Sunday, November 18, 2007

Concert Review: Aqueduct and Georgie James

Aqueduct played with Georgie James at the World Café Live on Tuesday, November 13th. Both bands played amazing sets in the quiet, seated upstairs part of the venue. With the exception of the poor quality of the sound system – the vocals were barely audible during some of the songs – and the fact that there was a very small crowd, the bands put on excellent performances.

Georgie James consists of John Davis, former drummer of the now-defunct DC band Q and Not U, on guitar and vocals, and his friend Laura Burhenn on piano and vocals. They tour with a full band, and the sound they have together, while worlds different from John’s old band and Laura’s solo work, is a unique blend. They played most of the tracks from their debut album, Places, including my personal favorite, “Long Week.” Laura’s vocals are beautiful and haunting in this piece, as she sings, “so cry your eyes out, pretty baby; hold my hand and trot your tongue; oh, it’s been heavy ‘round you lately, and you’ll feel lighter when you’re done.” It was also wonderful to watch John get into songs like “More Lights” and “Comfortable Headphones.” The two have a great stage presence and are definitely worth seeing live.

When David Terry came out, I was barely able to contain my excitement. David is Aqueduct; he performs solo on his albums, but while touring, he brings a full band with him. This was my third time seeing Aqueduct, and the last time he was at the World Café Live, back in September, my friends and I got to talk to him and hang out with him for a little while. He was still touring for his latest album, Aqueduct…or Give Me Death, his third album on the Barsuk Record label.

They opened with “As Close as Your Girlfriend is Far Away,” from the EP Pistols at Dawn, and went on to play a delightful mix of both old and new songs. From the new album, they played “Keep it Together,” “The Way I Are” (which David introduced as “the most epic song from the new album”), “Split the Difference” (“the fastest Aqueduct song ever written”), and, of course, my personal favorite from the new album, “As You Wish.” It’s a song written about “the best movie ever made” – that’s right, a song about The Princess Bride. David’s lyrics are both catchy and adorable – “hearts and candy, glitter and gold is what I’m dreaming of; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is what I’m waiting for; certainly upon my return, my love won’t be ignored!”

Nor did David ignore his much-loved songs from I Sold Gold. They played “The Suggestion Box,” “Hardcore Days and Softcore Nights,” “Five Star Day,” and a lovely rendition of “Heart Design.” They ended the set with “Growing up with GNR,” possibly one of the best Aqueduct songs ever written. “Whenever you’re lonely, you are not alone,” David seeks to remind us.

The first time I saw Aqueduct, they played “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster,” but that still didn’t prepare me for their encore: a hilarious performance of Warren G’s “Regulate,” with some of his own lyrics replacing the originals. As always, David’s performance was stellar, and it would only get better when we saw him later in the week in New York City. I would highly recommend picking up his albums and making it out to his next show, if you can. He is a unique performer with a wonderful voice, great lyrics, and a stage presence that makes his smile and energy contagious.

Concert Review: Jimmy Eat World

Jimmy Eat World played at the Electric Factory to a sold-out crowd on Saturday, November 10th, on tour for their new album, Chase This Light. I was wondering what the setlist was going to be like – would they cater to the new album, or please the older fans with time-honored favorites? Typically, they do a nice mix of both, and I was hoping this would prove to be no exception. I got far more than I bargained for – maybe because it was Jim Adkins’ birthday, or maybe because they know Philadelphia loves them – we got a treat that was a setlist full of old and new songs, culminating in an amazing encore.

When they opened with “Big Casino,” the radio hit off their new album, I knew we were in for a good show. With plenty of room for all my favorite songs, they dove right in with “A Praise Chorus” – I had an immediate twinge, because at the end of that song, on the album, Davey Von Bohlen sings some of the lyrics. I was lucky enough to see them tour years ago with The Promise Ring and hear Davey come out and sing, and this time around, they were touring with Maritime, Davey’s new band. However, Maritime branched out to do their own solo tour right before they got to Philly, and Viva Voce is opening for them now. Luckily, Viva Voce is awesome, and fills in for Maritime well!

The rest of the set did not disappoint. They played several songs from Futures, including “Crush,” “Work,” “23,” and “Kill.” I was surprised to hear “Get It Faster,” a Bleed American song I had yet to hear live, and I was utterly thrilled to hear “For Me This Is Heaven,” “Lucky Denver Mint,” and “No Sensitivity” – the last one of which is from a split with the band Jebediah, and while I’ve heard it played before, I didn’t expect to hear it on this tour, with all the new songs they have in their repertoire. It was absolutely a show for the hardcore fans.

The band was obviously into the show – they were lively and bouncing around the stage. It felt great to see the band and the crowd so into it. Everyone was singing along and dancing. There was so much positive energy in the old warehouse! I was so grateful that we had managed to get tickets to the show. (A note to the show-goer: if you are ever in a situation where a show you want to go to is sold out, constantly check Ticketmaster as it gets closer and closer! Ticket sellers who can’t sell the tickets at the high prices they ask for them frequently sell them back to Ticketmaster, where you can then buy them at regular price.)

Quite possibly the most wonderful part of the show was when they came out for the encore. They opened that with a rendition of “Your House” I had never heard before, making it even more beautiful. Then, they played “Hear You Me,” a touching song off Bleed American that is rarely played. Following that was “Polaris” off of Futures, and, of course, no Jimmy Eat World concert would be the same without Sweetness. The final song, and one which Jim introduced as the one that is their most punk song, was The Middle. The entire crowd was singing along with them. It was the perfect choice to end the set.

Jimmy Eat World continues to delight fans, both with their albums and their live shows. Chase This Light is a great chapter in the book that is their success. I highly recommend purchasing it, and all of their other albums, and I also urge you to see them the next time they are in town!

Concert Review: Francis Dunnery

The first time I heard the name “Francis Dunnery” was out of my friend Paul’s mouth about a week before the concert. “You’ve GOT to come see this guy,” Paul said. “He’s amazing!” I tried to find out what he was like, but couldn’t get a straight answer. “Just come to the show,” Paul insisted. He explained to me a lot about Francis himself, but nothing about his music, citing in particular the fact that he doesn’t just play really small venues – he also does “house shows.” Basically, he will come to your house, and all you have to do is pay him a certain amount of money. So you take however much money he wants, and divide it however you desire, and then…well…you fill your house with fans, so to speak. You sell a couch cushion as a ticket. Or, if you have the money, you can just have him come and play for you (which I imagine would be sort of expensive, and also a little creepy). Intrigued by what I had heard, I decided to check him out for myself. So on Saturday, November 3rd, I headed to the Tin Angel with my friends to see this amazing man in action.

I had no idea what to expect when Dunnery himself walked out onto the stage. He had a microphone and a guitar, and his set list was a CD on the floor, from which he played all the songs in order (with a few others in between them). He introduced himself, and then announced that since he had just played at the Tin Angel not long ago, and since it was their 15th anniversary, he was going to do something special, and play his album “Tall Blonde Helicopter,” a twelve-year-old album he didn’t get to play often. He opened with a song called “48 Hours,” and I acknowledged at that moment that my friends were right: he is amazing. His music is along the lines of the current folksy trend (think The Mountain Goats or Great Lake Swimmers) but with more optimistic lyrics, and, especially the songs he played from this particular album, many interesting guitar riffs and a lot of exhaustive finger picking.

Not only is Dunnery unique and talented musically, he is also absolutely hilarious. The stories he told in between each song had the crowd roaring. In a loving and affectionate way, he explained the significance of each song before he played it – and many times, he asked the crowd, a loyal group of devoted fans, to sing along with him. My favorite part was when he told the story about the emails he receives from fans. He said how most people receive emails that say, “Hey! We loved your album! We can’t stop playing it! Please come back and play in Denmark again!” But the emails he received have subject lines that say things like, “WE HAVE TWO LLAMAS.” These people explained that they have two llamas, and they were having a baby, and the baby was conceived to his music, and they wanted Dunnery to come and play so the baby could be born to his music as well. The crowd was roaring with laughter – although, Paul admitted to me later, that was a regular story he told often. Dunnery exclaimed that he wasn’t some kind of llama entertainer, and proceeded to tell us about another email he received when he was in New England – a man emailed him and said that the next day, he would be in Central Park, at the third fountain, and at 4pm, he would get down on one knee to his girlfriend, who would also be there, and he was going to propose to her, and he wanted Dunnery to jump out of the bushes. “I was so sick of these emails that I decided I was going to go down there and do it, so I went down there and he was at the third fountain and at 4pm he got down on one knee to propose to her and I jumped out of the bushes and he screamed!”

The mix of great music and hilarious, oftentimes touching stories, definitely made me fall in love with Francis Dunnery that night. I absolutely recommend him to everyone. Keep an eye out for him at local small places, especially the Tin Angel, or possibly a living room near you.

Concert Review: Architecture in Helsinki

Architecture in Helsinki played at the North Star Bar, on October 10th, to a sweat-drenched and happy crowd of bouncy, dancing fans. The Australian sextet was originally scheduled to play at the Starlight Ballroom, but the show had a last-minute switch to the Brewerytown location. The show was set up by R5 Productions, a local Philadelphia outfit pulling in great bands from around the world to play in our city.

The North Star Bar was extremely crowded, full of happy, young kids wearing retro clothes and glasses, many with scarves tying their hair back. Others were with flowing peasant dresses, while still more wore suspenders and other wistful accessories. This was my first chance to see the band live, having just started listening to them last year, and I was not disappointed. They opened with a lively rendition of “One Heavy February,” which I thought was even more adorable when heard live. The song got the crowd moving.

Architecture in Helsinki continued with a great mix of old and new songs. From their first album, Fingers Crossed, they played “Fumble” and “Like A Call.” From In Case We Die, they played “Wishbone” – the best part of which was when Kellie Sutherland sang, “We’ll play dead! We’ll play dead!” and the other members of the band, in deep voices, replied with “We’ll play deadly!”

They also played “Do the Whirlwind” (this one was a crowd favorite), “The Cemetary” and “It’s 5!” all of which had the crowd dancing and singing along. From their latest album, Places Like This, they played “Hold Music,” “Like It or Not,” “Nothing’s Wrong,” and wrapped things up with “Heart It Races,” during which everyone was singing along.

It was a true gift to see them in action, especially during “Hold Music”; the entire band was so into the music. It illustrated the amazing point of how much Cameron Bird sounds like David Byrne, especially with the colorful lyrics, including “I bought us a dragon/to lighten the load/he’s keeping us warm/the blood keep flowing to your head!”

They are full of an enchanting energy and wonderment that matches the love and enthusiasm of their unique sound. They are like a whimsical, nostalgic version of Talking Heads, with a never-ending supply of instruments and enthusiasm. In between songs, they dashed around the stage, switching instruments and, in our case, they didn’t have a set list, so they were making it up as they went along. It was amazing to watch the controlled chaos and the cohesion the band members have with one another. It seemed like every time I stopped paying attention to what Kellie was doing, some fantastic sound would come from her side of the stage – once, the sound of a train whistle; another time, upbeat glockenspiel notes. The highlight of this ordered chaos was when Gus Franklin, who had originally started out on the drums, pulled a trombone casually from behind him and started playing it, much to the cheering crowd’s delight. In spite of the surging, sweating crowd, the lack of air conditioning, and the last-minute venue change, the show was definitely worth every moment, and I recommend them to anyone looking for some new and interesting music to check out.