Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review from the Archives: The Railway Children at the Marquee, NYC 11/21/90

[editor’s note: since we’re off for Thanksgiving, we’re putting up stuff from the archives each day while we’re away. Maybe you were there for some of these!]

Jangly Manchester band the Railway Children’s new CD Native Place is a slick and trebly overproduced mess, with synthesizers where the band would ordinarily use layers of guitars, so the game plan tonight was to find out how well they would play the songs if left to their own devices. Pretty well is the answer. The concert consisted of virtually all new material plus songs which are either brand-new, bonus cuts from the cd or from some hitherto unknown ep. They opened with It’s Heaven, which really rocks live without the stupid synth hook on the album. They continued with new material until about a third of the way through the show when the sound was suddenly boosted to earsplitting levels, bass and vocals distorting, drowning out the other instruments and turning the sound into a painfully fuzzy soup. After this happened, the anthemic Over and Over and A Pleasure were anything but that: the latter song’s deliciously recurrent Rickenbacker guitar arpeggios were for all intents and purposes inaudible. A real disappointment, especially in the wake of their excellent Staten Island performance earlier this fall. But it wasn’t the band’s fault.

[postscript: the band, a post-Smiths, 2-guitar unit put out three albums before imploding in the early 90s. Their first record, Reunion Wilderness, was a bracing, jazz-inflected effort, although with its incessant 2/4 dance beat, it was pretty monochromatic. Their second, Recurrence was their high-water mark, filled with pretty, major-key songs including the obscure classic A Pleasure (which became a live concert staple). The overproduced album they were promoting on this tour gained them a big club hit but alienated their core audience, a gaffe from which the band never recovered. The venue, a hangar-like former warehouse space in Chelsea, closed in about 1993, outlasting the band by barely a year. ]

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November 22, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Adam Masterson at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 5/1/07

So often the best shows are the ones you never expect to see. The only reason I was there was because a friend of mine was tending bar and invited me down to alleviate the boredom on what was to soon become a slow rainy night.We had the place to ourselves til Adam Masterson showed up. Neither one of us had any idea of what to expect and cynic that I am, I expected the worst. After screwing around with the soundboard for half an hour, the bartender and I finally got it up and running, soundchecked the guy and then kicked back with a beer. The club was empty except for us: Masterson’s crowd was depleted since he’d played a gig the previous night.

He piqued our interest during soundcheck: to say that his guitar skills are a cut above your average performer is faint praise, in this post-grunge era, but he impressed with his sense of melody and the licks he threw in between chords. Then he took a seat at the piano and showed us a rolling, gospel-inflected chordal style. He launched into his set before anyone else got to the bar.

Two hours and three sets later, he’d made a fan of everyone who’d braved the rain. What a discovery this guy is: you should see him. He’s British, sounding a lot like a young, pre-delirium tremens Shane MacGowan, casting himself as an acoustic punk gutter poet of sorts. Most of his vivid, hook-driven tales of life among the down-and-out take place in “twisted nightmare alleys past rotten rags and half-chewed chicken bones,” to quote a line from one of his songs. He delivers them in a hoarse, soul-inflected voice (which rang especially true on a rousing cover of Sam Cooke’s Change Is Gonna Come).

The first of the night’s two best songs was a surprise cover of the obscure Clash b-side Gates of the West (available on the Super Black Market Clash anthology), an apt choice for an expatriate. He didn’t do it note for note with the original, but the bittersweet longing of someone who made it “from Camden Town Station to 44th and 8th” and still feels like an outcast here rang true.

The other was his strongest original, a brilliantly catchy portrait of dejection and despair in the London slums. While Masterson’s lyrics generally express optimism despite all odds, this haunting story of a junkie, his prostitute girlfriend and their sketchy neighborhood doesn’t end well: To his credit, Masterson could have gone all mawkish and romanticized it, but he didn’t.

In what amounted to about two hours onstage, he did several other impressive originals (sometimes more than once for the sake of latecomers), including the fiery Can’t Control Myself and My Only Way Out; Avenue Walk (a piano song that could be a dead ringer for a swinging, country-inflected Sam Llanas Bodeans hit); Metropolitan, a London cityscape set to a rolling piano melody, and the 6/8 cabaret blues The Actress, which casts drugs as an actress who’s always there for the “show, show, show.” Mighty good stuff. Masterson is a rock band type at heart, but he’s a passionate performer and an uncommonly intelligent songwriter and for that reason very much worth seeing play solo. Fitting that I’d see this guy for the first time on a rainy night in what used to be a slum. Masterson has a demo cd that’s worth taking home for the songs even if it doesn’t capture the fire of his live performance.

May 4, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment