Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 10/14/08

We’ve covered several of Jenifer Jackson’s shows here before: in case you remember them, this one was characteristically good, yet different (see our index for the full list of ‘em). Moving to Austin seems to have been the right decision for her: she’s always been a captivating performer, but she seems more carefree now onstage and that ironically gives her the opportunity to really let loose the darkness in her songs. Not everything she does is dark: she loves tropicalia and bossa nova and consequently much of her ever-growing repertoire is sunny and summery, but there’s also a substantial portion that’s stormy, or pensive, or downright white-knuckle intense. Last night’s show was a mix of everything. Lots of new material. She made it a point of prefacing one of the unrecorded numbers: “I don’t ordinarily tell what a song is about. I let the audience figure it out,” she explained in characteristically inscrutable fashion, then played a very pretty, plaintive 6/8 number, The Beauty in the Emptying. It could mark the end of an affair, but as she’d explained, it was actually about clearing out all the junk at her old East Village apartment before the move.


High point of the night: “Here’s an old one,” she laughed, launching into the somewhat hypnotic, 6/8, countryish ballad After the Fall, from her 2002 cd Birds:


Love is an ocean

Love is a stone

Love is a wish that

You make on your own

If all of these ghosts would just

Leave me alone

I know that I would be free


She’d brought along her main man Billy Doughty, who played drums smartly and tersely on a single floor tom before switching to piano on one song. Then she brought up Matt Kanelos – who hadn’t played with her in a few years – to take over the keys. He played as well as Doughty had, with an equally pointed incisiveness. Their first song together was another new one, Let the Good Times Roll (NOT the old blues standard), an apprehensive, backbeat-driven anthem set off by a tasty descending series of chords. “The sign says, baby, let the good times roll,” Jackson sang, but it was with one eye looking over her shoulder: disappointment could be just around the corner. Then she changed things up with the blithe, upbeat ballad In Spring, the first of several that Kanelos had never played with the band and he absolutely nailed it. But that song is pretty intuitive: the next one, Breathe, wasn’t, but he nailed that one too, choosing his spots amidst the nooks and crannies of Jackson’s expansive guitar chords.


While she was in New York, Jackson maintained a busy schedule, playing several times a month, ironically making it easy to take her for granted. Now that she’s gone, every time she comes back is a special occasion. Moral of the story: don’t miss your favorite performers, they too may be gone before you know it. No telling when Jackson’s back in town (she’s made it back every few months since leaving); Kanelos plays a set of his own stuff at the Rockwood on Nov 7 at 7 PM.

October 15, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , ,

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