Thursday, May 03, 2007

Michael Penn at World Cafe Live - The Sequel


There's a thin line between avid appreciation and idle idolatry.

And although I may appear that I have crossed that fine line, oh, about two years ago in my numerous mentions of Michael Penn -- be assured that my zealousness is fueled by a very grounded-in-reality belief in this guy's talent...and so I proselytize and post and generally try to twist the arms of anyone not familiar with Mr. Penn's music. Because I think everyone should be.

And besides, the masthead of this blog does contains the word "obsessions." So, ya know, let me have my fun.

Plus, I have photos.

Before I launch into my saga -- Michael is halfway through a short tour. He doesn't play outside of L.A. very often. So if you're anywhere near the cities listed below, do yourself a favor and check him out.

You can thank me later with gifts of cash (I accept Paypal) or dark chocolate.

May 3 2007
Iron Horse
Northampton, Massachusetts

May 5 2007
Club Cafe
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

May 6 2007
Beachland Ballroom
Cleveland, Ohio

May 8 2007
The Ark
Ann Arbor, Michigan

May 9 2007
Chicago, Illinois


For those not familiar with World Cafe Live, it's a great intimate venue for live music in Philadelphia. Michael Penn played there the last time he visited our fine city (see my October 2005 posts for details and photos) in support of his album, Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947.

That was one terrific show, for which Esteemed Husband and I had terrific seats. So I was very pleased to learn April 2007 would bring a much anticipated sequel - with MP back on the same World Cafe Live stage. And extremely pleased to be able to get the same seats we had last time.

Only this time, we made arrangements to share the table with other folks from our little Penn-centric yahoo group, the michaelpennlist. Joining us would be Spencer, the fearless, moderator...of the list and his fiancee Kristen (a very witty young lady who regularly cracks me up); the lovely and talented Miss Merujo of blogging fame (who is just as interesting and sublimely entertaining in person) & her good friend Sasquatch (who I felt like I knew from reading about him in Merujo's blog) who were driving up to Philly from D.C.; and our fellow pennlisters Lance & his wife Jamie, who made the cross-state trek to see Michael (and they're also seeing him again in Pittsburgh in two days -- grrrrr, I'm jealous.)

(Did I just write the longest sentence in the history of blogdom? Sorry.)

We made tentative arrangements to meet in the upstairs bar at World Cafe Live sometime around 5:30-5:45. Except Esteemed Husband and I made a wrong route choice and ended up getting stuck in a Jersey jughandle for about 10 minutes. So, when I walked into the lobby upstairs (huffing and puffing from running up the stairs) it was 6 PM.

Spencer was there - and greeted us with (actually whispered - he had laryngitis) "You just missed Michael - he literally just left a minute ago."

I'm pleased to say it was the only disappointment of the evening.

If you can judge an artist by his fans, I don't know how to finish the sentence with sounding like I'm congratulating myself. What I mean to say is that every Michael Penn fan I've ever had the pleasure to meet in person has been interesting, intelligent, and generally cool. And the folks we spent last Friday night with exemplified that.

Soon we were seated at our front-and-center table. Drinks were served; food arrived (eventually -- it seemed to take forever) and we all prepared ourselves for a stellar evening of musical entertainment.

The opening act was "The Last Town Chorus" which is basically a showcase for Megan Hickey.

She proceeded to lull the audience with her ethereal voice and the echo-ing twang of her lap steel guitar. Although her breathy songs seemed all too similar to each other to this unfamiliar listener, her take on David Bowie's "Modern Love" cut through the ether and got the biggest response from the crowd.

And then it was time for Michael Penn.

He opened with a new (unreleased) song, "Making Me 3 for 3." An unexpected surprise! Five days later, it's still stuck in my head.

About ninety minutes (including two encores) of Michael Penn at-his-best followed. He was accompanied by keyboardist extraordinaire Jebin Bruni.

Michael amused the audience with witty banter, even as he claimed he didn't have "the gift of gab" during his between-song tuning. He tells us that there's a mic at the soundboard and that the audience should consider this "a public square" and invites us to use it for "something you want to get off your chest, a good joke" even "a well-placed heckle" while he tunes his guitar. (His between-song tuning has become somewhat of a running joke in and of itself.)

The obligatory tuning photo

I'm pleased to say one brave soul told a (long) Buddy Rich joke, after which Michael says, "I could have tuned three guitars" in the time it took to tell it.

But noone else dared grab the mic. Unfortunately, there was a guy sitting at the table behind me that didn't need one, as his yelling-out-inane-things between songs grew louder and louder as the evening (and his presumably drunken state) progressed. (Mental note: Next time pack muzzle.)

All banter and loud guys aside, the audience was unflaggingly enthusiastic as Mr. Penn showcased his unique blend of carefully-crafted music with songs that spanned his 20+ year career.

Michael Penn's lyrics generally probe the intricacies of relationships -- with an emphasis on longing and disillusionment- - wrapped up with flourishes and hooks that soar.

What makes his live performances so effective is that he that obviously "feels" (for lack of a more eloquent word) the words as he sings them. One of the lucky benefits of sitting so close to the stage is that I could see how MP pauses briefly before he launches into each new song -- closing his eyes and seemingly putting himself into character for the story he is about to present. It's lovely to watch.

And amazing to see how powerful a man and his guitar can be.

On that note, I must end for the day (I think I've spent more time writing this than the length of the actual show.)

Stay tuned for the next chapter -- more musical details and our post-show adventures!


At December 13, 2007 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

umm yeah, he sucks, sorry to boring for me

At December 13, 2007 9:36 AM, Blogger Cyn said...

#1 It's "too."

#2 We all don't have the same musical tastes, but we all should try and be polite, shouldn't we?

At May 12, 2009 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cyn! I only just found this blog. I am so envious that you got to see that show. I've seen a you tube video of some songs performed. WOW! I'm writing this in hopes that you can provide me some assistance. "Three For Three" (if that's the actual title) is a fantastic song. I'm a bit of a musician myself and I'd love to add it to my setlist but I can't quite make out the words on that video. Are you aware of any lyrics or even if there's a recording avaiable of that song? I'm hoping this message in a virtual bottle gets to someone who can point me in the right direction. BTW, I'm not that anonymous troll above, I am



At May 13, 2009 10:00 PM, Blogger Cyn said...

Hi Lloyd! There's no legit recording of the song...I think the youtube video might be it at this point.

However, here are the lyrics:

Making Me Three For Three

There's a tango on the radio, turn it up.
There's a story all about the Metropolitans of Takrit
and the jacaranda's coming down on Tracy St.
but I digress...I don't feel bad, I just feel less
but I'll be sad I guess...
I'll leave you be...

'cept to say that it's a crying shame
how little time it took to come to this
and I'm pretty fucking sure that
I would be remiss if I was keeping mute.
But neither one of us has ever been the kind
to be so loved and treated right..
maybe we could start tonight
'cause otherwise this fight is making me three for three

There's a small revolt in Babbage Square
Baby, love is love but fair is fair
and I'm paying a widow's mite
but baby, the ransom's right

There's no room, no vacancy, no coming of a cavalry...
and it'll rain tonight, I guarantee
making me three for three

At May 14, 2009 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you thank you!!!

I would've neeeever got those parts otherwise.....



PS What's a jacaranda? (lol)

At May 18, 2009 12:41 PM, Blogger Cyn said...

It's a flowering tree. In my head, the line's about the flowers blowing down off tree(s) into the street...but I guess it could just as likely be someone taking one down with a chainsaw!


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