May 16, 2011

Concerts #238, 239, 508 - Jennifer Warnes at the Miner Cook Athenaeum and McCabe's Guitar Shop (February 14, 2001 - May 17, 2009)

Where else but in Southern California can one get to see Jennifer Warnes perform in small venues and not just once, but multiple times?

My first encounter with Miss Warnes took place on February 14, 2001, at the Miner Cook Athenaeum, on the beautiful campus of the Claremont McKenna College. The concert was announced as “An Evening With Jennifer Warnes”, and what an evening it was! In perfect vocal shape, she seemed to enjoy performing for the distinctly intellectual crowd of about two hundred fortunate folks who filled the Athenaeum to capacity. Jennifer sang a few songs from her then-current album, “The Well”, including the title track and the dreamy “The Panther”. Not unexpectedly, there were also four Leonard Cohen songs, but ten years after the event, I can only recall “Ain’t No Cure For Love” and “Coming Back To You”. She was accompanied by an outstanding band that had the following lineup:

Billy Watts, guitar
Skip Edwards, keyboard
David Jackson, bass
Lee Spah, drums
Hani Nasser, percussion
Matt Cartsonis, mandolin
Chris Darrell, mandolin

Ten days later, Jennifer performed at McCabe’s with the very same band and needless to say, I was there, together with my wife, and our good friends Ken and Marilyn. Jennifer's set pretty much mirrored her Claremont gig, which was fine by me. Like many other fans, I was hoping for a Leonard Cohen appearance, but no such luck. A few years later, I found a photograph at that shows Leonard and Jennifer chatting backstage at McCabe’s, so at least I can claim that Leonard Cohen and I were under the same roof for a couple of hours. Here’s the photograph:

Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen at McCabe's (February 2001)
Well, there was no Leonard Cohen, but there was Jackson Browne, who sat quietly in the second row, right next to my wife, who had no clue who her neighbor was. At one point during the show, Jennifer invited Jackson to take the stage and the crowd went bananas, to put it mildly.

Once again, Jennifer dazzled the crowd with her impeccable voice and style. Later in the show, she mentioned her big radio hits, but did not sing any of them, to no one's chagrin.

A few years later, in May 2009, Jennifer Warnes performed once again at the intimate McCabe's, in front of 150 spectators who were lucky enough to grab tickets before they were all gone. I grabbed a couple, here's one of them:

Ticket for Jennifer's appearance at McCabe's in 2009
The concert was the final show of a short West Coast tour, with stops in Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. I sat in the front row, together with my wife. Once again, Jennifer - backed by a group of top-notch musicians - put on a great show. The highlight of the concert was the superb "Song For Bernadette", lyrics by Leonard Cohen and music by Jennifer Warnes herself - regretfully, the lyricist did not make a surprise appearance.

Band Lineup
Jeff Pevar, guitar
Debra Dobkin, percussion
Chris "Kazz" Caswell, keyboards
Steve Postell, guitar

L to R: Jeff Pevar, Debra Dobkin, Chris Caswell, Jennifer Warnes and
Steve Postell at McCabe's (2009)
The concert had a short and decidedly unusual non-musical detour: using a screen lowered from the ceiling, Jennifer presented a tribute to her late mother, complete with photographs and heart-warming stories about her life.

Seeing the great Jennifer Warnes up-close at McCabe's remains one of the high points of my concert-going career.

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