Dependable Erection

Friday, March 26, 2010


Quick note of thanks to Frank Heath of the Cat's Cradle and the folks at the Carolina Theatre for last night's Joanna Newsom show. It's not easy to make an auditorium show feel like a house concert, but that's we got last night.

Minimalist lighting certainly helped. No gels, no computer controlled gyrating spots, just plain stage lighting and house lights dimmed to about 1/3 power. I'm especially appreciative of not having to duck any spots aimed into the audience, which i absolutely hate. The sound was also impeccable, even up in the balconies. One of the biggest complaints show-goers make is that the people around them don't know when to shut up. Triangle audiences are generally better than other parts of the country, but i realized last night that, somewhat counter-intuitively, the solution is not to turn the volume up, but to turn it down. Newsom's main instrument is the harp, although she also played a few numbers on the grand piano. Her backup band was 2 violins, a trombone, percussion, and a multi-instrumentalist who mostly played recorder, banjo, with some electric guitar and a balilaika-like stringed instrument. And a very tasteful drummer. The sound never got overwhelming, and if you wanted to hear it, well, you had to keep quiet yourself. Which, amazingly, all of the audience members did.

Contrast that with the show i saw the previous night at the DPAC, which was a lot of fun for geezer-rock. The Moody Blues were never exactly cutting edge, thought they did play the Fillmore back in the day. I'd heard they'd become something of a lounge act over the past two decades, but that's not the case. They ran through a nice selection of their hits, and some lesser known album cuts. They haven't had Mike Pinder's mellotron sound since the 70s, but i think most people know them as Justin Hayward's band anyway, so that's probably OK. But again, i could live without dodging laser beams every 10 minutes. And that wall of sludge that passed for sound up in the balcony was pretty unforgivable. I've heard that the DPAC was pretty good acoustically, so maybe we just had the only seats in the house where bass notes hung on forever, but somehow i doubt it.

My only regret from the last two nights, though, is that somehow Leo Kottke and Los Lobos got booked into Duke the same night as Joanna. Couldn't do both, so i went with the one i'd never seen before.

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  • I was also at Joanna Newsom with my wife. Fred Armisen and the guitarist from Les Savy Fave opened, but who was that bearded guy on stage? Dan, I think she said?

    By Blogger Phillip, at 3:40 PM  

  • The two guys who came out for the hand-clapping segment? I assumed they were roadies.

    So, Jens Hanneman is a put-on act?

    Who could have guessed?

    By Blogger Barry, at 4:45 PM  

  • Dude. Jens was the dude who plays Obama on SNL. Also, he was the same guy who was playing the whiskey bottle (Fred).

    I think we were actually really lucky to see that guy. My wife said his German was surprisingly good. There's sort of a logic to why he was there. Newsom's boyfriend is Andy Samburg from SNL and Fred Armisen is apparently good friends with them.

    By Blogger Phillip, at 6:22 PM  

  • Agreed though. The opener seemed extremely polished to be a one or two time gig.

    By Blogger Phillip, at 6:23 PM  

  • Thanks. Don't think i've watched SNL since Eddie Murphy.

    By Blogger Barry, at 7:37 PM  

  • "but i realized last night that, somewhat counter-intuitively, the solution is not to turn the volume up, but to turn it down."

    Great observation.

    I've known for some time (from somebody telling me about it, not from cleverly noticing it) that whispering or talking quietly will induce another person (or small group) to listen more carefully.

    But for big groups? Interesting to see.

    By Blogger Marsosudiro, at 9:49 AM  

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