Sunday, September 30, 2007

Carrboro Music Fest Kickoff

Very fine performances last night at the Carboro Music Festival Kickoff show at the Cat's Cradle with Great Big Gone, Two Dollar Pistols and Tres Chicas.

The Two Dollar Pistols did lots of new music from "Here Tomorrow Gone Today" their very fine new CD. Tres Chicas found time in their already full set for new songs written this summer at a retreat in the mountains. If these new songs are any indication the new CD will be one to look for.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Elvis Costello and the NC Symphony

So Elvis (the real Napoleon Dynamite) Costello held forth at Regency park last night for a nearly sold out house on a cool September evening. The programme began with an excerpt from Il Songo, his adaptation of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. He reminded us in his world Puck sounded like a saxaphone. This literal warm-up led into a fine rendition of "All This Useless Beauty." Elvis' voice, sounding brittle but warm on this first song, was famously full by the end of the evening. The first half of the program was relatively short (four songs plus the orchestra piece) and was closed out by the beautiful "The Birds will Still Be Singing" from The Juliet Letters. A note about the arrangements here: the songs that were arranged by those who compose for orchestra were more successful than some of Elvis' attempts. That is not to say that Elvis didn't have his compositional moments, especially in the second half of the show.

Attractions pianist Steve Nieve joined the proceedings for the second half and it really started to feel like an Elvis Costello show. Steve cajoled the orchestra with his brilliant playing and the whole affair went up a notch. Highlights from the second half included two songs from Painted from Memory. "God Give Me Strength" and "I Still have that Other Girl in My Head" were very close approximations of their recorded originals but sung in a more relaxed, focused way than the CD versions.
Speaking of focused, "Shipbuilding" was extremely so. It's amazing how beautiful that song is in performance no matter how much you may have enjoyed it as the closer of Punch the Clock. "Accidents Will Happen" and "Green Shirt" from Armed Forces were deftly arranged for orchestra as to not completely take all the edge off them.
The perennial show closer "Alison" was again nearly the last musical statement of the evening. Neatly rearranged chords showcased the versatility of this melody in the first verse but reverted to its familliar audience-sing-along form from the first chorus on.

A quick note about Elvis' stage persona: ever the genial host, he was also deadpanning facial expressions and gestures based on what the orchestra was playing or going to play and it was very entertaining. Combine this with patter about The Dixie Chicks, NASCAR and the birth of his twin sons and you get the feeling he was quite ready to chat a bit. I believe this is a strong format for him as he likes to talk and genuinely connect with quieter crowds.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Jeffrey Dean Foster and Don Dixon at the 506

Last night saw long time Chapel Hill denizen Don Dixon return to town to perform at the local 506. He brought along with him Winston Salem's own Jeffrey Dean Foster. Jeff opened the show with songs from his early days from the Pinetops up to the "Million Star Hotel" solo material. Particularly effective were "I'm so lonesome I could Fly" from the "Above Ground and Vertical" record and "Lily of the Highway" from "Million Star Hotel." A haunting version of the "Summer of the Son of Sam" was a highlight as well.

Don Dixon was up next with the announcement that yesterday was Otis Reddings birthday. In that spirit he proceeded to do one song from every album he ever made and talked alot about the circumstances surrounding the creation of the music and the cover art for the CDs. So he began with the CD "Most of the Girls LTD" and of course did "Praying Mantis" and went chronologically all the way to "The Entire Combustible World In One Small Room."

Dixon had an houglass that denoted the time that was his before any requests would be taken from the audience. Notable in his set were
"(If I Could) Walk Away" from the album "#38" and "I Can Hear the River" from "EEE"

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Paperhand Puppet Intervention Strikes

Paperhand presented "A Shoe for Your Foot" at the Forest Theater August 10 - September 3rd. I was lucky enough to see it tonight and was taken by the programs originality, creativity and thematic consistency. The program begins with a lifeboat metaphor for the earth and a small boat that comes to encompass an entire bustling city. The ancient and wise creatures of the sea witness the coming and going of the boat city as another of many events that are recalled from the centures past. The lowly shoe for the lowly foot keeps the show rolling with a humorous vignette entitle "The Life of a Shoe". Paperhand ties so many themes together in every presentation. Those of our duty to the planet, to ourselves, and to each other. The music and musicians for this show were terrific. The songs memorable and appropriate and the pit orchestra versatile enough to do sound effects and voice overs as well.
Also notable were the "boxheads." The stilt dancers and shadow puppet segment at the end are not to be missed.