Monday, September 14, 2009

Sam Phillips and The Section Quartet in Santa Monica

The clouds hovered over So. Cal. Saturday night, making for a cool (finally) evening with some really cool music. Sam Phillips crossed the 405 into Santa Monica and performed with The Section Quartet at The Edye Theater. It is a 99 seat room, with the seats on three sides and Sam pretty much standing in the middle of the room. She entered the room dressed in a sparkling black outfit. Daphne from the Section Quartet followed her out and took her place behind the theremin. For those of you who do not know what a theremin is, think, the synthesized sound from the Beach Boy's "Good Vibrations". But Daphne has taken it to a level I've never seen before. She plays the air around it with the perfection of a classically trained musician, which of course she is. You have to see it to believe it. I was just blown away. After a few strange sounding noises, to get her hands into position, Sam and Daphne kicked off the show with "I wanted to be alone". It was gorgeous, spooky and funny all at the same time. The rest of the Section Quartet then joined Sam on stage and gave us a beautiful version of Sister Rosetta. Throughout the 75 or so minute set, Sam was backed by the quartet, or at times just Eric Gorfain (on guitar, violin and Stroh violin).

Sam was in a great mood, joking with the crowd and keeping it light, even if they were all in black and we didn't get the formal dress code notice. :-) At one point, just as a song started, someone dropped their keys. Sam, who had already started and stopped the song, stopped it again. Walked over to the person and picked up their keys for them. We were laughing so hard, but only until the song finally started up and then it was an "Oh Wow" moment. Sam dug out "I Don't Want To Fall in Love" from the archives; something she probably hasn't played live since the 90's. Eric's arrangement was fantastic. If you don't see this on one of the upcoming EP's, I'd be very surprised. And speaking of Eric, he was really the co-star of the show. There were plenty of new arrangements, since many of the songs were written for a more standard band (you know, drums, bass, keyboards... stuff like that). All of the arrangements added new textures to the songs, without venturing too far from the original feel. Still, we were all there to see Sam, and she did a brilliant job on old and new songs. Most of the 20 song set was from her last 3 releases. There were some new songs including, "So Glad You're Here", "Memory Slope" and "When You're Down" (okay this song is actually several years old, just unreleased... another strong candidate for the EP's). Her last song before the encore is one of my all time favorites, "I Need Love" (this version is available now on Sam's site... more on that in a moment). Even as an all acoustic number, it still has the magic it had 15 years ago (can you believe it has been 15 years?!).

After the show we all got a chance to chat with Sam, as she signed posters and chatted with everyone who was willing to wait in line. She spent a good hour chatting with whoever came before her. And we all had the chance to chat with each other too. It was great finally meeting Jill and it was good seeing Tom again and meeting his wife (they all came from central/northern CA for the show).

Below is the set list for the show. But before I get to that, if you haven't signed up for The Long Play, go to and for $52 you will get early releases of Sam's next 5 digital EP's and digital CD (all of which will be coming out over the next year). From what I understand, the plan is to release 40 or more songs over the next 12 months. What an interesting idea/experiment. The first mp3 is already available. As I mentioned above, the new version of "I Need Love (2009)" is on the site and waiting for you.

Okay, here is the set list:

I wanted to Be Alone
Sister Rosetta
What it All Means
Edge of the World
I Dreamed I Stopped Dreaming
Taking Pictures
Animals on Wheels (accompanied by her tape player)
Fan Dance
Little Plastic Life
Can't Come Down
I Don't Want To Fall In Love
Memory Slope
Say What You Mean
So Glad You're Here
When You're Down
If I Could Write
One Day Late
I Need Love (2009)
--- Encore ---
Zero Zero Zero


Unknown said...

Wonderful review, Bruce, and an amazing night! I am still walking on air, and will be for a long, long time. Sam is a gift to us all.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Bruce, thanks for this -- from Jules, stuck in Tennessee, wishing Sam would come to Nashville!

Jill tells me that "So Glad You're Here" was particularly beautiful and written for her daughter. So...I have two daughters and am especially a big 'ol sap about mother/daughter stuff. Any chance she'll release that on her site, I wonder? Hope so! Hope so!

What was it like to hear "What It All Means" live? And "I Don't Want to Fall in Love"??! WOW. Man, I'm jealous, you guys.

Anonymous said...

I think your set list missed a couple:
"Was It All in My Head" and "Reflecting Light."
Thanks - you pretty much captured the evening.

Bruce Greenberg said...

To answer everyone, in no particular order: All of the music was wonderful to hear live, I'm pretty sure all of the music that wasn't from the last 3 CDs will end up on an EP at some point, and finally, Yes, I too had a set list, but she didn't play those two songs.

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