Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Swell Season and Josh Ritter at The Wiltern

A week ago we were privileged to see one of the best shows I've seen all year. Last month I bought the tickets, opting for the first balcony at the Wiltern since it was standing room only on the floor. The Wiltern is just small enough where the early rows of the loge are perfect for a sit down show; especially if you are dead center like we were.

We arrived just before the show started. I was so focused on the Swell Season, I had forgotten that Josh Ritter was the opening act. He was on my short list of bands I really wanted to see live, so when he walked out on stage I was thrilled. And... I was not disappointed. He put on a lively set of rockin' tunes that made you smile and tap your feet throughout. His interaction with the audience was natural and usually very funny. He told a wandering story that really didn't have much of a point, and it didn't matter. I can't wait to see him do a full set some day.

After a short delay, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the duo that makes up The Swell Season came out, sat on the floor and did a cute song together. We were hooked immediately. They were then joined by The Frames, Glen's band for many years. The stage, with beautiful lighting and set designs, was laid out like an arc, with the Frames making up most of the curve and Marketa and her piano finishing it off. It was as if to say, we are The Swell Season and the Frames are over here helping. Although Marketa sang lead on a couple of songs, this is all really about Glen Hansard. In the middle of the night, everyone left, except for Glen, and he performed several songs solo. On one song he actually unplugged his guitar (the one with the big hole in it), walked out to the front of the stage and did it completely acoustic. Pretty impressive for a theater that big. It is Glen and Marketa's personalities that really win you over though. She is so humble and sweet. He is just as humble; a down to earth guy who, when he asks you sing along, is completely sincere about it and is just trying to make better music with you singing the harmonies. Their songs about lost love and unrequited love are as uplifting as they are sad. Before you can really feel sad though, Glen is joking about something or other and you find yourself laughing and having a grand old time. To accentuate the humor in their show, during the encore, they brought out Jason Segel to sing a song he had written. Jason, who is best known for his acting (and that nude scene), was hysterical, singing about finding someone at the Wiltern to come home with him that night. Marketa, who gave up her piano for him, walked across the stage with a sign that had his phone number (well, it was the phone number he gave in the song) on it. As the nearly 2 hour show (which actually ran over time) came to an end, they brought out Josh to sing with them, closing the circle of a perfect musical evening.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

New Music for November 2009

Black Joe Lewis - Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! (2009)
This is high energy funk/rock/soul and is a blast to listen to. I saw them in Austin and they can bring it. The CD won't disappoint.
Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 - White Lies for Dark Times (2009)
Another Ben Harper CD and another solid one for him. Doesn't seem to matter who he plays with, the music works.
Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson - Break Up (2009)
Talk about digging deep for inspiration... Pete channels Serge Gainsbourg's recording with Brigitte Bardot from the 60's, recording a break up CD with his muse I suppose The original was the actual breakup couple. I'm not anything beats how Fleetwood Mac did it. But, I'm getting off track. This is a nice CD from Pete and Scarlett (who is much better off not covering the great artists of our time) and if you're a fan of Pete's, you should enjoy it.
Sam Phillips - The Long Play (continued)
Finally, there is an official release of "When You're Down". Sam wrote this years ago, and it just hasn't been able to make it onto a CD. Glad to finally see it here.
Chuck Prophet - Let Freedom Ring! (2009)
More of a straight ahead rocker then his previous release, this is still pure Prophet. With his unique singing style and knack for catchy melodies it is so easy to love his music. The lyrics are a mix of social commentary and personal loss but with an uplifting spirit. Another great CD from CP.

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen