As visuals of fractals and swirling colorscapes floated across the large background screen Saturday night at the Susquehanna Bank Center, it became increasingly clear that Ray LaMontagne’s live performance was a whole different ball game than his last tour. We last saw Ray in 2012 on a solo acoustic jaunt which made a sold-out stop at the Tower, but this weekend’s not-quite-sold-out affair showed us just how far Ray has come in those two years.
Even though Ray’s signature smoky voice remains un-changed and impeccable, all but the oldest songs in his formidable library seemed to take-on just a little bit of the psychedelic influences found on Supernova. Although the new album is certainly solid, not all of the audience seemed thrilled with Ray’s setlist choosings, which leant heavily on new material. About halfway through the set during breaks between songs, one fan could be heard to loudly exclaiming “Pick it up!”
That particular fan seemed satisfied later on, after most of LaMontagne’s band exited the stage; a moment which found the songwriter stripped down and alone with bassist Zachariah Hickman (who has also toured with Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band) and performing some of his hallmark songs. As the honeyed tones of “Jolene” and especially “Trouble” rang out through SBC, the audience sat completely rapt by one of the most soulful voices of a generation.
For a short encore to wrap up the evening, LaMontagne went back to standby “Hey Me, Hey Mama” from 2008’s Gossip In the Grain, and then rolled into sprawling track “Drive-In Movies” to close out the night. Walking away from the night, the audience was certainly pleased to hear deep cuts intermixed with the new, and the interaction between the two makes for a refreshing take on both LaMontagne’s classic voice and songs.
Also joining LaMontagne on the bill were Los Angeles brother/sister pair The Belle Brigade (who also backed LaMontagne as parts of his band), and the country yet cliché-eschewing singer Jason Isbell.
Meshell Ndegeocello’s 11th album Comet, Come to Me is a gentle and beautifully-crafted effort from the influential Grammy-nominated vocalist. Though the backdrop of many songs on the album are filled with breezy reggae rhythms, Comet, Come to Me also relies on jazz, hip-hop and even some Spanish guitar to keep you on your toes. After you are drawn in by the soft melodies accompanied by cool drum beats and guitar riffs, you start to focus on what Ndegeocello is actually saying in each song. She has a straightforward, blunt way about describing relationships that she is able to convey so plainly yet so accurately. We hear it in songs like “Folie a Deux” when she sings “Call me hateful and cold, I just don’t love you no more” and in “Tom” how she opens with “There’s nothing between us but the feeling of nothing.” The fact that these songs are not loud exclamatory ballads, but quiet unhurried intimate stories give the album a powerful and emotional quality that delve deep into the processes of human decisions.
Ndegecello is an inspiring artist because you can feel the curiosity she has about the world in all aspects of who she is. When she was 17, she changed her last name to Ndegecello which means “free like a bird” in Swahili. Through her music, we learn about her love and respect for all things, even her Twitter bio reads “A world made of love..”
XPN will welcome Ndegecello to World Cafe Live on Friday, June 6th to celebrate the release of Comet, Come to Me. You can find tickets and info for the show here and can listen to “Tom” below.
It can’t be easy to be Isaac Brock. Seriously. Between band practice, the taxidermy and getting cut off during headlining one of the world’s largest festivals, the guy probably deals with his fair share of stress. Getting his own way during one of Modest Mouse’s rare smaller gigs, then, should only be fair. “Alright, I’m not playing that shit,” Brock muttered after not one, but two failed attempts to start bendy jam “Interstate 8″ early in the evening’s set. Despite early slips, a mediocre-at-best mix, and other quirks, the seminal indie rockers still brought their level best to Wednesday night’s sold-out crowd in Bethlehem.
Festival circuit aside, Modest Mouse doesn’t get out very often. Whether that’s due to working on what is arguably the most anticipated indie album ever, or something else entirely, is debatable. But the SteelStacks show comes smack in the middle of their first true tour in several years. Hitting out of the way cities like Bethlehem, PA and Cooperstown, NY later this weekend, they’re picking and choosing their way through smaller venues than usual, making these shows a treat for concert-starved fans. Even though Brock wasn’t very talkative, and didn’t really seem to know or care what secondary city the band was playing in, the assembly of ecstatic fans didn’t seem to mind.
Modest Mouse being no strangers to the weird, it was almost fitting that just about everything about the gig was slightly off. From the aforementioned mix – ranging from quite muddy to utterly drowning Brock’s voice behind a wall of wailing guitars – to a beautiful and unique venue filled with fans who seemingly only wanted to hear “Float On”, the evening was still a great time, but in a strangely off-kilter way. The lack of their most noted song almost created a crisis at the very end of the encore, as the crowd refused to believe that the band simply wouldn’t play it. They didn’t, recently haven’t been, and frankly don’t need to. While catchy and fun, “Float On” is far, far from being one of their better songs.
Speaking of the setlist, it was jam-packed with the more obscure classics. The die-hard fans (don’t mistake my earlier sentiment, there were many loyalists in the crowd) were thrilled to hear the band drag out deep cuts like “The View”, and could be heard remarking how relieved they were that the band kept mostly to their older material. The three new songs premiered at Coachella 2013 – “Be Brave”, “Shit In Your Cut”, and “Sugar Boats” – all made appearances in the 20-song setlist. Wrapping up with the hugely pessimistic “Fly Trapped In A Jar”, Brock thanked the audience and jogged off the stage.
In the first ever ticketed show at Levitt Pavilion, the post-industrial-blight-turned-venue proved to be a success, and was the event was also the first in the new Yuengling Summer Concert series — slated to host indie darling duo Tegan & Sara next month. Settled beneath the towering blast furnaces of the Bethlehem Steel, the stage and its crowd proved to be the perfectly weird combination to welcome Modest Mouse to Bethlehem.
Spottiswoode & His Enemies recently released their sixith studio album, English Dream. The New York based band, fronted by Jonathan Spottiswoode, has been together since the late 90s. A fixture of the New York music scene, they released their debut album, Ugly Love, in 1998. The band’s sound is strewn with ballads, flourishes of jazz and gospel touches that make for a hard-to-describe yet engaging musical experience. Below, watch the new video for “Dreamer Boy” from English Dream, where Spottiswoode performs the song against various 70s English TV commercials. These commercials may seem to satirize the dreams the young boy in the song is having, but they also provide a poignant context for his loneliness. WXPN Welcomes Spottiswoode & His Enemies to World Cafe Live this Saturday, May 24th. Go here for tickets and more information.
Hamilton Leithauser former lead singer of The Walkmen, is doing a solo tour that brings him and his band to the Prince Theatre on Saturday, July 12th. Tickets go on sale this Friday, May 16th at Noon. Leithauser releases his solo album, Black Hours on June 3rd. This Friday, Leithauser plays a double header Free At Noon with Chet Faker at The Porch at 30th Street. Below, watch the video for “Black Hours” from his forthcoming album.
NEULORE are the Nashville based duo of lead singer Adam Agin and William T. Cook. They met in 2008 and released their debut EP, Apples & Eve, in 2010. The newest song, “Shadow of a Man,” was featured in Grey’s Anatomy and in May they’ll be on the Communion Music Tour with a stop in Philly at Underground Arts on Thursday, May 8th. Also on that bill are Bootstraps, Busy Living, Cub Sport, Joey Sweeney & the Long Hair Arkestra, Heyward Howkins and Our Griffins. Fans of Mumford & Sons, Imagine Dragons and American Authors will delight in both the “folksiness” and the hyper melodicism of this new song by NEULORE.
Fresh off his performance at Coachella, singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry has announced a fall tour that brings him to the Tower Theatre on October 4th. Before launching a solo career, Ferry rose to fame as the lead vocalist of ’70s art rock band Roxy Music who last reunited in 2010. His latest album The Jazz Age – big band re-imaginings of his back catalogue – hit shelves in 2012 and featured jazz renditions of Ferry’s work drawn from both his solo discography and Roxy Music. Now touring with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, Ferry is back to share his music with fans worldwide. Get tickets here when they go onsale this Friday, April 25th at 10 a.m.
Philly’s Amos Lee has added another local stop to his summer tour that brings him to Lancaster’s American Music Theatre on June 9th. The new date falls right in between his sold out Mann Center show with Jack Johnson and performance at this year’s Firefly Music Festival. Why not ring in the summer season with Amos Lee’s folksy acoustic soul? Get tickets here and watch him perform “Chill in the Air” from his latest album Mountains of Song, Rivers of Sorrow on Jimmy Kimmel Live! below.
Merchant is releasing her self-titled album on Tuesday, May 6th. That day her World Cafe interview and performance will be broadcasted. During her Big Day Out set / World Cafe session, Merchant performed new songs from the album, including “Ladybird,” “Lulu,” and the gorgeous “Texas.” Below, watch the video for the new song, “Give Up Everything.”