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Singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton played a mature, reflective set at World Cafe Live (review, photos, setlist)

Photo by Allison Berger
Photo by Allison Berger
Vanessa Carlton played piano for a sold-out crowd on Sunday night at World Cafe Live. In just over a decade, the singer-songwriter has pushed out four under-the-radar albums, with a fifth on the way. Oh, and a baby. She’s pregnant with her first child! While she doesn’t look like she’s aged a day, Carlton’s songwriting has matured with elegance, creativity and grace. No longer are singles sweet and syrupy (she’s 33, not 21), and instead often reflect on the passing of time, finding yourself, and relationships come and gone.

After lighting a set of candles perched on the edge of her piano, Carlton touched upon tracks from all five albums, starting things off with “Carousel,” the opener from 2011′s Rabbits On The Run, and trickling her way through songs from 2007′s Heroes and Thieves, 2004′s Harmonium and of course, her breakthrough radio hit from 2002, “A Thousand Miles.”

Longtime fans sang along with the poetic “White Houses,” a song that was censored by MTV in 2004 due to it’s sexual nature (what a joke, right?). It may be more of a cult fave than “A Thousand Miles” ever was- and Carlton was pleased to play it. “The lacrosse players always knew the words to this one,” she laughed, reminiscing about a college tour she did a few years prior. “Which is pretty funny, especially when you think about what the song is really about.”

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Dressed to impress, Iron and Wine charmed a sold-out Union Transfer crowd (photos, review, setlist)

All photos by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

It was quite the elegant affair at Union Transfer last night, and everyone and their mother was there (literally). Folksinger Sam Beam took the stage in a suit with slicked-back hair, followed by his band of 13 (yes, 13) who were all dressed to the nines. Backup singers in long black dresses, the horn section in dapper jackets – everyone looked ready to impress. Over the course of the 100 minute set, Iron & Wine played selections from more than 10 years of music to a very eager, if fickle, sold-out crowd.

Starting the show on an upbeat note, Iron & Wine’s horn section do-wopped and sashayed through the “The Desert Babbler” from April’s release, Ghost On Ghost. While older fans of Iron & Wine have brushed off the band’s more recent releases in favor of the beautiful melancholy that is Sam Beam’s solo work, it could not be denied that the group onstage was having a great time. The crowd, however, was reluctant to warm up until a few songs in. Continue reading →

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Owen keeps it intimate in the First Unitarian basement (review, setlist)

Photo by Abi Reimold | JumpPhilly.com
Though he wasn’t performing in the sanctuary or the chapel, Mike Kinsella kept it intimate in the basement of the First Unitarian Church last night. His hour-long solo acoustic set under the Owen moniker opened with “A Trenchant Critique” from 2009′s New Leaves, prompting the fanboys in the audience to gush audibly about Kinsella’s voice, describing it as “pretty butter.” It’s true; the man has the voice of an emo angel.

Acting as if he was playing for a small crowd (instead of the few hundred squeezed in the room), Kinsella asked if we wanted to “talk about anything” as he slugged a Kenzinger. After some murmurs from the crowd, he segued into “Oh, Evelyn…” from  2011′s Ghost Town and then “She’s a Thief” from 2004′s I Do Perceive, which complemented each other beautifully. The two songs highlighted some of the best work from his early and present career.

“Bad News” was dedicated to a member of the audience, Cody, whom Kinsella acknowledged for being genuine. “Thanks man,” Cody shouted afterwards. “That made me cry!” A song later, Kinsella’s guitar string broke and he offered to end the show early, or fix it. The church pumped intermission music while Kinsella tended to the string. Finishing up with a new track entitled “I Got High,” and then “Good Friends, Bad Habits,” Kinsella wished his audience well as they funneled out of the basement and into the night. See the setlist from the show after the jump. Continue reading →

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Stars pumps up the crowd at The Trocadero (photos, review, setlist)

All photos by Michelle Montgomery | MichelleMontgomeryPhotography.com

It’s safe to say that most Stars fans came to The Trocadero last night expecting a set of broken love ballads to sway with their partners to, but the Canadian indie pop band kicked off their North American tour with anything but. With a stage decorated with not one, but four (!) disco balls and a little 80′s Aretha Franklin to get the crowd pumped up, lead singers Amy Milan and Torquil Campbell danced onto the stage decked out in retro studded vests and denim blazers.

Picking through ten years of material, the 22-song set started out heavy on Stars latest release, The North, but paid homage to long time fans as well. After “Backlines,” Campbell was gracious to the crowd for being so “fucking genuine and beautiful.” Before playing “Personal” (which he called “the most depressing song ever written”)  he said this would be the first time the band would perform the song in five years. While Stars had originally set the tone for the show to be one big dance party, Campbell and Milan indulged fans who wanted to get a little sentimental, focusing on themes like love, beauty, and youth. Continue reading →

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A high-energy Ellie Goulding covers her musical bases at the Electric Factory (photos, review, setlist)

British pop singer Ellie Goulding brought the energy big time to her sold-out show at the Electric Factory Friday night. Straight from her unplugged Free at Noon set where she was admittedly sleepy (“My voice isn’t usually awake until 9 p.m.!”), Goulding performed and hour and a half set, covering all of her musical bases.

Wearing a tank top that read “666″ and a pair of leather leggings, Goulding kicked off the concert with “Don’t Say a Word,” the opening track from her latest release, Halycon. A sea of teenage hands thrust into the air immediately, fist pumping as if the track were their youth anthem. Continue reading →

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Kalob Griffin Band lives while they’re young (playing World Cafe Live 12/22)

Photo by Rhys Asplundh | www.flickr.com/people/rhysasplundh
I’m meeting a couple of the guys from the Kalob Griffin Band for a drink at Fergie’s in Center City. I’ve snagged a four-top by the bar and set my notepad in front of my beer. At 2 p.m. exactly, the boys burst in through the swinging stained-glass door.

“Ali!” they call out. “Hey, Ali!” That may be my nickname, but they’re not talking to me.

They’re greeting Fergie’s bartender, Ali Wadsworth, a soulful Philadelphia singer-songwriter and one half of Hoots and Wadsworth, one of the two acts opening for The Kalob Griffin Band (KGB) on December 22 at World Cafe Live.

“Ali’s amazing,” says Griffin, slugging back a shot of Jack Daniels and cracking open a Narragansett pounder almost simultaneously.

“We did a duet with her at The Living Room on the Lower East Side,” adds Eric Lawry, drummer of the indie Americana quintet.

John Hildenbrand, keyboardist for the band, nods. “She can sing like nothing else and she’s a huge supporter of us. So much respect.”

Support is what makes The KGB world go round. Continue reading →

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A night with Daughter and more at Kung Fu Necktie (photos, recap)

The London-based band Daughter is comprised of three members, all incredibly soft spoken and reserved. At Kung Fu Necktie on Monday night, lead singer Elena Tonra channeled Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel with her pageboy haircut and her bangs hanging in front of the mic. The band opened with “Run” from their new release Smother, and continued with “Landfill” from 2011′s His Young Heart EP. Tonra whispered something about a Philly cheesesteak with a nervous giggle before sliding into “Love,” , while “In the Shallows” (like many of Daughter’s songs) was heartbreaking and sobering. Continue reading →

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Metric brought epic energy to the Tower Theater (photos, review, setlist)

The indie bros were screaming her name even before she walked out onstage. “Emily!” they yelled into the high ceilings of the Tower Theater. “I love you!”

Metric front woman Emily Haines has a bold and seductive stage presence that can woo an audience of any age. In front of me, an elementary schooler sat on the hip of his father. To my left, an older grey-haired man rocked out with his 40-something girlfriend. And me? I’m a 25-year-old who started listening to Metric in high school. The band’s sound sure has changed since I last saw it play the Starlight Ballroom in 2006 – but Emily Haines’ persona has not. Continue reading →