Saturday, March 28, 2009

Concert Report: Richard Shindell @ Tupelo Music Hall

Patti and I were back at Tupelo on Thursday night, March 26, for Richard Shindell's 90-minute set. It's been just over a year since we last saw Richard play, also at Tupelo.

Richard Shindell at Tupelo Music Hall, March 26, 2009

Richard's new album, Not Far Now, is just weeks old, so I was somewhat surprised we only got two songs from it all night long. One was Get Up Clara, a simple and nearly silly tune in which a weary traveler begs his mule to get up and get going. Set in the Roman empire, the song plays on "roaming" and "Roman" for its lyrical twist. The other song from the new album was Balloon Man, a wonderful description of a character from Richard's adopted town of Buenos Aires who sells balloons to children in the city's parks. The sight of the balloon man makes everyone smile, in real life as well as in my mind's eye:

balloon man's a little bit ragged
his glasses are slightly askew
one lens is cracked and shoes never match
he might have a screw loose or two
his rig is a marvel of equipoise
Leonardo might've designed
bamboo for the wide horizontal
pine for the vertical rise
he's wearing in a flag-bearers harness
he's holding the whole thing aloft
balloons all arrayed, he's a one man parade
if he ran he'd surely take off

Richard's cover of Glen Patscha's (of Ollabelle) Blue Northern Lights was a great and welcome surprise. Richard recently did a small tour with Ollabelle, and he picked this song up during that stint. I also heard at least one audible gasp of happy surprise in the audience when Richard launched into Leonard Cohen's Famous Blue Raincoat.

Richard continued what is for me an unbroken string of messing up the lyrics to Transit for, I think, the third for fourth time in a row. I don't know what it is about that particular song, but Richard seems unable to get through whole thing without a lyrics flub at some point. I sort of love that, though, as it makes him human. He also flubbed the second verse of Fishing, one of my all-time favorite Shindell songs. Fishing is a haunting fictional tale of an INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) interrogation, and perhaps this is the perfect point for me to include a YouTube video for those of you who are not yet familiar with his music. Watch this:

By far the biggest audience reaction of the night came when he played Are You Happy Now? — isn't it funny how we seem to love bitter breakup songs? This song is set on Halloween night, and our storyteller sits in the dark after his lover has left him. I particularly love the imagery of the second verse:

I smashed your pumpkin on the floor
The candle flickered at my feet
As goblins flew across the room
The children peered into the room
A cowboy shivered on the porch
As Cinderella checked her watch
A hobo waited in the street
An angel whispered, trick-or-treat
But what was I supposed to do
But to sit there in the dark?
I was amazed to think that you
Could take the candy with you too
Are you happy now?

Man! Nothing like a good breakup song to make use feel better, eh? The first verse also contains what I consider to be signature Shindell lyric hooks - look at his use of "role" and "roll", as well as color — black, white, gray, and red:

You left your camera on the bed
Where we played roles in black and white
You left a roll of black and white
I set the timer and thought of you
And put the lens up to my head
I took a photograph for you
What comes out gray is really red

I was thrilled to find this version of the song on YouTube:

Richard mostly played his acoustic guitar, but switched to bouzouki for, if my notes are correct, three songs — Robbie Robertson's Acadian Driftwood, and his own A Summer Wind, A Cotton Dress, and Reunion Hill.

Richard Shindell at Tupelo Music Hall, March 26, 2009

Here's one more video from YouTube, this one of Richard performing A Summer Wind, A Cotton Dress so that you can hear what the bouzouki sounds like:

All in all, a fine night of entertainment by one of my favorite songwriters. As usual, the photos above are my own, and you can view the full set on Flickr.

Richard Shindell
Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The Island
Acadian Driftwood (Robbie Robertson)
Blue Northern Lights (Glenn Patscha)
Get Up Clara
Poor Wayfaring Stranger (Traditional)
A Summer Wind, A Cotton Dress
Balloon Man
Sitting on Top of the World (Traditional)
Reunion Hill
Are You Happy Now?
So Says the Whippoorwill
Famous Blue Raincoat (Leonard Cohen)
Last Fare of the Day
There Goes Mavis
Encore: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy (Pete Seeger)

1 comment:

Exclusive Music said...

Was a great show, i am following his music.