Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The Moonlighters at Barbes 6/23/07

For awhile the Moonlighters were ubiquitous on the NYC club circuit.  In case you haven’t seen them lately, you should. This is basically a brand-new band: of the pioneering old-timey quartet’s original members, only frontwoman/ukelele player Bliss Blood remains. Yet they’re better than ever. The new Daria (as denizens of the scene might say) is singer/guitarist Cindy Ball, whose harmony vocals and playing are spot-on, and she has the Gatsby-era look down cold. Upright bassist Peter Maness is a concise, incisive cat, especially when he solos. But their best acquisition is guitarist/banjoist/baritone sax player Ken Mosher, late of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. He’s brought back the fire that was missing since the Moonlighters’ original steel guitarist Henry Bogdan left for Hawaii and then the Helmet reunion tour.

They opened their first set with a typically charming version of Big Times, the two women in the band blending voices exquisitely. “Let’s do a tango,” smiled Blood, and they launched into the haunting Dirt Road Life, a day in the life of a sweatshop worker. “I’ve tried to wash it off, I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but it’s stuck there inside like a scar in my side,” went the refrain: though they’re best known (and rightfully so) for their authentically retro, romantic stylings, the Moonlighters have a social awarness to rival that of the Clash. They followed with Broken Doll, from their most recent album Surrender, the first of several “snuff torch songs” that Blood has been playing with this unit and another project, the deliciously sinister Nightcall. Then they picked up the pace with the sprightly hobo tune Special Cannonball and the wistful melancholia of Every Little Teardrop. Mosher punctuated the following tune, Never Be the Same with a sizzling, jazzy electric guitar solo as the band took it to warp speed.

Mosher switched to banjo for the swinging, jauntily optimistic Farewell to the Blues, and for a minute it was as if the little back room had become a speakeasy circa 1928 – or sometime before the crash, anyway. There are innumerable other old-time bands out there – basically everybody who plays Pete’s Candy Store these days – but the Moonlighters were one of the first and remain just about the best. Maness took a decisive little stroll to open the next number, the sprawling, crescendoing, multi-part Ziegfeld Doll, written by their former guitarist/singer Carla Murray. After an innuendo-laden 6/8 pop tune from the 20s with another blazing Mosher guitar solo, they closed their first set with a crowd-pleaser from their early period, Makin’ Wicky-Wacky Down in Waikiki. The audience – especially the young couples – loved it. New York crowds take this kind of show for granted: see this band now while you can before the only venues left standing are VIP DJ lounges in luxury hotels.

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June 29, 2007 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. I wrote “Big Times”, not Leonard Bernstein, but thanks for thinking he did!

    Comment by Bliss Blood | June 30, 2007 | Reply

  2. […]  The reliably delightful Moonlighters headlined, but we had places to go and things go do; however, you can read a review of an excellent show they did at Barbes last month here. […]

    Pingback by Concert Review: Al Duvall/Carolyn AlRoy/Matt Keating at the Living Room 7/21/07 « Lucid Culture | July 21, 2007 | Reply

  3. […] Sept 28, 9 PM the reliably effervescent, wickedly smart Bliss Blood of the Moonlighters hosts Ukulele Night at the Jalopy Theatre, 315 Columbia St, Red Hook, $10.00, B61 bus (which you can […]

    Pingback by NYC Live Music Calendar 9/26-10/13/07 « Lucid Culture | September 26, 2007 | Reply

  4. […] Nov 11 speaking of authentically retro, the Moonlighters play Rose Bar in Williamsburg at 8 […]

    Pingback by NYC Live Events Calendar 11/8-12/3/07 « Lucid Culture | November 9, 2007 | Reply


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