The last time I attended Doveman's monthly gig at Le Poisson Rouge, I got there unknowingly late and ended watching the show from a place where most of the performers were facing the opposite direction. In other words, I saw mostly there backs. This time I sat too close. I got to the place early and sat with a very sweet couple that I met in line. (Jen and Dan - If you're reading this - Hey!) It was nice to have company but since I'm constantly taking photos and writing shit down, I felt a little conspicuous in front of the stage.
At a minute or two after 8PM, Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman walked on stage in a seersucker jacket and began somberly playing Rufus Wainwright's "Tower of Learning." Bartlett sang and played solo on piano, building the song up slowly until the musical break when he was joined by Doug Wieselman on clarinet and C.J. Camerieri on trumpet. The two musicians softly played their instruments, from the audience, off to the left of the stage (audience right). The song was a really beautiful way to open up the show.
As the band walked on, Bartlett announced that he had played a Rufus Wainwright song and how inspired he was by Wainwright's first couple of records while he himself was learning to write songs. Bartlett then said, "now that the band is here, I'll do one of my songs," before playing "The Cat Awoke" from his CD The Conformist. Besides being a great song, it's a really cool arrangement whether live or on CD. I loved the combination of sounds between Rob Moose's guitar and the Nord (synth) keyboard that Bartlett was playing.Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl arrived on stage to do a version of "Comic Strip," by Serge Gainsbourg. Lennon rapped in French, performing the song as if it were some sort of French Hip-hop. The song was hysterical, especially Muhl's part which imitated nonsense comic stripe bubbles with lines like "zip shabam blop pow wizzzz." Although I am slightly familiar with his work, there was a snowball's chance in hell that I would have figured out that the song was originally by Gainsbourg. Jen and Den, who I was sitting with, asked Lennon what the song was as he was retrieving his amp from the stage after the show. Lennon said that he and Muhl only did the song as a goof but they (I assume he meant Bartlett, Wainwright and the band) wanted him to do it.
Before setting up his next song, Sean Lennon spoke to the audience starting with "Rock-n-Roll!..Viva la France!" and then made reference to the scandal involving ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He jokingly commented about the scandal by saying "what's that guy's name that had that consensual sex with the maid..it's just a cultural misunderstanding, okay?....they have more open sexual mores in France." What he said after that I won't repeat because it wasn't exactly PC, but he was joking and it was funny.
Between songs Lennon and Muhl joked around a bit more as Lennon tried to get a good level between his guitar, the band and the sound booth. There was also some discussion on whether Bartlett should play his Nord or the piano on the upcoming song. I think Lennon wanted him to play just piano but Muhl won out by asking him to play both, dividing things along the lines of verse and chorus. The song they performed was the very 60's sounding "Jardin Du Luxembourg" with harmonies that sounded very "The Mamas & The Papas." Muhl played accordion, along with Lennon on guitar during an arrangement with the band that included some cool parts.
Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl go under the name (The) GOASTT which is an acronym for (The) Ghost of A Saber Tooth Tiger. Lennon also mentioned this to Jen and Dan in conversation while retrieving his amp, but it didn't penetrate my brain until I looked up The GOASTT's songs on line and had a bit of a duh! moment.
The GOASTT performed a second one of their own songs which was my favorite. It had a folk flavor to it, with harmonies sung around a chromatic melody. The GOASTT were only joined by Bartlett on piano and C.J. Camerieri on French Horn for "The World Was Made For Men." Bartlett played sort of octave trills that sounded more like tremolos. There is acoustic version of The GOASTT doing the song at The Living Room on Youtube. Though you won't be able to hear how wonderful the arrangement was on Thursday night, it's still worth checking out.
Last month I was surprised that Bartlett only did one Doveman song. This time he made up for it by doing three, one of which I already mentioned. Doveman introduced a new song that he said he wrote in his dressing room while he was on tour with Brad (Albetta) and Martha Wainwright in Melbourne, Australia. The song was interesting in that it went from sad to optimistic. The first few times that Bartlett repeated the refrain of "There's always time to fall in love again," the music and the violin part sounded dramatic and mournful. But the second time Bartlett repeated the refrain, the music sounded like a new day dawning.
Bartlett's third song was hauntingly spooky and appropriately titled "Ghost," which actually segued into the song "Castles." The addition of Doug Wieselman's bass clarinet and Rob Moose on both violin and guitar sounded like they were being interwoven with Bartlett's piano. The song went from the quite intensity of "Ghost" into a fuller sounding "Castles," and I think back to "Ghosts." It was hard to tell because the two songs were blended together rather than played as a medley.
Bartlett next brought up Nath Ann Carrera to do a song. I basically think that it's hard for an audience to make a jump from singer/songwriter to performance artist in the way it was presented on Thursday night. Especially, if that performance artist is not well known by the songwriters audience. Carrera did what sounded like an actor's monologue and then a folk song on acoustic guitar. Carrera's part of the show was a bit strange; it felt like a non-sequitur in a musical conversation. I want to make it clear that I am not commenting on Carrera's talent, only that his performance felt out of context.
I saw Rufus Wainwright, a couple of years ago, performing with Ben Folds in Prospect Park. I remember enjoying Wainwright but I can't say I was blown away. It might have been that I was sitting on the grass far away from the stage or the fact that I'm not a big fan of outdoor concerts. However, on Thursday night I thought Wainwright was absolutely fabulous! Two things. First, there was something about his presence that felt like he was having a lot more fun on stage than when I previously saw him perform. Secondly, he sounded vocally amazing!
Before Rufus Wainwright performed, Bartlett mentioned that he and Wainwright were at an unfair disadvantage over the other performers in the show because they have both been working on a tribute together. Wainwright then mentioned that the tribute was to his mom, Kate McGarrigle and the audience applauded. Wainwright told a story about how his mother took him on a tour of the West Village showing him all the cool places she used to hang out at and perform. He then said that she probably did "Southern Boys," the song he was about to sing, at one of those places. During the song, it was funny to hear some people hum along with the descending piano interludes that Bartlett played as Wainwright stood at the mic emoting with his hands. (Some people? - the audience? the band? I heard it but couldn't honestly tell where the humming was coming from.)
Hearing Wainwright talk about Kate McGarrigle and do some of her songs, gave me additional insight to her as a songwriter. I had listened to Ann McGarrigle being interviewed about Kate on NPR's radio show Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Aside from Gross playing Kate & Ann's recordings, Ann spoke about her sister's struggles, the differences in their personalities and how they both came to be perform together. Ann also spoke about how Rufus Wainwright had always been a performer since being very young and how Martha kept her musical inclinations a secret. As always with Terry Gross, it was a pretty in depth interview.
Sandwiched between two songs by his Mom, Wainwright did one of his own. This time with guitar in hand, Wainwright and the band performed "Greek Song" from his CD Poses. As Wainwright started strumming the song, and the band members slowly joined in, Wainwright told the audience it was a summer song. I guess it was an important thing to note since we were upon the Memorial holiday weekend. During the musical breaks, Doug Wieselman did some adlib soloing on clarient which seemed to float over the rest of the music.
"Cry for Us" was the next song and definitely a highlight in the show both vocally and musically. The song began with just Wainwright on vocals and Bartlett on piano. Toward the middle both were joined by Rob Moose on violin, C.J. Camerieri on French Horn and Wieslman on clarinet. Once the song ended with the horns fading on a single note, there was immediate thunderous applause. It was a beautiful song.
As it was getting close to the end of the show, The GOASTT were invited back on stage to do one more of Wainwright's songs. As they were setting up for the song, Bartlett said "put down the guitar Rufus" and someone nearby me said "Rufus, step away from the guitar." (It might have been a momentary comment or an inside joke - who knows?) Wainwright then said "I would like to thank Sean for giving me this gorgeous vest and these incredible shoes, I don't know if anyone has seen the shoes." He then quickly did a yoga pose before stating "the shorts are Abercrombie and Fitch or something- no! Abercrombie and Sean!"
Wainwright then performed his song "April Fools," from his first CD accompanied by Muhl and Lennon on background vocals and guitar. The last song the three performed with the band was John Lennon's "Across The Universe" which I'm glad Wainwright sang because he does it really well. Before doing the song, Wainwright told the story about how he was going to be unable to sing the song for a John Lennon Tribute concert because he was going to be on tour with Tori Amos in Atlanta. The story ended with Wainwright being able to do the tribute show after Sean Lennon told him that Yoko Ono called Tori Amos. Lennon added to the story by stating "I just want to be honest, I haven't played the song since that show." I think Lennon jinxed himself because he and Wainwright simultaneously started singing different lyrics toward the end of the song. Though, it really didn't matter, the show ended and it was all good.
I don't think Bartlett suspected that they might be called back for an encore. Either that or he didn't want to prepare for one. When everyone came back for the encore, Bartlett wanted to do Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart." He asked Lennon if he knew the chords and Lennon said "that's a song?" He could have been kidding but maybe not. The recording came out in 1970, five years before he was born. Bartlett ended up singing most of the song by himself, but as I stated before, it was all good. The audience was grateful to have all the musicians back for one more song.
If you're reading this and haven't seen Doveman's monthly show, I am definitely recommending the next show as a great evening -guaranteed.
1. Tower of Learning - Rufus Wainwright cover performed by Thomas Bartlett
2. The Cat Awoke - Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman
3. Parody of Serge Gainsbourg song "Comic Strip" performed by The GOASTT (Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl)
4.Jardin Du Luxembourg - The GOASTT (Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl)
5. The World Was Made For Men - The GOASTT (Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl)
6. *There's always Time Fall In Love Again - new song -Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman
7. Ghost/Castles -Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman
8. *Song about Sadie - Nath Ann Carrera
9. Southern Boys - performed by Rufus Wainwright (Kate & Anna Mcgarrigle cover)
10. Greek Song - Rufus Wainwright
11. I Cried For Us - performed by Rufus Wainwright (Kate & Anna Mcgarrigle cover)
12. April Fools - Rufus Wainwright
13. Across the Universe - performed by Rufus Wainwright & Sean Lennon (John Lennon cover)
Only Love Can Break Your Heart - Performed by Doveman( Neil Young cover)
* = assumed or guessed title
Thomas Bartlett (Piano & Nord synth)
Rufus Wainwright (acoustic guitar)
Sean Lennon -(electric guitar)
Charlotte Kemp Muhl (accordion)
Nath Ann Carrera (acoustic guitar)
Bass: Brad Albeta
Drums Ben Perowsky
Guitar & Violin - Rob Moose
Bass & soprano clarinet - Doug Wieselman
Trumpet and French horn - C.J. Camerieri