Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Matt Kanelos at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 11/7/08

Running does wonders for songwriting. Highly respected as a pianist and sideman, Matt Kanelos is also a runner, and his melodies have the kind of repetitive insistence that runs through your mind after a few miles (or a few hundred feet, depending on your endurance level). Last night at the Rockwood he and his superbly tasteful band kept the room hushed throughout a roughly 40-minute set of terse, subtle, low-key songs. Beginning and ending the show on piano, he played acoustic guitar on the rest of the material, frequently fingerpicking and demonstrating the same craftsmanship that’s become his drawing card. Many of the songs in the set used traditional Americana melodies as their starting point, imaginatively embellished much in the same vein as Matt Keating or Tandy in a more reflective moment. A couple of times the band hit the overdrive pedal and took them doublespeed – there weren’t a lot of crescendos, but they made the most of them. The lead guitarist was especially captivating, flavoring the first song with beautifully pointillistic passages with a late-period Jerry Garcia feel, later adding gorgeously nuanced slide work to a couple of others. The rhythm section was subtle and imaginative, the bassist adding fleet, nimble climbs and jumps as the songs built, the drummer thoughtful and incisive with the occasional rimshot or big whoosh on a cymbal. They even built one to a brief, noisy and effectively jarring bop-jazz interlude before returning to its quiet ambience.


While Kanelos’ melodies draw the listener in, his vocals for one reason or another didn’t cut through. To his credit, he didn’t bleat or Pearl Jam the vocals. He really didn’t do much of anything –  whenever the songs hit a swell, the lyrics were inaudible. And that didn’t seem to be the Rockwood’s fault: owner Ken Rockwood, a sonic magician, was working the board himself. What this band screams out for, quietly, insistently and hypnotically, is a Chet Baker type horn or string player who can croon a little (Roland Satterwhite, you around?) or a chanteuse who can take Kanelos’ captivating songs to the next level.

November 8, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , ,

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