Tag: concerts

Lunchtime doo-wop

Thursday, July 31st, 2008 | All Things, Music

Throughout the years, I end up at my share of evening musical performances, but for sheer value and variety, it’s difficult to beat the free weekday afternoon recitals. The Financial District, especially, is full of options: Trinity Church’s Concerts at One and the Juilliard Artists at 180 Maiden Lane are just a couple of the more popular options. And in my own office building, the Woodhill Players perform lunch hour concerts in the historic lobby Tuesdays and Thursday during the summer.

The World Financial Center hosts a series of noontime concerts as part of the River to River Festival and this afternoon’s featured act was The Persuasions, the self-proclaimed “deans of streetcorner singing.” The weekend before, the a cappella group performed here as part of “The Big River Project: The Music of Johnny Cash” — a week-long celebration of The Man in Black’s music. (Where was Cash impersonator extraordinaire Vince Mira?)

The quintet began as boys singing on the streets of Bed-Stuy in 1962. They were discovered after sending a demo tape to Frank Zappa in 1968, who signed them to his Bizarre Records label. Later, the group recorded a tribute album to Zappa’s music, and went on to cover other such varied acts as The Grateful Dead, The Beatles and U2.

The blazing summer sun drove us inside the climate-controlled Winter Garden, from which we caught snippets of The Persuasion’s classic doo-wop, R&B and pop music repertoire as it came in from the Plaza. I recognized “Come Go With Me” and “Lean on Me”. At one point, SYB asked, “Isn’t that ‘Under the Boardwalk’?”

Through the glass, it all sounded a little like “Under the Boardwalk“.

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I like a Gershwin tune

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 | All Things, Arts, Music

In Nelson A. Rockefeller Park at the North end of Battery Park City, where singer Patti Austin was performing the music of George and Ira Gershwin as part of the summer’s River to River Festival.

I grew up on classic studio films and Hollywood musicals, which probably makes me more familiar with the Great American Songbook than my fellow Gen-X and younger cohorts, many of whom associate the songs with cocktail lounges, wedding receptions, and um… movies starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Nowadays, artists like Peter Cincotti, Michael Bublé and (still, sometimes) Harry Connick, Jr. carry on the torch for a new generation… though I don’t know that their fan bases would be considered particularly youthful.

The GAS was the soundtrack of American life for more than half a century, and pre-1960 recordings abound. In this decade, Rod Stewart recorded four volumes of the Songbook, but my recommendation to those looking for a primer is decidedly more old school than Rod the Mod: Ella Fitzgerald’s Songbooks. All eight of the studio albums comprising the series were re-released as a box set by Verve in 1993.

In February, Austin won the Best Jazz Vocal Album Grammy for her tribute album, Avant Gershwin — 53 years and 16 albums after landing her first record contract at the age of 5. She harbors no ill will for her late-career recognition, though she did publicly thank Elvis Costello for knocking up “that b*tch Diana Krall” (who owns Grammys for both Best Jazz Vocal Album and Jazz Vocal Performance.)

From the stage facing the Hudson, Austin wowed the crowd with jazzed up versions of classics like “I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise,” “Funny Face,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and “Our Love Is Here To Stay.”

The man who only lives for making money
Lives a life that isn’t necessarily sunny;
Likewise the man who works for fame —
There’s no guarantee that time won’t erase his name.
The fact is
The only work that really brings enjoyment
Is the kind that is for girl and boy meant.
Fall in love — you won’t regret it.
That’s the best work of all, if you can get it.

— “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” George and Ira Gershwin (1937)

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Nada Surf at Terminal 5

Friday, April 11th, 2008 | All Things, Music

The independent New York City concert-promoters at Bowery Presents opened Terminal 5 in the former Club Exit on far West 56th Street in October 2007. With a capacity of 3,000, this is the newest and largest venue in an empire of club holdings that includes the Mercury Lounge, the Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, and the Music Hall of Williamsburg (ne Northsix). The 40,000-square-foot cavern underwent a multi-million dollar industrial-chic renovation by architect Brian Swier, who also led the redesign on the Williamsburg factory space.

The main floor features the performance space, 40-foot ceilings with exposed ductwork (and a disco ball), and two tiers of wrap-around mezzanines. The third floor bar serves empanadas from the swankified Empanada Mama in Hells Kitchen.

We arrived tonight, catching the last 15 minutes of Superdrag‘s opening set (and encountering at least one very enthusiastic superfan in the process.) We had opted for positions near the front on the floor, in full view of the stage set-up, which involved a series of five large round mirrors that reflected back into the crowd. By the time Nada Surf took the stage it was nearly 10.

The band was on tour to promote their fifth studio album, Lucky. Almost improbably it seems, the Brooklyn-based trio has been around for over a decade: back in 1996, their novelty hit “Popular” was on endless rotation on MTV — amusing in its skewering of teenage romance clichés, if not particularly representative of their later sound. (In his intro to the song, lead singer-guitarist Matthew Caws insisted that the band still enjoys performing it, despite rumors to the contrary.)

The multi-talented Martin Wenk of Calexico joined bassist Daniel Lorca and drummer Ira Elliot on back-up horns during a cheerful set that ran over 90 minutes. Caws interacted with his audience affably, inviting several sing-a-longs, and at one point, coaxed the crowd into a jaunty arm-waving two-step during what he called the band’s attempt at a Motown song, “Inside of Love.”

Caws dedicated “Beautiful Beat” off of Lucky to his first boss from a “basement record store on Cornelia Street“ (who was watching the concert from the first balcony — I wonder about the acoustics in the upper reaches). At the same time, he worked in a plug for Record Store Day (April 19) — a day to honor independently owned record stores across the country.

The four-song encore included the familiar “Blonde on Blonde” and “Always Love.” And here’s a video of the show’s “Blankest Year” finale. The tunes are not edgy; indeed Nada Surf’s music has a certain generic indie-poppiness that makes it extremely soundtrack-friendly. But sometimes — what can I say? — I’m a sucker for a competently crafted melodic hook. Judging from the loyal fanbase at Terminal 5 tonight, I’m not the only one.

The following night, Nada Surf continued their tour in Washington, D.C. Listen to a live recording of their entire April 12th performance at the 9:30 Club on NPR.

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