We haven't been to as many concerts lately, but we have a full lineup scheduled over the next few months, which started with Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem at Club Passim on Friday, Jan. 25. We met brother Andrew at the Mexican restaurant for a few beers and then walked over through the very cold evening to Club Passim, where we had Table 5 again.
The stage was set up with all kinds of instruments, and we thought they might have expanded the band, but we had a nice chat with Rani and then with Anand when they fussed around the equipment, and they explained that the strange instruments were for the opening band, Elixir.
OK, the instruments weren't really "strange," they were a clarinet, a trombone, and a trumpet ... and the band was great! You could call Owen Morrison the front man, as he played an excellent guitar and held the band together, but Anna Patton on the clarinet was just as fantastic, and the rest of the band were very good too. If I had to tell you what style of music they play, I'd say urban alt-Quebecois ... but with a twist. :)
Then Rani and friends came out and played one of the best, most assured shows I've ever seen from them, and I've seen them a lot. Rani was in fine voice, that powerful alto, Anand Nayak was as bright and solid as ever on the guitar, Scott Kessell played an excellent rhythm (though his chief box is wearing out and his kick-suitcase is looking a little beat), and Andrew Kinsey was in top form on vocals and bass. Of particular note was Rani doing a song she'd recently written, which the rest of the band wasn't too sure of but was the gem of the night. Other highlights were opening with Hear Jerusalem Moan from their new record, the subtly swinging Miami Moon, their haunting take of O Death, their signature Red Haired Boy, the traditional Travelin' Shoes, and Scott playing the kalimba to accompany an excellent vocal turn by Andrew on a song I can't recall.
Of course they topped the set with Sean Staples' Joy Comes Back, and then Rani's above ethereal Crossing The Bar, which everybody in the place sang along with ... if you haven't heard this song then you have no idea what you're missing, it will send shivers up your backbone and stir your soul. Elixir came out and joined them for a few sing-alongs, including some wonderful clarinet solos by Anna. Great fun was had by all.
p.s. There are *many* recordings of Crossing The Bar on YouTube, most using the tune written by Rani, though there don't seem to be any videos of Daisy Mayhem (or Salamander Crossing) doing it. Oh well ... if you seek these out you'll be rewarded. I won't tell you which ones I like best because part of the magic of the song is listening to it and feeling its relationship with your own soul.