April 29, 2012

Concert #634 - Susanna Hoffs at McCabe's Guitar Shop (April 28, 2012)

At the grandmotherly age of fifty-three, Susanna Hoffs looked and sounded last night at McCabe's as un-grandmotherly as it gets. Wearing a short dress, lots of smiles and no extra pounds, she delivered a pleasant set that included new songs, old Bangles gems, as well as a few well-chosen covers. The whole affair was quite casual, one might say exceedingly casual, which prompted my friend Bill to describe the show as a "paid rehearsal", a statement I suspect he made half in jest, half serious. I had no problem with the loose format of the evening, something that is not at all uncommon when a larger group of musicians assemble with little notice before a one-off event.

Susanna's band included guitarist-extraordinaire Val McCallum on acoustic and electric guitars, bassist Derrick Anderson, drummer Jim Laspesa, percussionist John Calacci and guitarist Andrew Brassell, her new Nashville-based musical collaborator. Guitarist Dennis Taylor joined the band toward the end of the show, he sounded great and so did everyone else.

I liked most of Susanna's new songs, which I believe will be on her soon-to-be-released third solo album titled "Someday". Mitchell Froom, the album producer, was also present last night, but did not take the stage.

Age has done little to change Susanna's vocal abilities. Her still-Banglesque voice was the unmistakable star of the evening and so was her cheerfulness and charm. Exceptionally good was her song selection, too. Unlike other artists, Susanna did not deliver her new songs all at once. Instead, she combined them with well-known oldies and old Bangles tunes - this added color to her show and kept everyone sprinting along. Here's one of the two set lists that were left on the stage floor after the show:

Note the presence of "All I've Got To Do" and "Rain", two Lennon-McCartney songs, the former sounding the best. I also liked the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning", Rockpile's catchy "Teacher, Teacher" and "All I Want", the semi-hit of the Lightning Seeds.

Susanna Hoffs at McCabe's
Susanna Hoffs & Andrew Brassell at McCabe's
Susanna Hoffs, with Derrick Anderson and Jim Laspesa

Quite predictably, longtime collaborator Matthew Sweet took the stage at the end of the show to lend his voice to the singing of "Rain" and Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl".

Matthew Sweet
 Here's the other set list I was able to photograph after the show:

An alternate set list left on stage after the show

The show was opened by Englishman John Wicks, formerly of the Records. Surprisingly, he did not sing "Starry Eyes", the song that brought the Records their only hit. John's five-song set was just right in terms of length. The song that I liked the best was the set-closing "Chasing Angels".

John Wicks at McCabe's

Autographed Susanna Hoffs posters ($25 each)
Hiroshi and Paul, frequent McCabe's concert goers
People lining up for Susanna's second show (10 PM)


  1. Thank you for all the details!!!I'm a huge Sue Hoff's fan.

  2. Caught the late show, wish they'd done Rain, but it was all good.

  3. Gabe - I like your blog/review site. You need a few concert pics to recapture the moment, do you not? I caught both sets. I'd listened to a lot of Records material prior to the show. It was a treat to listen to John Wicks. The venue was fantastic - just above "your own living room" size. Sue stood while the fellas all sat. At one point she had Val McCallum stand - I think he said he was 6 foot four inches tall. Nuff said. Mr. McCallum also displayed cat-like coordination getting on and off the stage - all adding to the "behind the scenes" vibe of the evening. Andrew Brassell has incredibly long fingers, reminding some of us why we can't play guitar worth a damn. Young Mr. Brassell has a dry wit and has a very good stage presence, he'd play off both Sue and Val. A couple of times Sue was up for some key changes, everyone else seemed intent on talking her down off the ledge. I'd been told Dennis was a good guitarist, he is indeed. Calacci did yeoman service on percussion, the other "Bangle" Derrick was (as always) spot-on and fun to watch. I'd never heard him sing before. He took the higher "bop bops" and of course did fine. The drummer Jim Laspesa also sang and didn't overpower - I think someone said he used practice sticks maybe? I heard one song I would have recommend brushes, but then again I produce no major recording artists (wait - I will have liner credits on the Psycho Sisters in Novemeber) so what do I know? There was no kick-drum, I wonder if that was because of the limited space. There was someone else up there on stage ... oh yeah, Hoffs/Roach. Wow. We got some very clear vocals hurled at us. Sue also played guitar when the mute button on her pre-amp wasn't turned off. Actually, the amount of misqueues (I can't spel) were very low. There was a constant change-over of guitarists on the stage, but for the most part it went smoothly. I liked November Sun and All I Want particularly, and when Matthew Sweet came on for Cinamon Girl at the end of each set (Mr. Wicks came too if memory serves - I blame the '70's) it completed a very enjoyable evening. I've never seen Mathew play guitar, I guess that's for a another time. The Hoffster can still sing and I guess a tour will ensue, so even if you have to travel (two dudes ahead of me flew in from Cancun Mexico - that's pretty hard-core) a few hundred miles I'd definately road-trip for this one - just take good care of Fred's car.

    1. Many thanks for your comments, I can tell you're a fan!

  4. Oh-oh-oh

    We were treated to some (very limited) dancing by Susanna. That can be increased a little, but must definately NOT be curtailed one bit ...

  5. One final thing:

    Her new solo album comes out July 17 2012. I assume you can get more details on Facebook or whatever.