Friday, November 7, 2008

Chris Smither @ Joe's Pub, November 1st, 2008

This past Saturday night, the great Chris Smither played two shows at Joe's Pub, accompanied, unusually but effectively, by a drummer and a second guitarist (his producer, David "Goody" Goodrich). I was there for the early show, accompanied by the brilliant and beautiful Denise Milstein.

We dined at Joe's Pub too. We had a lovely dinner of Gemelli pasta with spicy sausage, and glasses of a Spanish Crianza that really hit the spot. I left to use the restroom, and I returned just as the man himself took the stage with his bandmates. The last time I was at Joe's Pub to see Chris Smither, that second guitar player was there. But this was the first time I had ever seen him with a drummer. I feared that such an addition to his sound might make his foot-tapping superfluous, but I was wrong. Both he (forgot his name) and Goodrich were unobtrusive contributors. There was no doubt as to whose show this was.

Each of the last few times I've seen him, he's opened with "Open Up" from his most recent album, Leave the Light On (2006), and this time was no exception. From there, he launched into material from his last few albums, beginning with his version of Dave Carter's "Crocodile Man." As Ellen Stanley ( once remarked to me, this guy's shows don't vary too much, as far as the set lists and overall sound are concerned. But I was particularly glad to hear "Never Needed It More" third in the set, along with "Lola" a bit later. "Love You Like a Man" made an appearance, which made me think happily about the jam on that song with Chris, led by Eddie from Ohio, at Falcon Ridge this past summer. He played two of his more socially/politically cutting songs, both from his most recent album: "Diplomacy" and "Origin of Species." He played "Hold On," his manifesto about freedom, "Drive You Home Again," about selfhood, and "Help Me Now," about solipsism. Denise's favorite was "No Love Today," and the singer preceded it with his imitation of the fruit and vegetable man that he recalled from his childhood in New Orleans. I'm rather partial to that one myself.

The crowd at Joe's Pub was appreciative. There were some calls for "Slow Surprise," and I would have been delighted with that one myself. It's one of my most favorite songs by him, or by anyone else. He talked about his father, remembering his reaction to his son wondering whether he'd go to hell (his father's response: "well, it would not surprise me."), and he was careful to note the songs his mother liked ("Never Needed It More") and disliked ("Lola").

Next up: Richard Shindell @ The Iron Horse....

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