Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Ellen Foley at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 7/19/07

The most unlikely comeback of the decade is an improbable success. OK, maybe not the most unlikely comeback: who knew that Vashti Bunyan would hit the road again? But this wasn’t exactly expected. As Ellen Foley told it tonight, she was sitting on former Five Chinese Brothers bassist Paul Foglino’s couch, and he suggested that they write some songs together and do some shows. Fast forward to tonight: he wrote some songs, the band worked up some her of her older material and, blam, comeback in full effect.

In addition to her career as an actress, Foley had a successful run in Europe in the 80s as a top 40 singer. Here, she remains a generational footnote, musically at least, best known for her vocals on Meatloaf’s epic monstrosity Paradise By the Dashboard Light. You know, “Stop right theeeeeeeere, I gotta know right now!” But her great shining moment was as the singer on the great lost Clash album, her 1981 Sire release Spirit of St. Louis. If you have a turntable and see this kicking around the dollar bins, by all means, pick it up: it proves that Strummer and Jones (who was her boyfriend at the time) could write gorgeously orchestrated, politically charged ballads. Foley also sang lead on Hitsville UK, the Clash’s lone (and considerably successful) venture into Motown.

Tonight, she was at the top of her game, sounding better than ever – she’s got a big, somewhat showy voice with impressive range – and looking great. Backed by an inspired 4-piece unit including Foglino and Steve Antonakos (what band is he NOT in) on guitars, Steve Houghton on bass and Kevin Hangdog on drums, she delivered a mix of some of her European hits along with Foglino’s wry, bluesy, Americana-pop songs.

On the outro to What’s the Matter Baby, she improvised an explanation: “I was replaced on Night Court by Markie Post!” The audience loved her take of We Belong to the Night (which was a #1 hit for her in Holland before Pat Benetar’s iconically schlocky version). “This song is for…Ann Coulter,” she told the crowd as they launched into a fiery version of the Stones’ Stupid Girl. Foglino may have a thing for goofy songwriting (he’s the guy who wrote the college radio classic You’re Never too Drunk to Get Drunk), but he clearly gives a damn about this unit, tailoring his material to the nuances of Foley’s voice. On one slowly swaying new tune, she mined the verse with her beautifully quiet upper register for everything she could get out of it: “These dreams shine like diamonds/But I’m digging for…coal.”

Her first encore was written about her, she told the crowd, and then did a shambling, fun version of Should I Stay or Should I Go, Antonakos having fun making up some Spanglish in place of Mick Jones’ fractured espanol. They closed the show with a fragment of the big Meatloaf hit (probably to pre-empt the wiseass element in the audience), and it was impossible to leave without a smile on your face. Where Foley wants to go with this is anybody’s guess, but even if all she wants to do is play Lakeside on the random night, she’s more fun than 99% of the other singers out there. If you have fond memories of Europe in the 80s, a thing for brilliant obscurities from the bargain bins, or just enjoy hearing a great voice, you should go see her.

July 20, 2007 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. …people you probably never heard of at places you’ve probably never been…

    Also, who the hell wants to read about the same damn groups/artists on every damn website they visit, or in every damn magazine and newspaper they peruse. ? I was irritated in a big way by this phenomenon way back in the mid-198os, when every rag in NYC and around the country was going batshit crazy for even the same “alternative” album from month to month. So it’s not new. I refused to listen to Tom Verlaine just to spite the lock-step marching of every damn critic in the English-speaking world, and blew my three bucks on a John Fahey record, instead.*

    *I shoulda’ bought up every copy of that record I could find. They’re going for a fortune on ebay nowadays. :p

    Comment by ms_xeno | July 22, 2007 | Reply

  2. Have to admit that I really wanted to see that ostensibly “last ever” Television show at Central Park…but there was no way in hell, all the diehards probably showed up at 11 AM waiting for the fences to be taken down and my days of doing that kind of stuff were over a long time ago. Verlaine’s solo stuff is pretty iffy, though, so you probably didn’t miss anything. Fahey, on the other hand – wow – I was very lucky to have seen him right before he died (at the Cooler, this dingy little club over in the Meatpacking district) – he didn’t have the chops he had back in his acoustic days but was still very cool…

    Comment by delarue | July 23, 2007 | Reply

  3. I got to see Fahey, once, at the PDX Artquake in… 1990, I think. His old partner in crime, Terry Robb, pops up often at a fried fish joint ‘n bar about twenty minutes from me. I was sitting there one day last Fall and suddenly heard one of those old deAndrade medleys that Fahey used to play on those Varrick records. I promptly forgot all about ordering a drink, having become instantly intoxicated. Of course I knew it couldn’t be him, but I’m still embarassed that I had to ask the bartender-owner to find out that it was Robb. 🙂

    Comment by ms_xeno | July 23, 2007 | Reply

  4. yeah, gotta love it, all those old guys walk around and nobody has a clue who they are. I guess that’s the way it should be anyway…

    Comment by delarue | July 25, 2007 | Reply


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