Saturday, January 17, 2009

Concert Report: Lucy Kaplansky @ Tupelo Music Hall

Lucy Kaplansky at Tupelo Music Hall, January 16, 2009

Patti and I last saw Lucy Kaplansky at our favorite local venue, the Tupelo Music Hall, just about a year ago. She was back again last night, on a single-digit cold Friday night. Lucy seemed genuinely thankful for the turnout when the crowd let her know that, yes, this was cold even by New Hampshire standards; the room was probably at a bit more than half capacity.

Lucy opened with her haunting cover of the traditional Scottish song, Loch Lomond, one of the three four as-yet unrecorded covers she performed during her 75-minute set.

The second cover of the night was a beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, performed on the Tupelo's baby grand piano. Lucy said this was the first time she had performed that particular song in concert. I am all for having this in her regular rotation. I guess most people are familiar with the Rufus Wainwright version used in the Shrek soundtrack, but there are a ton of wonderful covers (including, now, Lucy's!). I just had a blast browsing through a bunch of versions on YouTube, including versions by Jeff Buckley, K.D. Lang, Bob Dylan (a live audience recording), Sheryl Crow, John Cale (!), Bon Jovi (that one was a surprise), Allison Crowe (wow, who is she and why haven't I heard her before? fantastic voice!), and of course a version by Cohen himself.

Lucy Kaplansky at Tupelo Music Hall, January 16, 2009

Also covered on the baby grand, later in the set, was Lucy's version of Lennon and McCartney's "Let It Be." We also heard that last year, and it would take me a long time to tire of hearing her sing it. Lucy mentioned that she is considering a new CD containing nothing but stripped down live take versions of covers such as Loch Lomond, Hallelujah, and Let It Be. A number of us in the audience did our best to encourage her to do it. Personally I'd love an album like that. Even more so if she included one or more of her dad's songs, which she said it would.

Speaking of her dad (the late mathematician Irving Kaplansky), Lucy told of recently taking her daughter, Molly, to the New York Hall of Science. One of the current exhibits is a math exhibit (Mathematica: A World of Numbers), and Lucy couldn't help but break down in tears when she spotted a photo of her dad in the exhibit. She explained to Molly how much it meant to her to see her dad in the exhibit. This must have made quite an impression, as weeks later Molly (who is all of 6 years old) was talking about how she wanted to grow up and do math, just like her grandpa. Oh, and our Irving Kaplansky cover song of the night was A Song About Pi.

After performing Hallelujah and her own Just You Tonight on piano Lucy switched back to guitar to "lighten it up." I asked her if that was even possible, and she said something like "for a little while, at least." So Patti and I shared a laugh when she then launched into Don't Mind Me, a song about maniacal obsession, followed by Scorpion, arguably another song about maniacal obsession!

Don't mind me
I'm just a bit maniacal about you
And derailed when I'm without you
Don't mind me

Gonna sting you with a kiss from my lips
Gonna sting you with a piece of my mind
Gonna sting you with a taste of my skin
Then you're mine, then you're mine

Here's a nice version of Scorpion from YouTube, probably from sometime in the past year or two:

Another good example of Lucy's work, and also a song we were treated to toward the end of the set, is this version of Lucy performing Ring of Fire:

The set ending Guinevere was a nice treat of an oldie. Lucy recorded this Robin Batteau song on her first album, The Tide, originally released in 1994. It's nice to hear a song that isn't in regular rotation anymore.

The set list:

Loch Lomond (Traditional)
Line in the Sand
Mother's Day
Ten Year Night
Manhattan Moon
Somewhere Out There
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
Just You Tonight
Don't Mind Me
More Than This
A Song About Pi (Irving Kaplansky)
When You Love Someone
Sleep Little Darling
Let It Be (Lennon/McCartney)
Ring of Fire (June Carter/Merle Kilgore)
Guinevere (Robin Batteau)
Encore: The Red Thread

The opening act was Karen Grenier, a local artist from Nashua, NH. Strong voice and good guitar skills, she played a nice seven song set. Some of her own songs, including the opening When I Say I Love You and closing One Life were just a tad too close to sounding like Indigo Girls wanna-be songs for my taste. Not that that is bad, but I preferred songs like Superhero, which to my ear just sounded like her own voice rather than an imitation. The set highlight for me, though, was an incredibly strong version of Tom Waits' Jersey Girl. She gets two thumbs up from me for that cover alone. Her set:

When I Say I Love You
Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)
Love Will Come
Jersey Girl (Tom Waits)
One Life

Photographic notes: I posted the two photos above, along with four others, in a flickr photo set. The photos, as posted, are straight out of the camera with no post-processing (although resized down via the Flickr Uploadr application). This was my first chance to try out my new Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens. I do like having some zoom ability, but I also did miss the f/1.8 aperture of my fixed 50mm lens. I shot in shutter speed priority mode at 1/50 sec., ISO 1600. I think I like the piano shot the best. I wish I had the ability to take lots of shots and really play around, but the Tupelo is such a small and audience-focused venue that I am always very conservative - never taking more than about 10 or 12 shots during an entire show, and trying to be as non-distracting to the other patrons (and the artists) as possible. To me, even the sound of my shutter going off is too loud in that environment.

1 comment:

Adrian said...

hi Tom ~

Sorry to not have posted sooner, but, searching for some new images of Allison Crowe (to whom I serve as manager), I've come across your Lucy Kaplansky review - and can answer your question.

Allison is a Canadian singer-songwriter based on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. She's independent and tours Europe primarily. Cross-border regulations make it difficult for acts who aren't part of the mainstream or corporate structure.

So, online is where you hear Allison's music mostly - on YouTube, where you've discovered her, and on her own site where you'll find all her original songs freely available (and samples of her covers).

best of the Summer to you! thanks for your kind mention, Ad