Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch and Abby Travis at the Delancey, NYC 1/22/09

Botanica frontman/keyboardist Paul Wallfisch has taken over booking Thursdays upstairs at the Delancey, effectively creating one of the very few “must-see” nights anywhere in the New York rock scene, especially considering that for the time being it’s free. Simply put, New York hasn’t had a consistent home for intelligent, challenging rock and rock-related music since Tonic closed two and a half years ago. With this new series, playfully titled Small Beast, Wallfisch aims to change that. Typically, he starts the evening solo on piano, perhaps introducing a guest or two and then bringing up the night’s featured artist or artists.


In a fascinating if all-too brief forty minutes, Wallfisch ran through a set that illustrated pretty much every style his band plays: an eerie, carnivalesque tune; a fast, scurrying ragtimish number, a noir minor-key blues and the pretty, impressionistic A Matter of Taste, with echoes of the Strawbs’ classic New World on the chorus: “I’m not the tragic figure I once was,” he sang nonchalantly. Then he launched into the gorgeous lament Eleganza and Wines (from Botanica’s most recent US release, Berlin Hi-Fi) and as usual, he used it as a lesson in 7/8 time, getting the crowd to clap and stomp along and for the most part this was successful. Who says American audiences don’t understand anything other than 4/4, anyway? He closed with a Jacques Brel cover and then the fiery, politically charged gypsy rocker How and finally took the solo that everybody’d been waiting for, part high romantic anguish, part sly Tom Waits blues.


Torchy balladeer Abby Travis followed with a gorgeously melodic, frequently riveting, mostly solo show. A striking presence on the small stage, she held the crowd rapt through almost an hour’s worth of songs. As well-known a sidewoman (she’s made a living playing bass on tour with innumerable big-name acts) as she is a songwriter, she impressed as much with her writing and her vocals as with her chops. The obvious comparison is Jeff Lynne: like the ELO mastermind, Travis welds an ironclad pop intelligence to a big dramatic sensibility, in her case part classical and part noir cabaret. “I look in the mirror and see myself dead,” she sang on the first of several big anthems, dramatic yet understatedly so: impressive as her range is and as much as she likes to leap around and belt, she doesn’t overdo it and that only adds to her songs’ considerable suspense. The best song of the night was a new number, Lulu, a lush, crescendoing anthem that built to a chorus rich with subdued longing and anguish, a tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on Out of the Blue or A New World Record.


After a few more on piano, she switched to bass. The idea of just bass and vocals might sound supremely boring, but Travis gave a clinic in smart, tuneful playing. With a muscular, fluidly melodic style, she demonstrated effortless command of every weapon in a good bassist’s arsenal – chords, slides, hammer-ons and vibrato – without wasting a single note or inflection, on an original and then a stunningly good cover of I Put a Spell on You. The world may be full of great bass players, but this was really something special.


Then she brought up Wallfisch to take over the keys on the beautiful, regretful anthem Now Was and then another big, torchy original, Hangover Flower: “Your seeds are lying on my bed, the hangover flower is in bloom,” she sang with nonchalant, breathy sarcasm. Travis then went out the way she came in, solo on piano with yet another big 6/8 ballad possibly titled Our Last Ride. Travis makes much of her material available generously via her podcast; New Yorkers who remember the glory day of Lisa Lost’s noir pop band DollHouse about eight years ago will love Travis’ stuff. Readers in the LA area ought to go check out her upcoming show on Feb 3 at the Cavern Club, 1920 Hyperion Ave in Silverlake.

January 24, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Ba­by Dee Botan­ic­a fr­on­tm­an­/k­ey­boar­d­is­t Pau­l W­allfisch has taken­ ov­er bookin­g­ Thu­rsd­ay­s u­pstairs at the D­elanc­ey­, effec­t­iv­ely c­reat­ing­ o­ne o­f t­he v­ery few “m­ust­-see” nig­ht­s anywhere in t­he New Yo­rk­ ro­c­k­ sc­ene, esp­ec­ially c­o­nsid­ering­ t­hat­ fo­r t­he t­im­e being­ it­’s free. Sim­p­ly p­ut­, New Yo­rk­ hasn’t­ had­ a c­o­nsist­ent­ ho­m­e fo­r int­ellig­ent­, c­halleng­ing­ ro­c­k­ and­ ro­c­k­-relat­ed­ m­usic­ sinc­e T­o­nic­ c­lo­sed­ t­wo­ and­ a half years ag­o­. Wit­h t­his new series, p­layfully t­it­led­ S­m­all B­e­as­t, Wa­llfisch a­im­s to cha­n­g­e­ tha­t. Ty­p­ica­lly­, he­ sta­rts the­ e­ve­n­in­g­ solo on­ p­ia­n­o, p­e­rha­p­s in­trodu­cin­g­ a­ g­u­e­st or two a­n­d the­n­ brin­g­in­g­ u­p­ the­ n­ig­ht’s fe­a­tu­re­d a­rtist or a­rtists.” [Lucid Cult­ure] […]

    Pingback by Baby Dee (w/ Andrew WK), Little Annie, Paul Wallfisch & Erik Sanko @ The Delancey, NYC - pics | Beautiful Lie - Music & Beyond | May 5, 2009 | Reply

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