“Do I have my readers on my head? How long has that been the case? Is that from the first set? [shouts from crowd: “just the second!”] That just leveled me, a little bit, to be honest…” Tanya Donelly on stage with the recently reformed Belly, pulling her reading glasses off of the top of her head during their blazing show at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Friday night, which prompted bass player Gail Greenwood to playfully interject, “this is the only person I know who actually applied for an AARP card… meanwhile the rest of us will cut that motherfucker up!” Tanya, acknowledging her father up front and center in the crowd quipped in reply, “I’m an Irish girl… I like my discounts!” A reflection of the funny and fun-loving vibe between the band (and family) on this quite special tour, with the “dream pop” alternative band back together some 20 years after their break up in the mid-90s. Not only did they seem to be having more fun than anyone at the sold out show (which is saying a lot), but their performance was truly impeccable, bringing back so many of their great songs and playing them in a way that made them sound better than ever. With Thomas and Chris Gorman also on stage on guitar and drums, the reunited band also played two new work-in-progress songs, which is a reflection of the status and future of the band, moving forward with new love for one another and what they created together, as well as building on what once was with what might be. The future is bright for the quartet and their fans.
“I’m going to play really small tonight…” Kristin Hersh at the start of her special show at City Winery Napa. I would have to say that it was maybe the most quotable concert I’ve ever attended, filled with an endless number of interesting comments and observations throughout her set, which was a mix of poetry readings and music from her various projects recorded under her own name, Throwing Muses, and 50 Foot Wave. The setting within the beautiful, candle lit venue seemed perfect (Kristin’s first words coming out to the stage and mic was, “it’s so romantic here…”). Her comment about playing small was inspired by her own characterization of her setlist (“the tiniest setlist ever!“), which was about half the size of a Post-It Note, double-sided. But Kristin always seems to do things different; her own way… and sees the world I think a lot differently from the rest of us, which makes her works all the more compelling (in words, sound, and delivery). Quite the artist, it is interesting how she does not limit her expression to her incredible music, but also gives us glimpses into her world via words printed on paper (“I’m going to read books at you tonight…“). She has a sort of funny, quirky, open, and honest presentation which is somewhat disarming, in that she will then tear into a raw and emotional (powerful) song that is a shock to the system. A singular artist, I get the sense every show she does – even the “small” ones like last night – are quite unique journeys unto themselves. Certainly one of the more gifted and unique artists of her generation (and a real pioneer in terms of creating new pathways for women in music), she is definitely worth turning out to see live if you get the opportunity, and I would say the solo show is even more interesting than the traditional Throwing Muses concert (like the one I reviewed about a year ago).
“Oh… ‘elaborate’… I know that word… I’m elaborately fine!” The end of a funny exchange between Kristin Hersh and the audience, which began with her asking how we were doing, which was turned back to her, which resulted in a short answer – “fine” – to which someone else asked her to elaborate… There was a bit of chit chat between songs throughout the show, including a reference to a recent dog bite that nearly caused this short West Coast run of Throwing Muses dates to be canceled. But the trio of Kristin Hersh, David Narcizo, and Bernard Georges did indeed show up at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco last night to play to a sold out crowd of enthusiastic fans. While Kristin founded the band way back in 1980, and has produced a wealth of albums and songs over the years, the set list was heavy with their latest book/CD combo, Purgatory/Paradise, which was their first new studio release in a decade. They put on an electric show with great intensity, and I’m sure all in attendance felt fortunate to catch a rare appearance of the band that is legendary to those who have paid attention to music for the past 30 years.
Alternative rock pioneers Throwing Muses will be playing a handful of rare dates in the next few weeks, starting with shows in the Pacific Northwest and San Francisco (at Noise Pop) as well as a growing collection of shows in New York and Massachusetts featuring former Muses singer-songerwriter Tanya Donelly playing along with her step sister Kristin Hersch. With the release of new material in the form of book/album Purgatory / Paradise (the first new album in a decade), it should prove to be an interesting set of shows for fans of the innovative band. [Read more…]