The live pairing of the singular talents of Mary Gauthier and Allison Moorer this past Saturday at World Café Live at The Queen was nothing short of sublime. Part of a small tour of the East Coast, Gauthier and Moorer traded songs and anecdotes. Only their voices and guitars separated them from the respectable upstairs audience. But their sense of lyric and melody removed this barrier, making it a most intimate and rewarding artistic affair. Continue reading →
New Sweden‘s Birthday Party Concert was indeed a party. With openers Levee Drivers (who played a sensational cover of New Sweden’s “Dick Wolf”) and a high-energy, goes-to-11 set from Scantron, what followed was a New Sweden show like we’d never seen before.
Mixing brand new tracks with classics from over the last five years of their existence, and having members of other regional bands fill in or completely take over the stage, the show did feel like a celebration. Continue reading →
Philly rapper Young Chris headlines the TLA tonight. Emerging on the scene 12 years ago as an affiliate of Beanie Siegel and Freeway’s State Property collective, he branched out on his own, first as part of Young Gunz and then as a solo artist. When it comes to mixtapes, this dude is prolific, releasing on average two per year since 2007 (and embarking on the ambitious 30 Days / 30 Verses project in 2009). After a couple years of dropping random freestyle clips, Chris re-emerged this spring with the Philly-centric Gunna Season mixtape, which was praised by Stereogum: “the Philly veteran…just raps. And it’s great because he’s great at it.” Tickets and information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar; below, watch Young Chris’ video for “I’m Alive.” Continue reading →
All-star futuristic rap trio Deltron 3030 brings its tour to World Cafe Live at The Queen next week in support of its 2013 sophomore record Deltron 3030: Event II. The LP emerged thirteen years after the supergroup’s debut and sees members Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala collaborating with everyone from Damon Albarn to The Lonely Island. Tickets and information for the July 17th show can be found here. Watch “Do You Remember” featuring Jamie Cullum below.
Australia’s Chet Faker will perform at Union Transfer tonight following his Free at Noon performance at XPN’s Non-COMMvention. The recent World Cafe artist released his debut LP Built On Glass in April, following up a pair of EPs and his remix of “No Diggity” by Blackstreet that originally put him on the radar. Take a listen to his soulful, electronic World Cafe session here and download a live version of “1998″ below. Tickets and information for the all-ages show can be found here.
Austrailian indie-pop outfit Cub Sport will play this month’s Communion Club Night at Underground Arts for their very first show in Philadelphia. This tour is the first US/Canada run for the band who self-released their Paradise EP last year. Their sound is super energetic and poppy at times (see “Paradise”) and more mellow and subdued at others (see “Shuffle”) but it’s all done in a dewy dream pop context that’s pretty hard to resist at both ends of the spectrum. Watch “Paradise” below and get tickets here.
Acoustic folk trio Nickel Creek are riding high on the success of their new album A Dotted Line, which arrived last month and coincided with their 25th anniversary as a band. Tonight they bring the excitement to the Tower Theater stage. Mostly folk but at times leaning toward bluegrass, their music, which rests on the band’s intricate musicianship and harmonies, has a raw quality that’s soulful at heart. Watch them perform “Rest Of My Life” live on Soundcheck below and get tickets here.
Tonight, M.I.A. graces the Tower Theater stage and fans (old and new) should, as always, expect a little bit of everything from the singer-songwriter’s genre-bending music. On her latest album Matangi, it’s clear that her sound is still a hybrid of electronic, pop, hip-hop and world music. Best known for her 2007 platinum hit “Paper Planes”, M.I.A. isn’t a traditional singer or rapper; she’s crafted a style that’s somewhere in between and it’s infectious. Watch “Y.A.L.A.” below and get tickets here
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.
In retrospect, it seems obvious to link Meshell Ndegeocello with Nina Simone: both are equally adept singers and instrumentalists who straddle the jazz and R&B worlds; both are unafraid to engage with political realities; both are strengthened artistically if undermined commercially by their fierce independence. Perhaps it’s that very independence, that sense that both Simone and Ndegeocello are iconoclastic islands unto themselves, that camouflaged any linkage between the two before the release of Pour Une Âme Souveraine (For a Soverign Soul): A Dedication to Nina Simone, Ndegeocello’s 2012 tribute album.
Ndegeocello will bring her homage to Simone to World Café Live at the Queen on Wednesday, backed by guitarist Chris Bruce, keyboardist Jebin Bruni, and drummer Abraham Rounds. While she’ll also perform a few songs from her own catalogue, most of the show will focus on material written by or associated with Simone.
“I’m trying to aid people in re-experiencing her music,” Ndegeocello says. “I want people to remember the amazing music and songwriting she was capable of.”
Pour Une Âme Souveraine certainly shines a spotlight on Simone’s artistry, but with Ndegeocello’s inimitable, uncategorizable approach intact. There’s never any attempt to recreate Simone’s sound; each song is given a distinctly modern reimagining, shot through with soul, funk, jazz, gospel, and rock touches. “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” opens, driven by Bruce’s knife-edged guitar riff and Ndegeocello’s hushed, repentant vocal. It continues with a country-gospel take on Simone’s take on Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” a funk rave-up “House of the Rising Sun,” a skulking “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” a dark, haunting “Four Women.”
A number of guests join in the celebration: Toshi Reagon on the bright, twangy “Real Real,” Sinead O’Connor on the swaying, hypnotic “Don’t Take All Night,” Lizz Wright on the deeply-felt blues of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” and Cody ChestnuTT revisiting “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin.
The latter (written with Weldon Irvine) reflects Simone’s Civil Rights-era boldness, a determination to display her anger and frustration at a time when such outspokenness carried real consequences. “I didn’t live during the Civil Rights era,” Ndegeocello says, “so just to think that this was possible, that there was an artist out there participating in that way, is awe-inspiring. ‘Mississippi Goddamn’ should be in the same realm as certain Pete Seeger songs. It’s music to remind people of what was going on during that time.”
Despite the strong parallels between them, Ndegeocello didn’t discover Simone’s music until she was in her early 20s, shortly after she moved to New York City. Continue reading →