July 19, 2015

Concert #752 - Jill Sobule & Tammy Faye Starlite at McCabe's Guitar Shop (July 17, 2015)

What was expected to be a typical McCabe's evening - first a short opening set, followed by the headliner - turned out to be an outstanding double-header, with the two protagonists, Jill Sobule and Tammy Faye Starlite, delivering performances that were as entertaining as they were dissimilar.

Taking the stage first and appearing as a faux Marianne Faithfull, Tammy Faye impressed me with a performance like few others. No, she did not attempt to replicate Marianne's gentle voice from the sixties, nor what was left of her vocal cords after years of heavy smoking. Instead, Tammy used her own voice and her own phrasing to perform ten of Marianne's best-known songs, and - to Tammy's credit - her renditions still sounded a bit like Marianne's originals.

Tammy Faye Starlite at McCabe's
While playing the role of Marianne Faithfull, an artist not known for stellar vocals, Tammy Faye managed to impress me, paradoxically, precisely with the quality of her voice. Everything she sang sounded great to these ears - actually she sounded so good, that I gave her a pass for her overly frequent use of the F-word. With so many great songs, there's no way I can pick a concert highlight, but I will mention Leonard Cohen's "Tower Of Song", Shell Silverstein's "The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan" and John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" as some of the evening's finest. 

Tammy Faye Starlite's set list
Note the inclusion of "Why'd Ya Do It", a three-minute song with lyrics of a vulgarity I had not heard in my twenty-six years of frequenting the venerable McCabe's Guitar Shop. But don't blame Tammy Faye - she was just channeling Marianne Faithfull's work, and yes indeed, Marianne is credited to be one of the co-writers of the song. Interestingly enough, another co-writer, Barry Reynolds, was right there on the stage with Tammy Faye, providing able acoustic guitar accompaniment. Tammy's exceptionally intense rendition of this controversial song will be hard to forget, that's for sure.

Throughout the evening, Tammy Faye's outstanding performance was further enhanced by musicians Kevin Salem and Barry Reynolds, who played their acoustic guitars with great skill. Barry is known as Marianne Faithfull's long-time collaborator as a guitarist and songwriter.

Barry Reynolds at McCabe's
Tammy Faye's opening set went on for seventy minutes and, as far as I was concerned, her time on stage  just wasn't long enough, that's how much I enjoyed her portrayal of Marianne Faithfull. 

Tammy Faye Starlite at McCabe's
Tammy Faye Starlite at McCabe's
After a short intermission, Jill Sobule entered the concert room from the back and, with support from guitarist Kevin Salem, she sang "Almost Great" while standing right in the middle of the audience.

Jill Sobule and Kevin Salem kicking off the evening's second set

As expected, Jill sang some of her best-known numbers, such as "Palm Springs", "When They Say We Want Our America Back", "Where Is Bobbie Gentry", "I Kissed A Girl", "Supermodel"  and "Mexican Wrestler". At one point during her show, Jill brought out composer-producer-arranger Steve Weisberg, who accompanied her on the piano on "Party Girl" and a few newer numbers Jill wrote to the play of "Yentl", one of Isaac Bashevis-Singer's best-known pieces of work. Not having fully memorized her own lyrics, Jill asked for someone to come up to the stage and hold her iPad so that she could read the words - long story short, I ended up on the stage clutching her iPad while trying to remain as motionless as I possibly could. "I Hate Girl Things", "Jonathan And David" and "What Have I Done (Oh Shit)" were the three Yentl songs Jill sang while I was on the stage. Later in the show, Jill asked me to hold her iPad once again - this time she sang "I Hate Horses", a song that appears on "Dottie's Charms", her latest album.

Jill Sobule at McCabe's
Jill Sobule at McCabe's
Steve Weisberg at McCabe's
Yours Truly helping out with the lyrics

Jill wrapped up her show with "One Of These Days" and "Good Life", which turned into a joyous sing-along. All-in-all, I had a heck of a good time. I know Jill will be back, not so sure about Tammy Faye, but if she ever plays McCabe's again, you bet that I'll be there.

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