Sunday, December 2, 2018

TTB Again At the Orpheum

Tedeschi Trucks Band is too good, and we've seen them too many times.  Wouldn't we be tempting Fate to damn us if we saw them once more?  And worse than that, they were playing the Orpheum again and we hate the Orpheum!  When we saw they were playing another three-night stand there right at the beginning of December 2018 (third year in a row) we decided not to tempt the powers.  We'd miss it this time.  Yeah.

But then right at the end of November I realized that one of the current greatest bands in the world would soon be playing in our fucking back yard and we had to go see them ... wouldn't we also be damned if we missed them?  I looked online and there was a little pocket of seats in the balcony available for the Saturday night show (though the rest of the theater was sold out) and after hurried emails with the family I grabbed them.

December 1 was a Saturday and we met at a packed Kinsale in Government Center (football games and a birthday party and LOTS of 20-somethings) for a decent meal and then walked the few blocks over the Freedom Trail to Hamilton Place.  We've had an incredibly rainy and chilly Fall in Boston but we actually were not drenched and shivering that evening.  No chance of seeing stars though.  Fine and easy security check this time and when we pushed inside, we turned right up the stairs to the balcony and we were in a better world!

Now I'm not saying that all of a sudden I like the Orpheum, but the upstairs is a lot better than the downstairs.  I don't know if I'd ever been in the balcony there and it was great!  Good bathroom access, good bar access, good sight lines (unless you were off to the side), and the sound was good too.  Still not the best theater, but the "old Boston" aspect of it was really pretty entertaining itself.  Their plasterwork and painting was from the same school as what you see in the (ex) Music Hall or the Schubert.  The artwork was graceful, beautiful and incomprehensible at times, but tired and the paint was peeling in a few spots, but isn't that just like life?

But anyway, we were about to see TTB!  The crowd was late as usual on a Saturday but the band came on anyway and lined up as they always do: Kofi Burbridge at his large keyboards/Leslie rig on the left, Tim LeFebvre a step behind him, the rock-solid firm of J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell center back (already exchanging snares even before the first song!), Derek and Susan in front with a wood pier between their speaker setups, and on the right the huge riser with Mark Rivers, Mike Mattison, and Alicia Chakour on top and Kebbi Williams, Ephraim Owens, and Elizabeth Lea in front.  Just seeing them line up in front of you is a thrill!

Another excellent, excellent concert by TTB.  We were immediately glad we came and I thought several times that I would have kicked myself hard to have missed this.  This was (as in Boston last year) their last show of the year and they let it all hang out.  Here's the first set:

Sitting in Limbo (Jimmy Cliff)
Don't Know What It Means
The Letter (The Box Tops)
Part of Me
It's So Heavy
Leaving Trunk (Sleepy John Estes)
Key to the Highway (Charles Segar)
Idle Wind

As I've said before when blogging, I don't want to go on about this, but it was a fantastic experience.  Four covers of some of the best songs ever (all new to me except for Highway) and an assortment of their best songs, including the infectious Don't Know What It Means.  Dave and I stood up at first but many people behind us yelled and the sight lines were fine if I sat down, so I did.  But I was boogieing in my seat so hard that I would have fallen out of the balcony if there weren't others packed around me (actually, the seat to my left was empty, luckily).  I wanted to dance!

An oddity was that Tim was substituted for for three songs (two, then Tim back, then one more) by a bass player with long hair, who was great himself.  What was up with that?

Derek was just spectacular and everyone on stage was at the top of their game.  Johnson and Greenwell were just amazing, Alicia melted her mike with some of her lines, and Kebbi did his dancing thing with the sax.  I won't go on, but this was nothing less than a continuous musical orgasm.

Ack!  The set had to end sometime and at least it ended with the stately Idle Wind.  And as opposed to if we'd been in the orchestra area, we had a mellow half-time: sitting and calming down for a bit, then getting in the leisurely line for the men's just off of the exit, and then in the beer line, where the vendor I'd talked to the first time wanted to talk to me again like I was an old customer (which I was).  Such a difference from downstairs.  If we ever go here again (like, next December!?!), you know where we'll be.

And then they came out for the second set and were even more perfect, if perhaps with a tad less energy:

I Walk On Gilded Splinters (Dr. John)
Little Martha (see below) / Midnight in Harlem
Laugh About It
I Want More
Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever (Four Tops)
Get Out of My Life, Woman (Allen Toussaint)
Angel From Montgomery / Sugaree (don't need to credit these!)
The Storm
Whipping Post (or this)

OMG!!  We were just calming down from Gilded Splinters when Derek played Little Martha and then led us into Harlem.  And we were rocking to the oldies with Susan when she got serious and sang to us about being an old woman named after her mother, and then invoked Sugaree.  And then it built up and built up into The Storm and they finally busted out of it, and then Tim laid down the signature bass line and the theater almost exploded with the intensity, and the band went right into the reprise with everyone in the fucking audience right on the cue with Susan: "Sometimes I FEEL ... like I'm tied, to the WHIPPING POST!!!"

How could anything be better than that?  I have no idea.  We were out of breath and just looking around, clapping and shouting, while the band gave us little waves and walked off stage.  Luckily not too long before they came back for a double encore:

Going, Going, Gone (Bob Dylan)
More and More (Little Milton)

Probably the best thing about the show was the amazing, surprising, excellent covers they did, including the tightest, big band The Letter you can imagine, and a Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever that had everyone bawling with joy.  When they finally left the stage (after Susan's thanks to her home town) it took us more than a few moments to regain our equilibrium.

Parted from Dave in the beautiful upstairs lobby so he could rush off to the T and then made our way downstairs, skirting the exhausted mob struggling out of the orchestra area.  Back out on Hamilton and we made a beeline for the Common.  We wanted to see the Nova Scotia Christmas tree, and it was as lovely as ever.  We were there for a marriage proposal and acceptance, just to our left ... so sweet!  We circled the tree slowly and told a few people, "Yes, this is the Nova Scotia Christmas tree, look at the plaque to read abut the story."  We knew they'd never believe us.

Back up the Hill after that and a pretty quick drive home.  I hope TTB comes back next year!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Rosanne Cash At The Cabot

I've been following Rosanne Cash since the late 70s.  I'm not even going to start on her pedigree or talent.  And I'd never seen her play!  She seems to rarely perform in the Northeast.  So when she announced a date at The Cabot in Beverly (Thursday, November 29) it was another case of not hesitating more than a second.  Apparently that hesitation cost us some good seats (maybe there was a pre-sale??), but we still grabbed great ones, second row balcony center.  We were very psyched to go see her, and The Cabot was packed.

Both of us worked at home that day and then took off in what was basically plenty of time to get out to the North Shore.  But even so we had to wade through oodles of traffic, finally ending up in our favorite restaurant in Salem, Gulu-Gulu, a couple of hours before the show was going to start.  This gave us time for a nice leisurely hang, trying their cheese board and crepes and eclectic beers (I had a saison and a barleywine by Idle Hands).

Got over to Beverly after that and parked in our normal space.  The night was already getting windy and chilly, as many nights this Fall have been, but we got in easily and up to our seats to settle in.  Mark Erelli was the opening act and he was as good as we've seen him.  He opened with three new songs, and then did his great By Degrees, which he's recently re-recorded with Rosanne, Ana├»s Mitchell, and a cast of millions of real Americans.  You should check it out.

Erelli is a very interesting artist to my mind, a local musician who's written some great songs and shown incredible talent.  But he also can be a boring solo folk guitarist when he puts his mind to it.  We saw a little bit of both on Thursday and in all he was exactly what we'd expected.  He only did a couple of other songs after the show-stopper of By Degrees, a short first set with only 7(?) songs, but whatever.

Then they took longer than they might setting up Rosanne, and finally her band came out (Kevin Barry on lead guitar!) and launched into A Feather's Not a Bird.  Rosanne came out a moment later and started singing, engulfing us in the waves of her voice.  You could call her an alto, you could call her a country mega-hit musician, you could call her a folkie with a guitar (she played guitar on every song except the opener), and you'd just be scratching the surface.  She has as many facets as any musician, and she and her band (husband and composer John Leventhal on the other guitar) showed us a good number of them in her 2-hour set.

Wow, she was as cool as I'd imagined, and as in charge of her act as you'd want to see.  Leventhal was a little too loud and a little too brash at times, but Rosanne gently reminded him over and over that not only was she the main act, she was the conductor.  She calmed him down and got Kevin to turn up when it was needed with a look and a gesture or two.  And she hyped up her drummer, keyboardist, and bass player (who were adequate, in descending order of talent IMO).

But who cares who was on stage with her, the inadequacies of The Cabot's sound system (particularly bad with the challenging voice of Erelli), or the heritage she comes from with her father and first husband ... the amazing thing was her riveting voice.  Here are a few songs she played, mixing mostly tracks from her fantastic last three records:

A Feather's Not a Bird
She Remembers Everything
Long Black Veil
The Only Thing Worth Fighting For
The Sunken Lands
Modern Blue
I'm Movin' On
Money Road
Blue Moon With Heartache (she introduced it as her earliest song, written when she was 14)
The Undiscovered Country
When the Master Calls the Roll

But the song of the night was a cover, her version of Ode To Billie Joe.  This was a tour de force like you can't believe!  The only sound throughout the theater was the sound of dentures dropping out of gaping mouths, astonished at the sound (it was a mature audience).  I've listened to these words many times and I have a good idea what they mean, to me that is.  As she said after we'd all toweled off, "Forty years later and we're still wondering what the heck they were throwing off that bridge, now *that's* a good song!"

And she closed her long set with her earliest mega-hit, Seven Year Ache!  Oh Dog ... I'd been waiting to see and hear her sing this for almost 40 years, and it was as catchy and meaty as I'd imagined.  I can still see her cover picture on that record.

She came back out for an encore with the embarrassed Mark Erelli.  She said she's asked him if he knew this song and of course he did, and of course he sang a few beautiful verses to 500 Miles.  But she took the other verses and left him in the dust.

That was it, we had been blessed by Rosanne Cash and felt a lot better for it.  The cranky crowd finally made it down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk in the cold evening.  Back to our car quickly and a smooth ride home, in bed by 11:30 or so on a Thursday, not bad.