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Iron and Wine and Ben Bridwell showcase musical friendship at Union Transfer

Iron and Wine and Ben Bridwell | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com
Iron and Wine and Ben Bridwell | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

While walking east towards Union Transfer on Tuesday night, loud rain could be heard in the immediate distance. This was odd because no rain was falling where I was. Then, like out of a movie, I walked into a rainstorm. It was this otherworldly experience that ushered in a night of music with Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell.

Playing behind Sing Into My Mouth, a covers album they recently released, Sam Beam (aka Iron and Wine) and Bridwell (frontman of Band of Horses) showcased their musical friendship to a sold out crowd. Trading lead vocal duties and often singing in harmony, these old friends give their own folksy rock take to a number of varying tunes. Standout moments included Sade’s “Bulletproof Soul,” the unexpected Americana turn of Spiritualized with “The Straight and Narrow” and a rousing version of David Gilmour’s “There’s No Way Out of Here.” Continue reading →

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Quick, Furious, Enthralling; R. Ring takes on Johnny Brenda’s

R . Ring | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com
R . Ring | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

Johnny Brenda’s hosted the glories of R. Ring on Monday night for a small, eager Philadelphia crowd. Kelley Deal of The Breeders and Mike Montgomery of Ampline rocked their way through a brisk 40-plus minute set, with the occasional drumming help of Leo DeLuca for good measure. With songs coming from various EPs, some released, some unreleased, as well as cuts by The Kelley Deal 6000 (“Trixie Delicious”) and Shellac (“Ghosts”), R. Ring engaged with tightknit arrangements. Deal had 10 pedals at her disposal and even played a few songs free of guitars. It was quick, furious and enthralling ear candy. Continue reading →

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Back With A Vengeance: Mekons packed the house at Boot and Saddle

Mekons | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com
Mekons | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

For nearly 40 years Mekons have mixed and matched punk, folk and a British sensibility into a glorious audible potpourri. On Monday, a packed, sweltering Boot & Saddle beheld the magisterial artistry of Mekons for two-plus hours.

Led by safari-ready Jon Langford and the brilliant voice of Sally Timms, the Leeds-born band were full of harmonious and rocking highs. Joking about this being their first Philly sell out and a far cry from a brawl they started with a sound man at Khyber Pass long ago as well as discussing such oddities as watching Bush vs. Gore on the television, Mekons were in great spirits. Continue reading →

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D’Angelo gives a moving performance at The Keswick Theatre

D'Angelo | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com
D’Angelo | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

Music, at its finest, reinvigorates the soul, especially when experienced live. D’Angelo’s breathtaking performance at the Keswick last night exemplified this in spades. With a 10-person backing band and multiple wardrobe changes to go along with his James Brown voice, swagger and never ending energy, it was quite a sight to see and hear. Continue reading →

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Paul McCartney delivers a knockout show at Wells Fargo Center

Paul McCartney | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com
Paul McCartney | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

Memories. Their recollection and creation were at the center of Paul McCartney’s sold-out Wells Fargo show last night. Pulling on the legacy of The Beatles and Wings, as well as some of his more recent solo work, McCartney displayed his dazzling showmanship for nearly three hours.

Utterly genuine and joyous throughout, he waved, smiled and took every ounce of applause in. At 73, he shows the musical prowess and desire that only a handful of his contemporaries still have. Continue reading →

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All The Jangley Energy You Want: The Feelies return to World Cafe Live

The Feelies | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com
The Feelies | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

Two sets. Three encores. 35 songs. Three-plus hours. By the numbers alone, The Feelies put on a triumphant show this past Saturday at World Café. To watch the band seamlessly transition between songs new and old as well as covers was indeed breathtaking rock and roll.

The Feelies of 2015 were pulsating with all the jangly energy you could have wanted in the mid 1980s, let alone now. Opening with “It’s Only Life,” the title track to their 1988 album Only Life, the Lou Reed-esque vocals of Glenn Mercer set the tone for the night. All of their albums and works were explored, from their 1979 single “Fa Ce-La” to the 1980 breakthrough Crazy Rhythms to 2011’s reunion record Here Before. Continue reading →

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From ballads to rock, Paula Cole showcases variety at World Cafe Live

Paula Cole | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com
Paula Cole | Photo by Chris Sikich | sikichphotography.com

About half way through Paula Cole’s set at World Café Live on Friday, she arose from her piano to move to the middle of the stage. An audience member loudly exclaimed, “oh there your are,” since she had been hidden behind her piano up until that point. Cole unapologetically retorted that she needed to play a real piano and not a keyboard because of its sound quality and that she is just a frustrated drummer at heart. This directness mirrors her music, which gloriously varied between ballads and rock for the 15-song set. Continue reading →

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The Decemberists bring pageantry and passion to the Academy of Music

The Decemberists | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
The Decemberists | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

A gust of drums and a deluge of syllables packaged in an ever-expanding novella of a song. These were my feelings when I first heard The Decemberists’ “The Infanta” back in 2005. The opening track to Picaresque, the song, the album and the band all resurrected my love for music. And to hear this song performed by the 2015 incarnation of the Portland, Oregon-based indie eccentrics this past Tuesday at the Academy of Music was as exhilarating as it was the first time on CD. Before a sell-out crowd the Colin Meloy-led quintet were as captivating as ever. Continue reading →

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Swans played to a reverent crowd at Union Transfer

Swans
Swans | photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com/

It began with the slight yet forceful reverberations of a gong. For five minutes, percussionist extraordinaire Thor Harris elicited the low hum of his instrument while no one else occupied the stage. Then drummer Phil Puelo came out to add another percussive layer. The lights dimmed and brightened to match the rhythm, almost like a pulsing heart. One by one more band members of Swans entered the fray. The song, “Frankie M,” like all of their work on performed Monday night at Union Transfer, lasted in excess of 20 minutes. To call it or any of the other pieces simply a song would be to dismiss their nature; they were mini-rock orchestrations, hinting at the essence of the music itself and the boundaries of the human ear’s comfort level with their powerful sonics.

Continue reading →