Cowboy Junkies | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Last Saturday night at the Dennis Flyer Theater at Camden Community College in Blackwood, N.J., folk-rockers Cowboy Junkies took center stage. Playing to a one-third-full auditorium did nothing to diminish the quintet’s performance, and Margo Timmins’ vocals were stunning, despite frequent coughs between songs. With the thick velvet of her syllables haning in the air, her brothers – guitarist/lyricist Michael and drummer Peter, bassist Alan Anton and multifaceted string- and percussion-player Jeff Bird, the band filled the auditorium with folk, rock and country inflections.
Margot Timmons of Cowboy Junkies | Photo by Chris Sikich | www.countfeed.tumblr.com
The night was divided in half, with the first set featuring newer material and the second focusing on older fare. For the former, they delved into their Nomad album series, including a stirring rendition of Vic Chesnutt’s “See You Around.” Other recent highlights included “Fairytale” and “Demons.” Rather than just playing to appease those there for their iconic cover of Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” Cowboy Junkies nestled that in the second set amid works from their classic The Trinity Session and Lay It Down, among others. “Sweet Jane” still has the same slow-burn glory it did upon first listen 26 years ago, but other songs, like “Misguided Angel” and “I’m So Open,” sounded just as brilliant.
Despite a single encore treat in “A Common Disaster,” there was no short-changing the crowd. Sweet harmonies, haunting mandolin, the audio charge of the harmonica, and the rich depths of the lyrics were just some of the reasons Cowboy Junkies rocked. The small audience suggests listeners have deserted this wonderful, still-vibrant band, but why? Whether you come back now or join anew, you’re sure to be hooked.
Andrew Lipke | Photo by Chris Sikich | http://countfeed.tumblr.com/
One of Philly’s finest musicians, Andrew Lipke put on a phenomenal free show last past Sunday afternoon, wowing a receptive crowd at the Burlington County Library Auditorium in Westampton, N.J. Backed by both his rock band The Prospects and his classical accompanists The Azrael String Quartet, the first in a series of spring Sundays on Stage shows, the concert drew fans and newcomers alike. The 75-minute show featured songs from Lipke’s ambitious 2011 album The Plague, such as the classical and rock amalgam “Up to Here,” as well as a sampling of work from earlier Prospects days, like the glorious “No Way Out.” Pieces from a forthcoming album based on Hermann Hesse’s Siddartha were also played, including the bewitching “Ascetic Blues.” For most of the show, the quartet and the band layered their parts, making for a rich, varied sound, and the venue itself played a perfect partner to the musicians with its great sound system. The arrival of a new Lipke release cannot come soon enough, and one can only hope for more upcoming performances like this one to challenge and reward one’s expectations of rock dynamics.
Lush harmonies. Equal parts folk and rock. Nature, justice, and the fire and ice of relationships. Mirah melded these qualities into a glorious brew in a return to her hometown on Saturday at Boot & Saddle. The sold-out crowd was treated to a 16-song trip through her career. Mirah showcased many highs from her recorded and live existence, from the opening selection of the chilling “Bones & Skin” and the lovely cover of Old Time Relijun’s “Lion Tamer” to the South American sounds flowing through “The Dogs of B.A.”
Backed by the strings and keys of L. Alex Guy (aka Led to Sea) and percussionist Andrew Maguire, Mirah also unveiled some songs from her forthcoming record. With a few understandable hiccups that come with performing new work, the new pieces stand tall next to the rest of her oeuvre. The high point of the new is a song Mirah said was inspired by seeing Leonard Cohen in New Zealand. Co-written with her sister, Emily Ana Zeitlyn, the track, titled “L.C.” on the handwritten setlist, features dual harmonies and thematic elements similar to some of Cohen’s most well-known work.
The main set closed with the powerful “Mt. St. Helens” and Mirah and company followed it with the joyous encore of “Words Cannot Describe.” Dancing around the stage with Guy on drums and Maguire on vibraphone, Mirah left the stage after giving the crowd what they wanted: her in every desired musical form. Smiles and applause were bountiful, indicating another homecoming cannot come soon enough.
The show was billed as a “Too Many Zeitlyns Are Never Enough” showcase, since Divers – the raw Philly trio fronted by the aforementioned Emily – performed a phenomenal opening set of rock and roll. Check out photos from the night in the gallery below, and read Mirah’s setlist after the jump.
Meshell Ndegeocello wants to share her love for the music of Nina Simone with anyone inclined to listen. Those in attendance at World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington on Wednesday night experienced Ndegeocello’s passion for Simone in a wonderfully brisk 90-minute set.
Ndegeocello’s rich soulful voice and booming bass propelled the nearly sold-out crowd through the Simone songbook that Ndegeocello performed on the 2012 release Pour une Ame Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone. From the highs of “Feeling Good” to the ballad standard of “Black is the Color of My True Loves Hair,” Ndgeocello captured the essence of Simone in one moment and transformed it into something fresh and new the next.
Before a fully seated Queen crowd that was in rapt silence, Ndegeocello and her band of guitarist Chris Bruce, keyboardist Jebin Bruni, and new drummer Abraham Rounds breathed life into Simone and her interpretations. Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” is loved best by Ndegeocello in Simone’s glorious take on it; its folk origins were barely visible in the jazzed up brilliance of Ndegeocello and Simone. Beyond Simone, Ndegeocello transformed The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” to a place beyond the imaginations of the Liverpool lads; gone was its trippiness in exchange for bold percussion and bass and guitar lines that floated one’s mind downstream.
In a show of discovery and the sublime, two moments stood out more than any other. The main set closer of “Four Women” was a knockout; Simone’s stories resonate still today and Ndegeocello brought beauty and devastation to the song with her voice and her bass. The final song of the night, Ndegeocello’s own “Oysters” from her 2011 album Weather, was just her voice and keys. Her storytelling and visuals, when matched with that of Simone and all of the songwriters beloved by Simone and Ndegeocello herself, were the perfect complement and ending to a night of musical reimagination and transcendence.
Pixies ruled Philadelphia on Friday, selling out both a rare acoustic performance at World Café Live’s Free at Noon and their nighttime Electric Factory show. By the time the band took the stage for their evening reign at 9:45, the crowd was warmed up from the freezing outside after putting their hands together and moshing to Los Angeles-based garage punks Fidlar.
When the revolutionary alt-rockers from Boston unleashed the first chords of “Bone Machine” that gave way to the surging “Debaser,” the night was set for some grand rock memories.
Lead singer and guitarist Black Francis, alongside guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and touring bassist Paz Lenchantin, belted out a nearly 30-song set that covered the expanse of their career. It would be tough to not satisfy most fans with the selection from such classics as “Where is My Mind” and “Wave of Mutilation” as well as their recent works, as represented by songs like “Bagboy” and “Magdalena.”
Backed by an impressive lighting arrangement that involved light reflecting off surfaces in the ceiling and their backdrop of stacks of glass boxes, they were dramatically lit for much of the performance. And the sound was glorious.
It was a stellar set that ultimately, unfortunately, left some wanting. The band said nary a word to an adoring audience that sang along and even crowd-surfed. And after what seemed to be a joyous end to “Nimrod’s Son,” with Santiago having great fun with his guitar and even exchanging his hat with a smiling Lenchantin, the band did not return — despite playing an encore at every other show on the tour, the crowd loudly clapping and calling for more, and the stage seemingly set for a return.
Certainly ruling the soundwaves is hard work and not always satisfying for all. But even though the abrupt ending left a sour taste for some at the end of the night, the rare delicacy of Pixies’ ferocious sound is destined to bring fans back as long as the band deigns to tour.
A January tradition continued Saturday night as David Lowery’s bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker rocked a sold-out World Café Live. Both bands sounded glorious as they took a crowd full of memories for Camper and Cracker from the 1980s and 1990s for a rock-infused two-hour-plus ride.
Camper began the night with its eclectic mix of guitar and violin, quick songs, and the occasional instrumental. Lowery, bassist Victor Krummenacher, string-player extraordinaire (violin, mandolin, and guitar) Jonathan Segel, guitarist Greg Lisher and drummer Frank Funaro blasted through a set mixing new and old. And the freshest work, like the instant sing-along “Northern California Girls” from 2013’s La Costa Perdida, fit in perfectly with such set staples as their brilliant cover of Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and, of course, their ultimate tongue-in-the-cheek moment in “Take the Skinheads Bowling.”
Lowery used a rare solo moment to ease into the set by Cracker, the more straightforward rock cousins of Camper Van Beethoven: With just a banjo and his voice, he delivered a glorious rendition of Camper’s “O Death.” The next two numbers were only played with Cracker’s other larger-than-life personality, guitarist Johnny Hickman. The glorious intimacy of the set gave way to Cracker’s blunt anthems of desire, like the always welcome “Low,” with the help of bassist Sal Maida and another double-duty performer in drummer Funaro. With a crowd that rearranged between bands to accommodate the ebbs and flows of taste, Cracker delivered with such memorable moments as “Big Dipper” and encore “Eurotrash Girl.” The show was as energetic and passionate as anyone could demand, and it was reassuring to know, as you savored every guitar strum and gravel-voiced utterance, that you’d be back next January to experience it all over again.
A dynamic duo of songwriting prowess played before a chilled Tin Angel crowd on Thursday. Wesley Stace and Joe Pernice played solo and sang harmonies on each other’s songs for a highly entertaining two hours. Stace began the night by stating this was the first show he ever wore a sweater on stage for, as the Tin Angel’s heat must have been on the fritz. Whatever coldness was abound before the show quickly was overcome by the warmth and humor of Stace and Pernice.
Stace with his British wit and verbiage complemented the soft spoken and dry air of Pernice. In between songs of love and memory, topics including which performer had more of their own songs on their iPod and the perception of vulgarity by both young and old gave the set a rich flavor. Stace mostly played songs from his 2013 album Self-Titled. Stipping the work down to the essence of his words, the vocals, and guitar brought out the richness in the work, especially the stand out tracks from the album, “When I Knew” and “The Dealer’s Daughter.”
Pernice played songs from his many band iterations including the Scud Mountain Boys (including a great rendition of “Grudge Fuck”) and the Pernice Brothers (with a stand out “Goodbye, Killer”). The show progressed with great music and banter that concluded with a very satisfying cover of Del Shannon’s “I Go to Pieces.” To only be one week into 2014 and to have experienced a show this great gets one pumped for a great year of music and beyond.