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Concert Reviews

Sweet Candye Kane

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Monday night I went out to a blues concert and I found myself in the middle of a good old-fashioned, hand-clapping, foot-stomping, body-swaying, soulful revival, and it was truly wonderful to behold.

Grant Henry’s Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium was the perfect venue for Candye Kane’s special blend of hot smokin’ blues and life-affirming proclamations of self-respect, tolerance, love and thankfulness for each day we are given.

I have been a fan of Candye’s from her early recordings, ‘Home Cookin’ and the great ‘Diva La Grande’, all the way through her highly acclaimed new release, ‘Sister Vagabond’. Back in the 90’s, there were those who dismissed Ms. Kane as a novelty act without staying ability. Years of touring and honing her skills night after night on the road have paid off with dividends. Two decades later, with over ten major releases under her belt, multiple National Blues Foundation nominations (Best Contemporary Blues Female, Contemporary Blues Album, and Entertainer of the Year), countless other musical awards and the recent successful East and West Coast runs of her autobiographical play “The Toughest Girl Alive”, Candye Kane has shown everyone what staying power is all about.

Over the years, Ms. Kane has had many talented musicians backing her up on stage. The lineup sharing the stage last night was perhaps the finest iteration of the Candye Kane Band to date. (I include ‘perhaps’ out of respect to those who have come before, but, truth be known, at least from my personal point of view, this is simply the tightest ensemble she has ever brought to the stage.)  Fred Rautmann (drums) and Kennan Shaw (bass) laid down a rock solid foundation throughout the night, moving effortlessly from swing to ballads to down in the gutter blues and straight up R&B. Drawing from such musical influences as Freddy King, BB King and Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, guitarist Laura Chavez’s scorching licks were the perfect compliment to Ms. Kane’s searing vocals. At one point during the performance, after Ms. Chavez ripped through a roof-raising blues solo, Ms. Kane shared with the audience some of the compliments her remarkably talented guitarist has received; ‘You’re the best girl guitar player I have ever seen’ and ‘You play really good…for a girl’. Just as Ms. Kane was dismissed early on in her career, it was a moment that clearly highlighted what a constant struggle it is that we all face for validation from others. At the same time, it was a moment that completely focused Ms. Kane’s ever-present message of self-empowerment and love of one’s self, no matter what others may ‘perceive’ as our shortcomings.

Throughout the night, the audience was treated to a blend of older Candye classics and newer gems. The set list included:

‘200 Pounds of Fun’

‘The Lord is a Women’ – so fitting for the evening’s revival-like feel

‘Ik Hou Van Je (I Love You)’ – a song that says I Love You in many of the languages of the world

‘I Put a Hex on You’

‘White Trash Girl’

‘I’m the Toughest Girl Alive’ – from Ms. Kane’s autobiographical play

‘You Can’t Take It Back From Here’ – written originally in a negative light when dealing with her estranged father and turned into a positive when she offered it to help raise funds to support relief efforts for the Gulf, following the BP disaster

‘White Trash Girl’

and ‘Superhero’

The highlight of the evening was ‘Walkin’, Talkin’ Haunted House’, a song from Ms. Kane’s latest release ‘Sister Vagabond’. It is a song of failed love, that both highlights how Ms. Kane’s song writing has matured over the years and how well she and Laura Chavez compliment each other musically: Ms. Chavez haunting guitar blending perfectly with Ms. Kane’s soulful vocals to create a moment when everyone in the room could feel the pain of love lost.

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The evening ended with a fine cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’, followed by the congregation’s sing-a-long participation to Ms. Kane’s classic ‘All You Can Eat’, from her release, ‘Diva La Grande’.

It has been a joy to witness Ms. Kane’s growth as an artist through the years. So many times when you follow a performer for such a long period of time, you begin to think of the glory days…remembering ‘that unbelievable concert back in ‘03’. With Ms. Kane it has been a constant progression forward, with each year better than the last. Monday night at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium, Ms Kane and her fine band took it all to a whole new level.

Can I get an ‘Amen’?

Concert Reviews

Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Lilypad

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Jonah Parzen-Johnson has an innate ability to make the baritone sax sound like bagpipes, and maybe that’s why I cried.

Mostly I cried because Jonah tells radiant stories with his saxophone and analog synth, working the brass and pedals to recreate the framework which surrounds his album Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow: Parzen-Johnson wanted to make “something of myself that’s for everybody else.”

Jonah opened his set with “Stay There, I’ll Come to You,” showcasing the harmony between synth and sax right off the bat. With haunting lilts, the two combined into a ribbon of melody, pulsating inside the ear as well as the heart. Much like the song’s title, Jonah was the one approaching the audience as an experimental troubadour of tête-à-tête.

The back stories and thoughts behind each song tied in so well with the raw, almost throaty sax, developing such strong, emotional resonance with the musical layers. The skeleton shook.

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Concert Reviews

Speedy Ortiz “riiiiise above and gliiiiiide away” at The Sinclair

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The Sinclair was a packed house Wednesday night for the Speedy Ortiz CD release party; as a hometown gig for the Northampton, MA-based band, kinetic warmth buzzed through friends and fans alike as Sadie Dupuis and crew played their freshly-release Foil Deer track-by-track.

What’s a party without some guests, though? That’s where Krill and Mitski come in.

Krill kicked off the night with some tracks from A Distant Fist Unclenching, other goods from Lucky Leaves. Lead singer/bassist Jonah Furman brought to mind early (read: good) Billy Corgan, which I’m not sure he will appreciate. But I think he’ll appreciate this: I couldn’t stop laughing because then I kept thinking about Marilyn Manson telling Billy Corgan that he looked like Charlie Brown.

Opening with “Theme from Krill,” the Boston trio has a knack for rhythm and melody that burrows into your brain. The dreamy bleakness of “Purity of Heart.”  The discordant garage rock and hiccupping guitar and warbly Scooter-ness of “Foot.” Krill’s sound is a good, comfy noise that keeps you wiggling and all that good stuff. Be sure to catch the band at Boston Calling.

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Concert Reviews

Years & Years at Royale Boston

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During winter storm Juno, UK electro pop group Years & Years were forced to cancel the first show of their two-night stint in New York City back in January. After the snow finally melted, they made the rounds again this past March, playing several shows in California, South by Southwest before finally landing in Boston.

Due to popular demand, the show was moved from The Sinclair to the Royale in downtown’s Theater District.

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