Saturday, April 30, 2016

Kennedys in Winchester

The UU church in Winchester (known as the Winchester Unitarian Society) that we went to for a short time and that I've driven by half a million times announced that they would be hosting the Kennedys in their concert series.  So we had to go, being a mile or so from our house.  We hadn't seen them for a couple of years and were very glad to have the opportunity ... I've always enjoyed them.

Trundled over to the church after dinner on a Friday night (4/29) and got seats in the front row of pews, on the right.  There were already a bunch of us there 45 minutes before the show, and the organizers were a little taken aback, especially when I actually tried to buy some of the CDs they had displayed.  They hadn't figured on this level of enthusiasm.

The sanctuary of the Winchester UU church is really lovely, with lots of carved wooden trusses, a majestic pipe organ, and some huge stained glass windows advertising humanly virtues.  A couple of church guys came out to fuss with the lights and I asked them if this was the first "rock" act in their concert series, which had always featured jazz or classical shows before.  "No, we had Blondie 20 years ago," one of them deadpanned without blinking an eye ... excellent repartee!  The other didn't know what was more unintelligible, my question or the other guy's answer, so he just frowned and stammered something about "never excluding folk acts" before walking away.

Pete and Maura came out soon after that, Maura in a print dress and some red highlighting in her hair, and Pete in a weird felt hat ... no matching sneakers in church, and did a very mellow gentle folk rather than crunchy rock show.  We loved it.  Pete had a bit of a sore throat and wasn't able to do much to back up Maura on vocals, but she was singing excellently and Pete was playing as well as ever.

One of the great things about Kennedys shows is that they change so much ... they have a lot of material to choose from.  They opened with Half a Million Miles (after a long introduction, the whole first-date-Buddy-Holly story; the 3/4-full church was evenly divided between people who had seen them before and probably knew their music well, and people who'd never seen them before and probably wouldn't be able to spell "folk-rock" or "Lubbock" without a lot of help).  And then they did one of their greatest, early songs, River of Fallen Stars.  I don't think I'd ever seen them sing that live, though I'd seen them eight times before.

But then they did some deep diving into their latest record, West, and touched on some more obscure songs throughout their catalog.  I hadn't heard anything from West on the radio and I loved that new stuff; they did Bodhisattva Blues, (the Holly-channeling) Locket, Southern Jumbo, and encored with the rocker from the record, Travel Day Blues (complete with reference to the Grateful Dead, along with half a million other music/road references, including one to Merle Haggard).  It wasn't until that point that some of the straighter society members realized that they might have been duped into attending a rock concert.

They also did an excellent cover of Nancy Griffith's Trouble In the Fields, after reminiscing about being in the area touring with her a few years ago (a helpful audience member corrected Pete when he mentioned playing at Sanders Theater ... it was the Wilbur, as he  graciously conceded).  They then did Maura's wonderful I'll Come Over from their last record as well as a few from Maura's recent collaboration with poet B.D. Love.

They featured Pete on the Stratocaster (he switched from his acoustic after the first few songs) with The Mad Russian and then Williamsburg Bridge from his Heart of Gotham record, and then on solo ukelele doing Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue.  Pete stood up at the edge of the stage a few feet away from me for his extended Fender runs, which got great hands from the crowd.  They then picked it up with another Gotham song, Riot in Bushwick, sung by Maura in her excellent pop-rock style.

They'd done a lot of songs, but we knew the show wasn't going to go late.  They asked Meredith Thompson (from Chris and Meredith Thompson and also their Strangelings band) up on stage with her conga, and she and Maura did the Kennedys classic Bend In the River and then sang us out with Stand ... which I think they've done at every show I've been to.  Short break, and then they came back up for the  previously-mentioned Travel Day Blues encore.

Waited for the crowd to dissipate a bit and then thanked Pete and screwed out of there.  Short drive home and it was still only 10PM!

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