BUT, on the day of the concert, Friday 9/22, I saw I had email and it was a flash from WUMB that they had tickets to give away and the first five to reply would get pairs. I replied and got them! So that addressed one of our concerns for sure.
It was the last day of Summer (and first evening of Fall) and another concern was that the remnants of Hurricane Jose were causing a storm near the New England coast and, though there probably wouldn’t be torrential downpours, it would be an evening of very un-Summer-like weather and temperatures. Oh well, we could take that for free tickets!
We went home after work to eat dinner and get prepped: sweatshirts, slickers, and gloves as well as good footwear and warm socks. And it’s a good thing we did, the wind was absolutely roaring on the waterfront, the temperature must have been in the 40s, and it was spitting rain off and on all night. There were some people there in t-shirts and shorts and they didn’t last long, the wind cut right through you and though it may have been a sell-out, lots of people couldn’t take it and left early.
We’d decided to drive right to the Seaport rather than park in Government Center and walk, and we miraculously snagged an on-street parking spot when someone in front of us pulled out. That upped the amount spent for the evening to $1.25, but we soon made up for that with beers in the venue.
Our seats weren’t that bad … one thing about that amphitheater is that most seats have good sight lines and aren’t too far from the stage. But as before, we were amazed that they thought that the small stacks of speakers they had suspended from the tent, left and right, were enough for quality sound. They sure weren’t, especially because they hesitated to turn them up!
David Gray was the opener and, though I read that he’s had several chart-toppers in the UK, he’s flown under my radar. I recognized a couple of his songs, but only faintly. He was mostly on solo guitar or piano, though he was joined by some accompanists later in the set. I found him kind of boring I hate to say. One example was that he featured sampling himself on guitar and playing those loops while he went in other directions … a modern thing to do, and he was skillful at it. But at one point he had one bass loop going, another little rhythm loop going too, and then he played a line of melody, sampled that, and started it repeating while he put down his guitar, stood back and clapped. I found this boring! I mean, you knew exactly what was going to happen in the next measure and you had a pretty good idea what would happen in the measure after that, and the one after that, etc. It wasn’t that compelling.
Another criticism, and this was the venue rather than the artist, was that their sound system SUCKED (have I mentioned this?) and that they barely had it turned up at all. He could have been singing a cappella. And with the howling wind you needed some boost from the PA. It’s like the BHBP was reluctant to drown out the conversations of the many, many people chattering away during the opening act of a CONCERT!
But there were a lot of David Gray fans there straining to pay rapt attention too, and his songs were greeted with lots of whoops and hollers and he had fans singing along at the drop of a hat. I was glad to see that, though his set wasn’t really to my taste.
Anyway, then Alison came on and they turned it up a bit, and she was awesome. And she was joined by Suzanne and Sidney Cox! I had no idea … here’s the band we saw: Alison Krauss on fiddle and vocals, Ron Block on guitar and banjo, Barry Bales on stand-up bass, James Mitchell on electric lead guitar, Jerry Roe on drums, Matt Rollings (from Lyle Lovett’s band and many other gigs) on grand piano, AND siblings Suzanne Cox on vocals and Sidney Cox on vocals, dobro, and acoustic guitar.
Alison stuck mainly to ballads from throughout her career and though her wispy and delicate voice wasn’t the best to combat a windstorm, the music she and her band produced was excellent. As with other concerts I’ve seen, the difference in quality of sound between the opener and the main act was astonishing. We thought Gray was good, but these guys were perfect.
Of particular note was Sidney Cox playing some killer dobro, Rollings being just more and more astonishing on piano as the night went along, and of course Block and Bales from Union Station. As with other excellent concerts I’ve been to, I could almost see the music with Rollings staring at and bonding with Roe and Bales on a solid groove which was illustrating the sound coming from the other side of the stage, where you had Block doing his best Bob Weir on guitar, punctuating the lead stylings of Mitchell on electric, the flourishes by Cox on dobro, and of course by Alison on fiddle.
But the best thing was naturally the wonderful vocals, with Alison solo, her duetting with Suzanne, the small group unisons with Sidney, and the ensemble vocals when Block and Bales joined in. As the evening went along they shrank into a smaller and smaller group, and for the encore they actually brought out an old RCA mike for the boys (and girls) to cluster around.
Can’t remember the setlist exactly, but here are some songs they played:
River in the Rain, I Never Cared for You, Stay, Forget About It, Baby Now That I've Found You, Broadway, Ghost in This House, The Lucky One, It’s Goodbye and So Long to You, Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground, Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby, I Am Weary (Let Me Rest), Down to the River to Pray, Restless, Gentle on My Mind, Losing You, Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues, When God Dips His Pen Of Love in My Heart, When You Say Nothing at All, A Living Prayer
I was delighted that she did Now That I’ve Found You from the very beginning of her career, and of course the O Brother songs. I was a bit disappointed that she didn’t do the title track from her new record, Windy City, both because I wanted to hear it and also because it was fucking windy in the city that night! As I say, people were leaving in droves all through the evening because they were freezing and couldn’t take it anymore.
A bunch of us stayed until the end, but when it was over you can believe we all took off as fast as we could. Not too far back to the car and only a few blocks over to a ramp down to the expressway and back over the Zakim Bridge to home. Again, lots of fun and very well worth the price, but I wish they had a better amphitheater downtown, or would upgrade this one.