The one advantage of following an artist who is not among today's biggest stars is that you get to be close up. The venue was the basement of Bowery Electric, a small bar on the Bowery. No assigned seats -- actually, it was mostly SRO, but I was the first one down (or second -- waiting for the doors to open, I was chatting with a guy named Stuart, and he and I went down together) so I snagged one of the few chair-like things (a cushion on wheels). The stage was small ("intimate," I suppose, is the polite word), and very close. Being upclose like that is a very different experience than seeing a bigger name in a big venue. It was very much like the house concert where I saw Janey Street play, although the setup was more elaborate.
But the point is that I was watching musicians perform, but I wasn't much fartehr away from them than I would have been if I had been having a normal conversation with them. At my day job, I've had plenty of meetings in which I've talked to people over a farther distance. You can see the emotion on the singer's face, see the strings vibrate on the bass guitar.
The show was billed as Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, with Rebecca Pronsky as an opening act. As it turns out, there was a third act -- sort of an opening opening act. I didn't catch her name. Kaye something?
Kaye's performance was a bit odd. Just her and a ukulele (which she sometimes played with a bow, like a viola). She did, however, have a digital loop effect so she could make it sound like there were several people playing ukuleles (or viola-ukes). I couldn't help wondering if this was her first time performing onstage in front of an audience. A couple of times she would have to restart a song because of some mistake she'd made. Also, she was reading either the lyrics or the chord progressions from a sheet of paper that she kept on a chair beside her. Her choice of of material was also a bit odd. I think it was all cover tunes, though I only recognized one of them -- Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls."
And that, I guess, gets at the heart of the song. There's a certain incongruity in hearing a Queen Song performed on a ukulele. And, of coouyrse, that wasn't the only song she did was writtne from the point of view of someone appreciating the female form. Her first song, the title of which I didn't catch, was also from that poerspective, and explicitly identified the singer as male. So I, as a heterosexual male, couldn't help but wonder if Kaye is gay, or if she just likes those particular songs?
Kaye was followed by Rebecca Pronsky, who was much better. Pronsky, whom I hadn't heard of, is part of Brooklyn's music scene. She was accompanied by her guitarist (and, I suspect, significant other), Rich Bennet. She seemed, in some ways, to be a country singer, though the arrangements were more Duane Eddy-ish. I suppose a big part of that is due to the Bennet's haunting guitar twang. It was a short set, that I wished would go on longer. It was enough to convince me to buy copies of both CDs that she was selling.
When Eric and Amy started their set, there was an immediate shift in energy. Rebecca's set had been subddued and measured. Then Eric and Amy start in, quite loudly with electric guitar and electric bass. Suddenly the prior set seemed constricted. They concentrated on material from the three albums they did together (the third is just out), which is understandable, though a bit dissapointing. My knowledge of Eric's music is encyclopedic when it comes to his Stiff Records years, and reasonable for the years after. But I'm not as up on all the material he and Amy did together. And they didn't do "Men in Sandals" or "Astrovan," which are possibly their best know material from recent years. I think the highpoint was "I Get Out of Breath," (from Two-Way Family Favourites), which I recognize as a Turtles song, though I don't think they were the original performers of it either. I also really enjoyed "Zero to Minus One" from the new album, and a song which they described as being about how they met, but which I don't recognize from any of their albums. I'll have to look into that. I would have loved to hear them do "The Downside of Being a Fuck Up" from their eponymous album.
They pretty much eschewed their pre-coupling material for the show, though for an encore they did one song from each of their prior careers. For him it was "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World," and from hers it was "Dancing with Joey Ramone." Then, they closed with "I Still Miss Someone."
I left elated. As I've noted in prior posts, I've been a big fan of Eric's for 30 years or so. Watching him now isn't the same as it would have been back in the eighties, during the peak of his career. He's pushing sixty, and doesn't have the same energy. The music isn't the same anymore. But damn if it isn't fun to watch him.
The following video of "Dancing with Joey Ramone" isn't from the concert in question. But it should give you an idea...