This review appears in this week's issue of Wireless Bollinger. Kyle was also at the show.
On Friday night, Josh Rouse and Maria Taylor demonstrated that being a singer-songwriter isn’t nearly as solitary as the tag suggests.
Maria Taylor opened, taking the stage with Andy LeMaster (of Now It’s Overhead) on bass and a drummer, all of whom would contribute vocals. Taylor began with “Birmingham 1982,” alluding to her Southern upbringing and setting an introspective mood for the rest of her performance. After retrieving the setlist, which written on a napkin, from the bottom of her shoe, Taylor continued with a brand new song entitled “Time Lapse Lifeline.” “Leap Year” followed, replacing the album version’s electronic sheen with gentle string plucks from Taylor and LeMaster. “A Good Start,” from her second album Lynn Teeter Flower, was next, as the band settling into an enjoyable mid-tempo groove. Taylor and LeMaster traded vocals on another new song called “Orchids,” equating love with foliage in bloom. Unfortunately, “Clean Getaway” wasn’t nearly as poignant, its sparse arrangement isolating Taylor’s voice rather than highlighting it. Although Taylor sang beautifully, the crowd grew noticeably restless and chattered, and the lack of percussion meant the drummer sat idly.
Taylor restored the audience’s attention before her next song, which had just been written two weeks prior to the tour, by offering to try to play kazoo while strumming guitar. When she hesitated, the crowd yelled, “Do it!” Although she would spit out the kazoo after her first note, LeMaster gamely continued playing his, adding a unique element to the mix. Far too quickly, the set ended with “Song Beneath The Song,” its circuitous lyrics echoed by the three-part harmony. The crowd protested, including a girl that said she had travelled from Amsterdam to see Taylor (although it was unclear if she was referring to the country or street on the Upper West Side), but it was to no avail. While the abundant new material was a testament to Taylor’s prolific songwriting, the crowd clearly yearned for older, more familiar highlights.
Here's a couple cuts from the fantastic 11:11, and Maria's live set at Spinner.
MP3: Maria Taylor - Leap Year
MP3: Maria Taylor - One For The Shareholder
MP3: Maria Taylor - Live on the Interface (05.18.07)
MySpace: Maria Taylor
Official Site: Maria Taylor
Josh Rouse wore his best suit, but his homespun stage presence was even more appealing. Rouse delivered down to earth, entertaining banter throughout the night, at one point kidding “Make sure you’re really quiet; I’m a singer-songwriter.” Although Rouse’s performance had its share of restrained twang, his bassist, drummer and keyboardist contributed to the night’s success. While each song centered on Rouse’s voice, it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective without the rest of the band chipping in by adding vocal harmonies and gratifying the audience with increased volume. With such a strong group of musicians onstage, it’s unsurprising that the crowd felt compelled to participate. “Love Vibration” oscillated throughout the venue, the line, “You people all know what I'm talkin' about” becoming a self-fulfilling statement as the crowd sang back with gusto. The words swelled and eventually died down, but the band continued jamming as the house lights died down, with the occasional strobe punctuating the percussion. This spontaneity resurfaced a few songs later, when the band broke into an enthusiastic instrumental take on the Peanuts theme as Rouse moved to the side of the stage to remove his jacket.
Still, Rouse is a man of words, and he delivered his lyrics eloquently, painting vignettes of experience and love without resorting to clichés. But the Rouse briefly discussed the origin of his album 1972, mentioning an early producer who believed Rouse had no radio-viable singles, later saying derogatorily, “If [Rouse] had his way, everything would sound like it was recorded in 1972.” Rouse’s longevity (he has released seven albums to date) makes the first part of the statement seem ridiculous now, but there’s a certain truth to the sentiment of time. Rouse embodies an era that seems forgotten in the blur of contemporary lifestyle, its frenzied pace exemplified by the music industry. Rouse seemed to have more to say on the subject, particularly as the founder of his own label, Bedroom Classics, but instead he continued on to the next song. For the crowd, it was enough to simply savor the nostalgic.
MySpace: Josh Rouse
Official Site: Josh Rouse