September 18, 2016

Concert #783 - Leftover Cuties - "Full Moon Saturdays at Stonywood" Concerts Series in Pasadena (September 10, 2016)


This was my second time to see the Leftover Cuties in action and also my second time to attend a concert in Garth and Trisha's gorgeous backyard in Pasadena. Before I even mention the concert, I must give tons of credit to the hosts, who - as an expression of their love of music, as well as their desire to support deserving musicians - have opened their house to folks they don't even know. Garth shared with me an interesting tidbit: a typical concert in their backyard draws around fifty to sixty people, while the highest attendance ever was eighty-three.

Garth & Trisha's backyard in Pasadena
Garth opening the proceedings
 For unknown reasons, the band's regular bassist, the supremely intense Austin Nicholsen, was not there. His place was taken by the far more reserved, but equally competent Ryan Feves, who I believe was the band's original bass player.   
Band line-up
Shirli McAllen (vocals, ukulele)
Mike Bolger (keyboards, trumpet, accordion, helicon)
Stuart Johnson (drums, percussion, funny sounds)
Ryan Feves (upright bass)

The Leftover Cuties in Pasadena
What made me want to attend the concert was Shirli's voice and singing style. I don't know whether most folks would agree with me, but every time I hear Shirli sing, Madeleine Peyroux invariably comes to mind. Not that their voices or vocal techniques are alike, but both Shirli and Madeleine grab me not with devilish rhythms and stage acrobatics, but with a phrasing and delivery style that is uniquely theirs and only theirs. 

Shirli McAllen in Pasadena
As expected, the band's set list included a healthy mix of songs written by Shirli and quite a few covers. Cole Porter's "Let's Misbehave", the classic "You Are My Sunshine", Billie Holiday's "All Of Me" and Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" all sounded great. 

Yes, Shirli can sing, but as a songwriter she is no slouch, either. With numbers such as "Sunnyside", "If You Want The Rainbow" and especially "Clarity", I strongly believe that she deserves a much larger audience.

Shirli McAllen in Pasadena
As good as Shirli McAllen is, the Leftover Cuties wouldn't be what they are without the combined talents of Mike Bolger, Stuart Johnson and Ryan Feves. Switching with ease from instrument to instrument, Mike's musical accompaniment was quite a bit richer that most anything you will ever hear. Adding an endless array of bells, whistles and other funny sounds to his drum playing, the utterly humorous Stuart was an important contributor to the success of the show.

Mike Bolger in Pasadena
Stuart Johnson in Pasadena
Shirli McAllen& Ryan Feves in Pasadena
I went to the concert with My Better Half and two good friends, Deborah and Joe. We all had a heck of a good time and we all hope to be back real soon in Garth and Trisha's hospitable backyard.

The set list

July 17, 2016

Concert #782 - Vonda Shepard at McCabe's Guitar Shop (July 16, 2016)

A sentence such as "Vonda is loved by many, but known by few" does not seem to be particularly logical, but somehow, paradoxically, it does ring a bit true. Vonda's appearance at McCabe's sold out in the end, but it took weeks and weeks to get there - this supports the "know by few" part, but let me tell you, whoever was there, showered her with their full love and adulation. Standing ovations are quite frequent at McCabe's, but how often can one witness there a musician performing in front of a crowd that just does not want to sit down? Well, that's precisely what happened during Vonda's final few songs of her set, a strong sign that, indeed, she is loved by many.
Vonda Shepard at McCabe's
I'm not a Vonda Shepard expert. Over the years, I have paid attention mostly to her cover songs, to the detriment of her original compositions, so there I was last week at McCabe's, hoping to hear nothing but covers and frowning a bit every time she launched into a self-penned number. As it turned out, her own material dominated the evening - at first blush, I did like some of her songs, while others would definitely require a few more listens.

I enjoyed tremendously her soulful and passionate delivery of Dan Penn's "Sweet Inspiration" and John Fogerty's "Proud Mary". Equally good were her renditions of "Walk Away Renee" and "Respect Yourself", both well-known radio staples from decades ago.

A few words about Vonda's outstanding band: James Ralston (guitar), Jim Hanson (bass, backup vocals) and Michael Urbano (drums) were very good individually and also collectively, as one would expect from musicians who have been playing together for years. Assuming a somewhat lower-key role, producer Mitchell Froom played his keyboard in the corner of the stage, partially obscured by the other musicians. Vonda sat behind her keyboard for most of the show, but took center stage for a couple of songs toward the end of the show.

Vonda Shepard & Jim Hanson at McCabe's
Comprised mostly of Vonda Shepard connoisseurs, the crowd responded with enthusiasm to her performance throughout the evening, then brought her back for not one, but two encores, each consisting of one song, first Don Covay's "Chain Of Fools", then finally, the much-covered "You Belong To Me".
Vonda's set list
It took me some after-the-concert googling to identify Vonda's unannounced guest, namely Jeff Young, who contributed backup vocals and some spirited keyboard playing on a couple of songs.

This concert will be hard to forget. Vonda's voice and singing ability are something to behold and I will never forget her intensity and, most of all, her gorgeous smile.

Vonda Shepard at McCabe's
Vonda Shepard, Jim Hanson & Jeff Young at McCabe's
Mitchell Froom at McCabe's
James Ralston tuning his guitar before the show
The merch table
More merchandise

July 10, 2016

Concert #781 - The Dustbowl Revival at the Levitt Pavilion (July 2, 2016)

This was my 12th time to see the Dustbowl Revival live in concert and it took me just a little over four years to reach this mark. The concert took place at the Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena and I'm estimating that more than one thousand people showed up to see the revivalists. While most people watched the show without disturbing others, the same cannot be said about the group sitting right next to me and, with the place being filled to capacity and beyond, my Beter Half and I had nowhere else to go.

Zach Lupetin (vocals, guitar)
Liz Beebe (vocals, washboard)
Daniel Mark (mandolin)
Connor Vance (violin)
Matt Rubin (trumpet)
Ulf Bjorlin (trombone)
James Klopfleisch (upright bass)
Josh Heffernan (drums)

The Dustbowl Revival at the Levitt Pavilion
The band was in great form, but then what else is new? While their repertoire is a constantly evolving affair, their top-notch musicianship is always there and so is the infectious fun they exude. But I won't get into any more details, as this concert was not radically different from the other eleven shows I have reviewed elsewhere in this blog.

Ballad Of The Bellhop
John The Revelator
Old Joe Clark
Feels Good
I Decided
Honey I Love You
Cripple Creek
The Fire
Lulu (?)
Hey Baby
I Don't Drink Anymore
Riverboat Queen
Whiskey In The Well
So Far Away
Lampshade On

Zach Lupetin & Daniel Mark at the Levitt Pavilion
Ulf Bjorlin & Matt Rubin at the Levitt Pavilion
Daniel Mark & Connor Vance at the Levitt Pavilion
Zach Lupetin & Liz Beebe at the Levitt Pavilion
Josh Heffernan at the Levitt Pavilion
Zach Lupetin & Liz Beebe at the Levitt Pavilion
Performing on a small side stage that is reserved for emerging young musicians, Bones Muhroni delivered a surprisingly good set that was inventive, energetic and not at all derivative. These guys have talent, no doubt.

Bones Muhroni, the evening's opening act
The stage

July 1, 2016

Concert #780 - Melanie at McCabe's Guitar Shop (June 25, 2016)

I went to the show knowing full well that "Melanie 2016" does not sound, nor look like the Melanie of the seventies, but that wasn't going to stop me from being there - I just had to be in the same room with the artist who, over the decades, has given me so many pleasurable moments. Yes, I'm a life-long fan, but I know that not everyone is - some of musical friends have never embraced her quirky singing style.

Moving with a certain degree of difficulty, Melanie took the stage with her son Beau Jarred, who, throughout the evening, played a variety of string instruments and sang backup vocals. She opened her set with the well-known "Beautiful People", but what followed was not an evening of greatest hits, even though we did get to hear "Brand New Key" and "Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma". I was unfamiliar with many of the songs she sang for us, but I must admit that, as far as my knowledge of Melanie's discography is concerned, I am pretty much stuck in the seventies. To these ears, some of those newer songs sounded better than others, and at times, the timbre of her voice, as well as her phrasing, sounded fairly close to her classic recordings.

Melanie at McCabe's
There was a large-print set list on the stage, but Melanie was not in the mood to follow it. She asked for requests, and the requests came pouring in - that's how we got to hear the delightful "I Don't Eat Animals", one of the evening's highlights, and "I Tried To Die Young". I also liked "Smile" and "Angel Watching Over You", neither of which appear on the set list. Regrettably, she did not sing "The Nickel Song", nor "Ruby Tuesday", two of my all-time favorite Melanie gems. She was in a talkative mood and I found her stories engaging, albeit a tad too long.

Melanie at McCabe's

The set list
Melanie's daughter, the very confident Jeordie Schekeryk, made an unannounced appearance that was surprisingly good. The three songs she sang - "Bomb", "Ego" and especially "Ain't No One Gonna Love You Like Me" - were highly listenable. Her brother Beau Jarred impressed me with his guitar-playing skills and great personality, too. His rendition of "Malaguena" featured two very distinct styles of playing, one traditional, the other I could probably call alternative.

Overall, I had a good time at McCabe's and it felt great giving Melanie an extended standing ovation at the end of the show. Yes, she did not look nor sound quite like in the seventies, but I still enjoyed the evening, very much.

Jeordie Schekeryk & Melanie at McCabe's
Beau Jarred, Melanie & Jeordie at McCabe's
The stage
The merch table
Melanie fans lining up at Mccabe's
Concert poster

June 19, 2016

Concert #779 - Sarah Jarosz at McCabe's Guitar Shop (June 17, 2016)

Friday night at McCabe's, Sarah Jarosz put on a show that ranks right up there with the finest I've ever seen at McCabe's, or anywhere else, for that matter. My concert-buddy Steve cringes whenever I throw in one superlative too many, but how can one describe Sarah Jarosz without a massive helping of superlatives?

Accompanied by two great players - Jedd Hughes on acoustic and electric guitar and Jeff Picker on upright bass - Sarah delivered a set that borrowed heavily from "Undercurrent", her just-released new album that she either wrote or co-wrote in its entirety. Her focus was firmly on music, not chatter, and that allowed her to play seventeen or eighteen songs during her blissful ninety-minute set. Kicking off her show with two of her "oldies" - "Annabelle Lee" and "Build Me Up From Bones" - Sarah treated us to her own compositions, plus a few outstanding covers, such as Tom Waits' "Come On Up To The House" and Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells".

Sarah Jarosz at McCabe's
Accompanists Jedd and Jeff deserve extra praise for their outstanding musicianship and the way they supported Sarah - there was plenty of eye contact between the three, with Sarah sending out frequent smiles of approval to her musical cohorts.

Sarah Jarosz & Jedd Hughes at McCabe's
Sarah Jarosz & Jeff Picker at McCabe's
The star of the show was Sarah's golden voice, but I was equally impressed with her skills as an instrumentalist, as she alternated between acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin and even electric guitar - her masterful rendition of Tim O'Brien's two-song instrumental medley, "Land's End" and "Chasin' Talon", was one of the highlights of an evening that did not suffer from a lack of highlights. And speaking of highlights: I enjoyed very much the self-penned "Early Morning Light" and also "Comin' Undone", a song Sarah co-wrote with the young and talented Parker Millsap. And one more thing: not too many artists have Sarah's disarming smile and humble-yet-confident stage presence.

Overall, I had a thoroughly enjoyable time at McCabe's. Experiencing Sarah's music in a live setting is something I definitely want repeated. 
The set list
Sarah Jarosz tuning her guitar
Sarah Jarosz at McCabe's
Curtis McMurtry opened the show with a thirty-minute set that, at first blush, sounded a bit uneven, yet it still managed to impress me with two outstanding songs, "Sparks In The Wind" and especially the haunting "Foxhole". By the way, Curtis is James McMurtry's son.

Curtis McMurtry at McCabe's
Sarah's instruments
The stage