September 25, 2011

Concert #605 - Jennifer Warnes at McCabe's Guitar Shop (September 24, 2011)

Last night's concert at McCabe's Guitar Shop felt more like an impromptu meeting of buddies singing and playing some of their favorite songs in someone's living room, and that's always a good thing.

Jennifer's "orchestra" consisted of guitarist Billy Watts, lately of Eric Burdon's band, and bassist Taras Prodaniuk, whom I had seen before accompanying Richard Thompson. Billy and Taras brought much more to the show than just their outstanding musicianship - with their humorous and relaxed demeanor, they were outstanding complements to a just as humorous and relaxed Jennifer Warnes.

Last night's show can also be described as "Musicians Hiding Behind Music Stands", or at least that was the impression of the folks sitting in the first few rows, maybe even further back. Okay, so I didn't get to see much of Billy's face, but that was only a minor glitch in an otherwise outstanding evening of great music and stellar sound.

"A Singer's Tribute To Her Favorite Songwriters" is yet another way of describing the show, as Jennifer handpicked and lovingly delivered sixteen of her favorite songs, penned mostly by well-known musicians but also by a couple of composers that were new to me, namely Michael Smotherman and Zachary Richard.

Twice during the show, Jennifer said "We're getting on", a direct reference to the age of most folks in attendance, including the ones on the stage. Yet her trademark vocal inflections and singing style were as instantly recognizable last night as they were decades ago. There were no attempts to hit super-high notes and no one missed them either. What we all wanted was Jennifer's warmth, her beautiful voice, a bunch of great songs and we got all that. And then some.
Jennifer Warnes at McCabe's (with Billy Watts and Taras Prodaniuk hidden behind stands)
Jennifer's set list included quite a few songs I had not heard before and when it came to the ones I knew, I don't think I could have picked better ones. The concert's best songs, to these ears at least,  were "It's Raining", "Ain't No Cure For Love" and Dylan's "When The Deal Goes Down". Ian Tyson's "Blue Mountains Of Mexico" was also exceptionally good.

A few words about "It's Raining", a song I first heard on Jennifer's 2001 album titled "The Well". Written by a certain Naomi Neville, this song alone is worth the "admission price" - just listen to Jennifer's soulful voice and her exquisite delivery. I had no clue who the songwriter was, until Jennifer revealed to us that Naomi Neville was the pseudonym used by the great Allen Toussaint in his early days. So when I got home after the concert, I looked up my copy of "The Allen Toussaint Touch", and lo and behold, there was the original version of "It's Raining", sung by Irma Thomas, yet another huge favorite of mine. Irma's version is quite different, but equally good.

Jennifer Warnes will be back at McCabe's in October 2011 and you can bet your life that I'll be there again.
Fans lined up in front of the venue
The crowd settling in

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