October 6, 2009

Marianne Faithfull - Town Hall - Thursday, September 24th.

Seeing Marianne Faithfull on September 24th was a real treat. She opened up the show with a Dolly Pardon cover “Dover.” Then stated how wonderful it was to perform in Town Hall by paying homage to a list of great artists and noting the hall's excellent acoustics. I could have taken her walk down memory lane, through Town Hall historical trivia, as a way to segue to Ellington’s “Solitude” but it felt honest. After all Marianne is an old gal with a quite an eclectic repertoire.

The last time I saw Marianne Faithful was at the long gone Village Gate in New York’s West Village. She was more or less an add-on to a show that performance artist Penny Arcade was doing. At the time, her set seemed very dark and very 90’s. However, there was nothing dark about her Town Hall performance except for the songs themselves which she herself admits gravitating toward. For me, her Town Hall show was about great songs, a great band and wonderfully honest interpretation.

I want to be truthful – there were certain aspects of the show which I had to accept. The first, being that she had lyric sheets on a music stand next to where she stood. The second is that she hadn’t yet connected to all the newest material on her new CD “Easy Come, Easy Go.” With that said, it is easy to forgive Marianne Faithful’s shortcomings because she is a woman who is who she is and makes no bones about it. It’s best to say she’s very WYSIWYG. She brings all her rough sweetness to the stage with charisma and humility.

The most memorable part of the show for me was when the chord came out of the microphone as she grabbed it to do her encore. Although she tried she couldn’t plug the chord back into the microphone. A stagehand had to do it for her but as they both fumbled she said something like “if there is anyone who is most unlikely to be a singer – it would be me.” In an earlier part of the show, you could tell the Marianne was over wearing her high healed shoes. So she sat on a chair and took them off as if to say “I dressed up for Town Hall but now lets get real.” As the shoes hit the floor, the audience applauded.

For a woman who is an interpreter of song rather than a singer, she keeps very good company. The band seemed like an extremely tight ensemble of studio musicians, many of which are either in well know bands or have their own solo careers. For me, the most prominent musician was Jazz Drummer Joey Baron. Not only was Baron’s drumming in the pocket but it added color and dimension to all of Marianne Faithful’s arrangements. Also amazing in terms of adding color was keyboardist Rob Burger. Burger played accordion, piano, toy piano, Hammond S-6 organ and celeste. Other notable musicians were bassist Greg Cohen who produced her new CD and guitarist Marc Ribot. For the final encore, Ribot and Faithful did the wonderfully eerie song “Strange Weather” as duo without the band. It was a shinning moment for both artists.

Maryanne Faithful sang most of her older material with the band in full gear. I would even go so far as to say that “Broken English” was more pulsating and driven then it is on CD. When it came time for “Why’d Ya Do It”, Marianne seemed to scream the lyrics but it still worked. The couple who sat in front of me brought their 7 or 8 year old daughter but luckily she fell asleep. Still, her father held his child’s ears for the whole song. Gee – I wonder why?

Of course, the songs which Marianne delivered really well and went over big with audience were “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” and “Sister Morphine.” But for me, the highlight was Faithful’s cover of Randy Newman’s “In Germany before the War.” Marianne’s version stands out on the new CD and stood out even more in concert. I think it was also due to the fact the band did a prelude to the song with a child like melody. Marianne knew the song went over well because after singing it she jokingly took credit for the arrangement.

My one big disappointment was Marianne Faithful’s delivery on “Dear God, Please Help Me.” She seemed uncomfortable doing the song and may have even dropped a few lyrics. On the CD, she seems personally very connected in her delivery of Morrissy’s lyric in a purely erotic rather than homo-erotic way. I guess, Marianne and her audience lost her connection to the song when she announced “this song is very gay.”
I’m really not sure why the song fell flat but it did.

In a year from now, I would be interested in seeing Marianne Faithful again. She has an interesting collection of new material which I hope by then she will have settled into and embraced. But for now, I'm glad to have heard someone who some believe is a Rock and Roll legend.