April 23, 2010

Madeleine Peyroux Concert in Seattle

Sunday 04/18/2010 I had the pleasure of seeing Madeleine Peyroux live for the first time at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in downtown Seattle. A friend and I had front row seats, literally sitting two feet away from Madeleine and her band. We also had the best table neighbors in Juanita and Ed, who had just gotten married after 21 years of knowing each other, congratulations!

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Miss Peyroux opened up in a playful mood, trying to warm up the rather laid back audience. Already in the first song all the band members were introduced with short soli:
Starting on the left of the stage was Gary Versace playing piano, keyboard and a what looked like a Hammond B-3 organ which sounded fantastic. Gary really went to town on that one but kept things more subdued on the other instruments.
Next was Jon Herington, who played guitar and ukelele, excelling at solos as well as harmonizing very well with Madeleine's own guitar playing. Jon had multiple short and two extended soli and had great stage presence without overpowering his band mates.
To the right or Madeleine and more in the background was Barak Mori playing the double bass (mostly plucking but occasionally using the bow) or electric bass. He too had two extended soli, especially his second one was quite long and groovy.
Last but not least was Darren Beckett playing the drums. He played really well, used the brushes a lot and impressed with lots of variety.

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The concert was great with Madeleine and her band really getting the room going after 2, 3 songs. Good move playing the well-known "Don't Wait Too Long" early on to get the audience in the mood. Her singing was a bit more embellished than on the CD but that went very well with the intimate somewhat under-lit setting of the club. No specific album was dominant in the set list with 3 songs coming from her "Careless Love" and "Half The Perfect World" albums, 2 songs from the "Bare Bones" and 1 song from the "Dreamland" album.
Overall I did think the concert was a bit short, she played for less than 1 hour and a half, just 13 songs total. On the other hand I also understand that she had to do a second concert that night at 10 pm and had played double shows every night for three days prior.
Still a great show with wonderful vocals and music from Madeleine and her fantastic band. And of course also in part to the great food at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, my good friend who accompanied me and our wonderful table neighbors Juanita and Ed.
I'll definitely see Madeleine Peyroux again when she comes to Seattle!

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Madeleine Peyroux, vocals & guitar
Jon Herington, guitar, ukelele
Gary Versace, piano, keyboard,Hammond B-3
Barak Mori, bass
Darren Beckett, drums

Set list

  • I Hear Music
  • Don't Wait Too Long
  • La Javanaise
  • I Must Be Saved
  • Half The Perfect World
  • All I Need Is A Little Bit
  • Rooftop
  • No Better
  • Ophelia
  • Reckless Blues
  • This Is Heaven To Me
  • Dance Me To The End Of Love
  • Instead

May 26, 2009

Sam Philips Concert in Seattle

It was last year that I saw Sam Philips at The Triple Door in Seattle but I still wanted to post some pictures and a small write-up of this concert!

This was the first time I have seen Sam Philips live and she and her band were absolutely fantastic. Really! First the warm-up: Seattle's own Robert Deeble opened with well... it's hard to describe. His music is somewhere between indie folk-pop, minimalist and... well head over to his website and check it out for yourself.

Robert Deeble (right) at The Triple Door

The concert was sold out, something that surprised me given that Sam Philips isn't exactly well-known - or so I thought. Apparently she contributed some music to the TV show  Gilmore Girls and even appeared on screen in a season finale. We arrived 2 hours early and still got fairly decent seats but the place was packed.
I primarily own Sam's older stuff such as "Martinis & Bikinis", "The Indescribable Wow" and "Omnipop" and am not familiar with her latest stuff but I figured it should be good :)

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After Robert Deeble and his colleague had finished Sam Philips and her band set up:

  • Drummer Jay Bellrose with a rather eclectic drum set
  • Violinist Eric Gorfain with a variety of violins, including a Stroh violin with a sizeable metal horn, a banjo and some guitars
  • Accordionist Ted Reichman sitting a bit more in the background.

Soon they started and I was very impressed with the cozy atmosphere of The Triple Door and how well it worked with Sam's style and her accompanying musicians. Especially Jay Bellrose was a joy to watch, pulling one little noisemaker after another out from behind his drum set: rattles, shakers - I felt reminded of a busker and his props. In a big arena this would simply not come across as it would be invisible to the vast audience. In the intimate setting of The Triple Door most people in the audience saw the use of the little noisemakers and the fun that Jay's play exuded.

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Eric Gorfain's Stroh violin did not only sound unique he seemed to enjoy playing it quite a bit. He also switched back and forth between the various violins, a guitar and a banjo and seemed to master all these with ease and enthusiasm. The big variety brought some new interesting interpretations to older Sam Philips songs, especially the ones from her first 3, 4 albums.

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Sam Philips did change it up as well, at times playing an acoustic guitar, then a very heavily distorted guitar during "I Need Love" or a more moderate electronic guitar during most of the other songs. Speaking of "I Need Love", Sam's new interpretation of this 14-year old song was excellent, a nice new twist on something very familiar. Another surprise was her singing of "Animals On Wheels" when Sam just took a cassette player (think old-school Walkman) and played the instrumental track from that - accompanied by her singing. For some of the vibrato passages she rapidly shook the cassette player, introducing wow/flutter with nice results. Fun to watch and to listen to! Call it a one-woman-Karaoke-show-with-manually-induced-sound-effects but it worked for me :)

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Throughout the evening Ted Reichman stayed in the background, consistently playing away on this accordion and weaving dense tapestries of sound. Here and there he would throw in some unexpected embellishments and demonstrate his skill. Overall he was a great addition even when he didn't have the stage presence of his colleagues and perhaps purposefully chose to stay out of the spotlights.

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In the end a very enjoyable concert with many old favorites (some of them interpreted in delightfully new ways) as well as the songs from Sam's new "Don't Do Anything" album. Great eclectic music well and enthusiastically played to an appreciative audience - what more can you ask for? I look forward to Sam's next concert in the Seattle area!

September 30, 2008

Stevie Wonder Concert in Mannheim, Germany

Thanks to the wonderful folks at SAP I had the chance to see the Stevie Wonder concert at the SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany on September 23rd 2008. Honestly, I am not a big fan of Mr. Wonder but of course I know a lot of the hits like "Sir Duke", "Happy Birthday", "Superstition" and of course the cloying "I Just Called To Say I Love You". So yeah, I was looking forward to the concert but I expected a "Best Of"-kind of show: Stevie playing all his hits, the audience hearing all their favorites and everybody going home happy and the whole thing being pretty boring.

Boy was I wrong...

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First of all I was blown away by the massive size of the band: besides Mr. Wonder there were 2 guitar players, 1 base player, 1 drummer, 2 percussionists, 2 keyboarders, 4 background singers, 1 trumpet and 1 saxophone player. And each one of these artists was top-notch and most were able to showcase their skills with extensive solos.

Stevie and the band did a lot of improvisation, players were clearly adding their own little touches, jamming, simply having fun and enjoying the increasingly enthusiastic audience.

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The concert started out slowly with many unfamiliar songs - at least to me but from the audience reaction it was clear that the audience was waiting for "the hits". Sure Stevie played some minor favorites but most of the material was fairly obscure. Again, keep in mind that I am not a huge Stevie Wonder fan.

Stevie definitely tried to get the audience engaged, there were a lot of interactive "sing along" and "repeat after me" segments, Stevie even delighted folks by singing some German folk songs in his own way - nice touch!

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After about 1 hour things started to heat up and the audience got more and more engaged. Stevie also started to play some more familiar songs yet at the same time kept experimenting with improvisations, extensive solos and even had a segment where he used a vocoder. Unexpected but very cool and definitely something I have not seen connected with Stevie Wonder before!

Despite the concert not being sold out (one staff person spoke of around 7,000 tickets of 11,000 seats sold, not sure if that is true) the crowd was really warmed up now. And so 1 1/2 hours into the concert Stevie was ready to unleash the barrage of big hits.

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The light and stage show had continuously become more brilliant, more aggressive up to this point. In the beginning the lights were fairly subdued and primarily in the background. Spotlights and some moving lights, nothing to obvious. Later high intensity LED strips in the foreground above the stage were added (see the vertical strips in the pictures). More and more moving lights got added as the show went on and the 7 giant LED bars behind the stage got used more frequently.

Towards the end the giant LED bars showed highway and downtown traffic footage of an American city overlayed with live images from the stage to create a unique composition.

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In the 1 hour finale Stevie unleashed a non-stop crescendo of big hits, with lots of improvised segments in between: "Sir Duke", "Superstition", "Master Blaster", "Higher Ground", "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" and so on. One big hit followed another and the audience was on its feet and making noise like a sold-out venue.

Mr. Wonder and his band clearly enjoyed this enthusiastic response, played extensive solos and just had a good old time.

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Overall, the concert was truly awesome and Stevie Wonder and his band really played their hearts out. Passionate and skilled musicians enjoying themselves and an enthusiastic audience appreciating the outstanding performance - what more can you ask for?

Stevie Wonder's daughter Aisha Morris was one of the female vocalists and also had a solo. She received a very enthusiastic response from the audience as well.

Mr. Wonder also made multiple references to the impending US elections and heavily endorsed Barack Obama. Needless to say the German audience responded favorable to that :)

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So, enjoy the pictures and definitely try to catch Stevie Wonder in concert, even if you are not a big fan! If you appreciate watching a master at work you will enjoy him and his band!

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October 16, 2007

Amy Winehouse - Godawful Audio Engineering

I recently bought Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" CD and while I liked most of the music (ranging from great to OK) the audio engineering is just awful. I am used to some extreme levels of clipping and distortion due to the increased loudness levels but "Back to Black" is downright ridiculous! Listening to the CD on Aurum Cantus Music Goddess speakers with the fabulous G2 ribbon tweeter the lack of smooth trebles was very frustrating. The CD sounds muffled, flat and well... clipped! Bass is very accentuated which I am sure sounds better on small speakers but on the Music Goddess it sounds very boomy. Since I bought the CD from an Amazon seller I first thought that it might have been a pirated copy it sounded so bad, but no - it's 100% legit!

I understand that popular music has to obey the perceived marketing laws (level it out as loud as possible!) but it's pretty sad when music is engineered to sound better on shitty speakers. There is plenty of popular music out there that's not ridiculously over-leveled and still commercially successful, for example Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me". It hardly gets more popular than that one with multi-multi-platinum and diamond certifications, so enough with the loudness-madness already!

OK, I'll get off my soap/speaker box now :)