As Tears Go By (Jagger/Richards)
Track 05 talk
Track 06 Sing Me Back Home (M.Haggard)
Track 07 audience
Track 08 Love Is Teasing (trad.,The Chieftains)

Easy Come, Easy Go Lyrics

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Paul James and Friends
Honey's Beestro

Is this guy Bob Dylan's next lead guitarist?

We can only hope so.

What a great place to see an artist. Honey's Beestro ain't that big. It has no stage. The artist sets up in a small corner. Our table was about 2 feet from Paul and his accompaniament. Makes the stealth taping thing a little precarious.

Had a chance to talk to Paul throughout the evening and I was prodding him for news about the upcoming Dylan tour. Is he is, or is he ain't, onboard? Well, if he is, and he knows, he's not telling me.

I threw everything I had at him too. Opened with a question about Jeff Rosen (Bob's manager). He seemed surprised to be talking about the Dylan camp from that angle. Told him if he IS onboard he must pass along a message to Tony Garnier; Robert Gordon says he's doing well and how are you Tony? He expressed his joy at just being in a position where this gig could fall to him. What he had to say about the Nags Head gig is public knowledge. Time spent around Mink DeVille in the '80's was high on his list of fond memories. He's a really grounded guy who seems to get a kick out of just playing.

Paul James has played with the likes of Dylan, Mink, Bo Diddley and John Hammond. He's a quiet legend in Canada; respected in the music-making industry, way under appreciated by the music-selling industry.

The past few weeks he's been playing impromptu gigs all around the area...warming up, I hope, for the call that should come any day now. This was supposed to be a solo gig but I believe he needed to get some lead-chops down so he's squeezed in a keyboard and snare drum to help keep the beat while he creates his intricate guitar runs.

Highlights of the night:

From A Buic 6! I've seen over a hundred Dylan shows and have never heard this done live. Of course, not many have. Bob's only played it twice, back in 1965.

Muddy Waters Blow Wind Blow was a treat, so too Dust My Broom, as was Sweet Virginia.

Paul's own original compositions stand up well against these monster songs. Last Clean Shirt kicks. When Love Walks Out should be a monster hit.

Set 1

T01 Bull Calf Blues (trad. Paul James)
T02 All I Have To Do Is Dream (Everley Bros)
T03 Carol (Chuck Berry)
T04 Cathy's Clown (Everley Bros)
T05 The Last Clean Shirt (Paul James)
T06 Crazy Little Baby (Paul James)
T07 Diddley Daddy/Hey Bo Diddley
T08 Dust My Broom (trad. Elmore James/Robert Johnson)
T09 Nadine (Chuck Berry)
T10 Outro Shuffle (Paul James)

Set 2

T01 When Love Walks Out, The Blues Walk In (Paul James)
T02 Bye Bye Love (Everley Bros)
T03 Suzette (Paul James)
T04 Around and Around (Chuck Berry)
T05 Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat (Bob Dylan)
T06 Mojo Boogie (JB Lenoir)
T07 From A Buic 6 (Bob Dylan)
T08 Blow Wind Blow (Muddy Waters)
T09 Sweet Virginia (Jagger/Richards)
T10 Little Girl (Paul James)

Set 3

T01 Bird Dog (Everley Bros)
T02 'Till I Kissed You (Everley Bros)
T03 Love's Made A Fool Of You (Buddy Holly)
T04 I'm Going Fishin' (trad. Paul James)
T05 Cadillac Walk (Mink DeVille)
T06 It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob Dylan)
T07 Highway 61 (Bob Dylan)
T08 false start/All Shook Up (Blackwell/Presley)
T09 Who Do You Love? (Bo Diddley)