It seemed a bit surreal to think that it had been almost a year since Widespread Panic had concluded their 2014 spring tour with a pair of smokin’ shows at the Orpheum in downtown Los Angeles. Yet not but just over 50 weeks later, they were back at the Orpheum again, with this pair of shows preceding a tour closing weekend in Las Vegas and Phoenix. When things go well, there’s a natural tendency to stick with what’s working, and Widespread Panic at the Orpheum has proven a winning formula.
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Benjamin Booker‘s Friday night set at the Music Hall of Williamsburg was sold out. That was to be expected, given that the young guitarist, now based in New Orleans, has been drawing a lot of from their festival performances last year as well as his solid self-titled debut album and his Live at Third Man Records release earlier this year. Booker’s guitar prowess allows him to blend garage rock with blues, roots, and other elements to create an enthralling set. Jack White is a fan.
PopMatters writer Jordan Blum reviewed The Decemberists show in Philadelphia from earlier this week, where he wrote, “The Decemberists are known for their eccentric yet faithful live sets, and the group exceeded expectations on this night. The fact that they represented almost their entire discography, instead of focusing on only material from the new collection, was wise and appreciated, and Meloy’s antics between songs proved how unpretentious yet confident and tongue-in-cheek he is.” You should read the entire show review here.
We were able to capture pictures of the band’s performance with Alvvays at the Beacon Theatre in New York the night before, where lead-singer Colin Meloy had said to the crowd, “I’ll break you before the night is through”. And then sure enough, later on, when everyone was standing up and singing-along, he said “I know this is a city of meek and shy people who have a hard time expressing themselves. But I really feel you’ve come a long way… A bond of trust has grown from earlier in the night when you were sitting, and now you are standing.” Check out photos and tour dates below, as this was one of my favorite shows of the year (and the Decemberists new album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World is their best since The Crane Wife, in my opinion).
Fresh off her Tony award winning role as Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, Lena Hall can now be found performing (through April 18th) cabaret style at the Café Carlyle. The venue’s producers allowed her to have free reign over her selections which allowed her to sing the songs she wanted to sing because they touched or inspired her as her backing band, Watt White on guitar, John Deley on keys, Lee Nadel on bass and her future brother-in-law Brian Fishler on drums, supported her. Her seventy minute set was fun and varied, with a bunch of the newer material probably going over the heads of some older folks in the crowd. She joked, “I’m doing very appropriate songs for this room. But you know, I’m Lena Hall so, I do what I want.” to audience applause and laughter.
I’ve seen the Indiana four-piece Houndmouth four times in about two years and, over that period, they have put out their two albums, 2013’s debut From the Hills Below the City which features their breakout single “Penitentiary” and their latest, Little Neon Limelight, which features the single “Sedona”. Every time I’ve seen them, the band has put on a fun, loose show that is made all the more engaging because each member of the band, guitarist Matt Myers, bassist Zak Appleby, keyboardist Katie Toupin and drummer Shane Cody, has a genuine grin spread across his or her face as they mix up instruments and sing in harmony.