Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bob Schneider and Tina Dico at The Coach House March 26, 2008

What an interesting combination to show up at the Coach House... but it worked. I went solo to the show, which is fine at The Coach House because you are forced to face people at the dinner table and hopefully you have a decent conversation. Speaking of tables, they put me right up against the stage (stage left) which was great for the main shows, but one of the two opening acts had their drum set right up front and... well, let's just say I have a new appreciation for cymbals. Or... let's just say, if it wasn't for my tinnitus already causing my ears to ring, they would have been from the large cymbal that was a couple feet from my face.

After two good opening acts, Tina Dico came out by her self and attempted to tame the "rowdy" Bob Schneider crowd. And tame she did. A couple of songs into the set, the bar actually got quiet (pretty rare during opening acts there). The song that always seems to get everyone's attention is "Magic", a song about a one night stand. It is almost explicit and actually very funny. The first half of her 40 minutes was dedicated to her new CD which is being released in the U.S. in the next week or so. She continues writing songs that look inside people; songs that question why we are. It is great stuff, with beautiful melodies and a sometimes soft but passionate delivery. This Danish beauty's new CD, "Count to Ten" should be on your "To Buy" list.

Tonight we got the milder side of Bob Schneider. With only a two piece band behind him (keyboardist and electric guitarist), Bob spent time playing with tape loops and some electronic drum equipment along with his acoustic guitar; rarely rocking the house like he loves to do. Overall the new CD is a more subdued Bob and so the show reflected that. But the CDs quirkiness made for interesting arrangements and actually a fun show. At one point his keyboardist switched to trumpet (I believe he played a baritone tuba also) and then Bob picked up a trumpet and... Did you know Bob Schneider can play trumpet? Neither did I. He left out almost all of the classic crazy songs like "Tarantula" and "Ass Knocker". But the one he did, "Beatomatic" (often known as the Batman song), was done with different style electric guitar solos during each solo. Very cool. A handful of "Lonelyland" songs got played (if he had dumped those too there would have been a revolt) and one or two from The Californian, and then it was over. It is always nice to see Bob doing it a bit different, but it sure would be nice if he would get his act totally together and do another great CD, like Lonelyland. I'll hit every So. Cal. show when he does that.

Steve Earle and Allison Moorer at Royce Hall March 25 2008

The drive to Los Angeles last week wasn't all that bad for a mid-week rush hour drive. And we got to UCLA (go Bruins!) with enough time to eat a cold dinner available in a side room at Royce Hall. Although Maria has seen Allison Moorer before, she just doesn't remember her. I don't know how that can be. Her beautiful voice and striking looks are hard to forget. I'd mention her songwriting, but her new CD is a cover CD with her performing songs from her favorite female artists. And so, the show pretty much stuck to the new CD. Which is too bad, because Allison can write; as the opening song in her show and the title track from her new "Mockingbird" CD will attest to. It is the only original song on the CD and may have been the only original we saw that night. My take on acoustic performances is that you need to do more than just sing the songs. You need to engage the audience. I really don't think Allison did this either. So, although I could listen to Allison sing all night, the performance could have been (and has been in the past) much much better. She did do a great job interpreting the songs, especially Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" and Julie Miller's "Orphan Train".

Steve Earle's show was an extended version of the show we saw in Austin last September. He played most of the new CD, "Washington Square" accompanied by just his guitars and a DJ. But the show opened with a set of oldies. Nothing political, nothing radical. Just songs the long time fans would love. And they yelled with joy as each new song showed up. This took up the first half of the show, with Steve barely saying a word to the audience (a couple choice remarks here and there, otherwise he just played). But, when he played the anti-death penalty song "Billy Austin", you could see things were about to change. And sure enough, at the end of the song, the DJ came out and the second half of the show was the political side of Mr. Earle, with songs from the new CD and a much more talkative Steve. Allison came out for a handful of songs, singing backup. And when it was over, we had a full 2 hour set with a bit of everything Steve Earle has to offer. He pretty much finished the evening telling everyone, "I'm going to sing this song until it comes true or I die" and then sang "Jerusalem", a song about dreaming of peace in the Middle East.

Overall I enjoyed the shows. Maybe I've been hitting the clubs too much. I really expect every performer to spend time with the audience. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Isaac Himmelman and father at McCabe's

Peter Himmelman has something like 17 albums out (Those are his words, so I may be way off... But there are plenty of them) and tonight was my first full PH show (I saw him at a benefit a few years ago). Shame on me! PeterHimmelman is amazing. He's an original. He is funny, smart, a great guitar player, funny, a brilliant songwriter and did I mention how funny he is? The laughing started before the first note was played. He commanded Daniel, his piano player, to pick a song and when he offers one up, Peter calls it a bad opening song. He then realizes that the only way to open with this song is to have the piano playing as he comes down the stares. So he goes up and then comes down the stairs and goes to pick up his guitar, but it is stuck to the stand. So back up the stairs and he starts all over. Meanwhile, we are already dying of laughter. From that point on it is great songs and out and out lies that you so want to believe because he delivers them with such sincerity. But when Peter tells his son Isaac that he, Isaac, hasn't written a really great love song yet because he hasn't met the right woman, like his mom, you believe him completely. As my Maria noted, this is a truly happy man. And you can see that. He loves being on stage, loves having his family there, loves challenging himself and his audience, not to mention Daniel; who it appears never knows for sure what song Peter is going to play next. During the hour and forty-five minute performance, Peter played many of my favorites from the last fewCDs as well as a couple of songs from his "children" CDs (if you have a little one and want to get them some CDs , these are wonderful and so listenable for adults). But I can't even begin to tell you how great the show was. The nearest comparison I can make is ShawnColvin . Shawn often comes out without a play list but with plenty of stories and she plays a hell of a guitar. So take Shawn and then multiply it all by 10. It is that good. I promise to never miss another localHimmelman show again.

And speaking of Himmelman, Isaac the prodigal son, all of 18 years of age, opened playing 3 wonderful songs that lead me to believe we have a third generation of great songwriters coming from this family. Isaac seems like a wonderful kid to, stating matter of fact that his last name was the main reason he was the opening act. He's got aMyspace page here: and if you have an 18 year old daughter, he is really cute (I already hit him up for my daughter, "If you're interested in a nice Jewish girl...").

The other star of the show was McCabe's itself. McCabe's Guitar Shop is celebrating its 50th year this year and it continues to be one of the best places in town for acoustic music. The sound is perfect, the ambiance with the guitars on the walls is one of a kind. They are having a big 50th celebration at Royce Hall I believe in October.

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen