Friday, February 8, 2008

Concert Report: Lucy Kaplansky @ Tupelo Music Hall

We interrupt Project Ticket Stub for an honest to goodness concert report. Patti and I saw Lucy Kaplansky last Friday night at Tupelo Music Hall.

I remember vividly the very first time I heard Lucy on the radio. It was 1995 and I was driving to work. As I was pulling into the parking lot this song came on, and I was mesmerized by both the voice and the lyrics. I parked my car and sat there amazed at what I was hearing. There was no way I was leaving my car until I found out who it was. I sat for a full 15-minutes until the set was over, and finally the DJ told me that I had heard Lucy singing the title song to her first album, The Tide.

Since that day I've seen Lucy, oh, I bet a dozen times. Solo. Co-bills with Richard Shindell. And three times during the wonderful year when Lucy, Richard, and Dar Williams teamed up and toured as Cry Cry Cry.

Lucy is known both for her own songwriting, as well as for her covers. And the covers are what really stood out for me Friday night. She opened with Nerissa Nields' "I Know What Kind of Love This Is", singing it sadder and slower than the Cry Cry Cry version. While I missed the harmony of Dar's voice, Lucy's solo of this song is heart wrenching, and you could tell that even Lucy was close to having tears in her eyes. Ah, nothing like a good dose of sad to start the evening off, eh?

A surprise cover was Susan Werner's "May I Suggest." This is new to Lucy's concert repertoire. She heard Susan do it this past summer at the Falcon Ridge Folk festival, and only recently printed out the lyrics and learned it. I am so used to Susan's version that Lucy's version just didn't seem right to me. But I'm sure that was just because my brain cells were expecting Susan but hearing Lucy.

Lucy also did Sir Paul McCartney's "Let It Be" on the Music Hall's baby grand piano. I don't recall if I have ever heard her do it before, but I loved it. She also pulled out Gram Parsons' "Return of the Grievous Angel", which she recorded on the Flesh and Bone album. When the album came out in 1996 I didn't like her cover of this song, probably because my mind wanted to compare it to Emmylou Harris' version. But over the years I have come to love Lucy's version as much as Emmylou's.

Patti and I were happy that she has returned to singing one of her Dad's songs mid-set again, and we cheered when she introduced it - prompting the familiar "I see he has fans" comment from Lucy. Her dad wasn't a song writer, but a musically-gifted mathematician who wrote a handful of wonderfully oddball songs. And Lucy has long talked about her dad and performed one of his songs during her shows, much to the delight of her regular fans. Well, Irving Kaplansky died at the ripe old age of 89 about a year and a half ago. It wasn't unexpected, and Lucy did get to say goodbye to him, but for a long time afterward she just couldn't bring herself to sing his songs in her show. Happily, she's back to making us Irving Kaplansky fans satisfied again, and she sang "A Song About Pi" for us. I would have preferred "On A Rocket Ship for Two", but I'll take what I can get. She closed the show with "Today's The Day", a song she wrote shortly after her dad passed away:

Tonight's the night I'll say goodbye
The last time that I can
I'll kiss your sleeping head
And hold your dying hand

Yea, not a dry eye in the house. As the concert started, so it ended.

The opening act was an up and coming young singer songwriter, Liz Longley. Liz is a student at Berklee College of Music, and wow, she is packed with poise and talent. Her voice can be silky and sultry, or bluesy and biting. Her songwriting craft isn't bad for someone who is just twenty years old. And she is quite poised on stage. She got good laughs from the audience, like when she told us she felt old because she had just turned twenty. As the mostly middle-aged audience laughed, she peered out at us and said "oh, wrong audience." I'm sure she has one heck of a career ahead of her, and you can check out her music on her MySpace page.

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