Monday, October 10, 2005

Michael Penn at World Cafe Live, Part Two

I've been intending to review the October 3rd Michael Penn concert at World Cafe Live; but ultimately, being the practical and somewhat lazy person that I am, I decided that a review that my husband wrote said a lot of what I wanted to say better than I would have said it.

So, with gratitude to that guy I sleep with every night, I have incorporated his review (in italics) with mine.

The show opened with Seattle singer/songwriter Rosie Thomas.

She did a song or two alone with her keyboard and then went to guitar as she was joined by her brother Brian Thomas who took over keyboard duties and added harmonies.

Rosie has a beautiful singing voice that reminded me of Shawn Colvin's (I've also heard her voice compared to Sarah McLachlan's.) Rosie's speaking sounded as if she was taking hits from a tank of helium hidden behind the stage monitor. I hope she's taking advantage by doing some voiceover work anyway.

She was very funny in a dry way, and her songs were well-written and introspective. Unfortunately, they were all so similar in tempo and tone that by the end of her set I found my mind wandering. And I think she deserved better than that.

Okay, here's where my husband's review comes in:
Wow. Just freakin' wow...

... Michael was in PERFECT voice, his guitar work typically flawless and brilliant, and the wide range of material was fantastic. ...he just somehow gets better with every show I've witnessed. A perfect combination of new and "classic" material with representative selections from each album.

Michael opened with "Out of My Hands" from the 1997 album Resigned, launching into the tune with no introduction and not even a hello sent the audience's way. A somewhat low-key song, but beautifully rendered.

Backing him up was Peter Adams on keyboards and the incomparable Buddy Judge, who has got to be one of the best harmony vocalists around. He also sparked some banter with his good-natured teasing of Michael during MP's requisite between-song tuning.
...Buddy Judge took the lead for one song, resurrecting his 'The Grays' period with a cool version of his fine song "Nothing", from Ro Sham Bo.)

Speaking of Buddy, his presence really adds a lot -- not that there's anything wrong with MP by himself, or with his always-creative-and-competent cast of keyboard guys, but Buddy's harmonies, guitar work and pseudo-percussion just heaps perfection upon perfection! Buddy's banter also helped open up Michael's banter even further -- just agreat friendly relaxed mood and great presentation on stage throughout. Couldn't have asked for better.I don't mean to slight the keyboard guy (Peter Adams), who was also creative andfilled the songs perfectly.

Several songs were played from Michael's recently released CD, "Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947" -- "Bad Sign;" "Denton Road" -- basically a man's wistful reflections during his own funeral; "O.K." -- a soft song in which the narrator seems to offer comfort to someone facing frustration and disillusionment...

"...nothing else that you can do to make it come true, make it perfect, make it O.K."

"On Automatic," the single from the new CD, was described as depicting the split second when a cartoon character runs off the cliff and is frozen in the air before he plunges into the abyss. Previously, he has referred to this song as being about how optimism is "the pretty side of denial."

Also from MHJ 1947 -- the extremely catchy "Walter Reed" which on the surface tells of a shell-shocked veteran asking to be taken to the medical hospital, but the lyric just as easily applies to your run-of-the-mill relationship trauma ("...Baby, I've lost the will for fighting over everything...")

"Long Way Down" (from the album, "Free For All") is arguably one of his best songs -- IMHO probably the best song ever written about staying in a relationship in the face of doubts even though "I got a feeling she's been sleeping with the whole wide world."

But man, Michael himself could just not have been better...

This song has been a staple of Michael Penn's live show, and for good reason -- the emotion obvious in his voice underscores the lyric and his guitar work is beautiful.

Another highlight was "Don't Let Me Go" from the album "MP4 - Days Since a Lost Time Accident." This is a song that I didn't care much for until the first time I saw him do it live and then it suddenly made sense. It's all about sex (at least to my smutty little mind.) The verse starts at the bottom of his vocal range, giving it the air of talk-dirty-to-me utterances but things builds towards a chorus that repeats the plea "Don't let me go." It's a very powerful combination.

Three other songs from "Resigned" were performed -- "Try" which was a treat; "I Can Tell" a powerhouse of a song that is another concert staple; and "Figment" which I had never seen him do live before -- addressing whether love was a figment of one's imagination and has a favorite lyric, "...I loved you more than I can now recall at all..." Really, isn't that the universal truth that faces all of us at one time (one rejection) or another, as the object of our affection seems to have forgotten that they ever reciprocated our affection. (How's that for a run-on sentence?)

But hey, how could I forget the "hit"? -- "No Myth" -- before which he joked about what the song is NOT called (Black Jeans, Romeo in black pants, etc...) Anyway, he did a particularly good version of this oldie, hitting all the high notes easily.

Somewhere in between all this, there was also a very funny monologue about MySpace and how he has had many myths about vampires dispelled there (yes, their reflections can be seen in a mirror -- he's seen the flash in the mirror in their photos...yes, they can be out in daylight...somehow he worked in a reference of their parent's shag carpetting...and that the myspace vampires all seem to have Tori Amos as their friend.)

Sorry,I know I've rambled on more than enough, but I'm not the type to rave very often. And this was seriously rave-able. Just wow. By all means, catch this tour if at all possible!!!

Agreed! My rambling has also been way too long, and I haven't even gotten to our post-concert adventures. So stay tuned for the sequel...


At October 10, 2005 8:16 PM, Blogger Merujo said...

I'm so looking forward to tomorrow night. Christmas in October. :-)


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