I've never been a fan of outdoor concerts. Frankly, the sun beating down on my head, mosquitoes biting my legs and grass making me itch is not my idea of a good time. However, since the concert was part of a series run by the housing complex where I live and I didn't have to bug any publicist for a comp, I thought I'd make an exception. I was familiar with Garland Jeffreys, having seen him once at The Bottom Line and as a guest during a friend's show at The Cornelia Street Cafe but I was not familiar with Shamekia Copland.
Since seeing Shemekia Copeland in concert, I've learned a few things about her. Foremost being that since she is the daughter of blues singer and vocalist Johnny Copeland, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Secondly, although she was born in New York, she is more well known in other parts of the U.S. So much so, that she recently sang with Gary Clark Jr. at the White House for the Red, White and Blues Celebration on February 27th. Click here to see a her singing a video of Beat Up Old Guitar.
It's not hard for me to like a good blues song, but it is rare that I hear the real deal like Shemekia Copeland. And just so you know, I'm including the members of her band as a part of that statement. From what friends have told me, Copeland has been with her band members for many years and it shows.
As her guitarists riffed underneath her vocal, Copeland started off her set with realness. She said, "What's goin' on New York, all ya'll sunbathers out there, all ya'll gonna be as black as me in minute." She then went into the first two verses of "Dirty Water" as the band simmered underneath her vocal. Then Copeland and the band kicked into the chorus and I was sold.
Drummer Morris Roberts directly kicked into the beat for the next song as guitarist Willie Scandlyn used his wah-wah pedal to get the rhythm going under Copeland's intro. The groove was very 70's, somewhere between Average White Bands "Pick Up The Pieces" and David Bowie's "Fame." "Given Up You," was the one song when Copeland's vibrato reminded me of Alicia Bridges "I Love the Nightlife."
Copeland and the band kept the flow going by directly moving from one song to another. For the third song, Ms. Thang did what she does best - a straight up blues called "Circumstances," during which Arthur Neilson took a solo, on what Copeland calls, "the git-tar."
After a long explanation about how the song she was about to do was recently re-released on a compilation and not to her liking, Copeland did a song from her first album called "Salt In My Wounds." Needless to say, Copeland sang the painful lyric giving it all she had. But then brought the spirit of the day back up by shouting out, to the ladies on the lawn, beginning the rock song called "Big Lovin' Woman."
Copeland did "Never Going Back to Memphis" from her new album. She said the song was about what she recalled as a "negative - horrific experience." The interesting thing I noticed was Robert's drumming, which sounded like a slowed down mambo.
The next song, "Pie In The Sky," was not my favorite song of the set, if only because it sounded too sing-song and felt like filler. But Copeland made up for it, by following up with a song she recorded with Dr. John. The funky band feel and brilliant lyric was one of the highlights of Copeland's set, even when she brought it down to introduce the band and tag the song out with the hook.
Shamekia Copland talked about not being a church going girl, but said she did like going to her Grandma Jessie's church in North Carolina because it was fun. She then gave us a little sample of Grandma Jessie's Church with the foot stompin' song "Big Brand New Religion."
Copeland ended with "2AM" after she asked the audience if they thought one of the Stuytown security men would mind being pinched on the butt. She referred to the guys as policeman because they were wearing blue uniforms (no biggy - same difference.) She then asked the audience if they were ready to Rock-n-Roll, before rocking out with her final song.
Shamekia Copeland’s Set List
1. Dirty Water
2. Givin’ Up You,
4. Salt In My Wounds
5. Big Lovin’ Woman
6. Never Going Back to Memphis
7. Pie In The Sky
8. When A Woman’s Had Enough
9. Big Brand New Religion
10. It’s 2 A.M
Shemekia Copeland's Band are:
Shemekia Copeland (vocals)
Willie Scandlyn (rhythm guitar)
Arthur Neilson (guitar)
Morris Roberts (drums)
Kevin Jenkins (bass)
Savannah Jeffreys was an unexpected pleasant surprise but not only for her talent. I got a kick out of watching Garland Jeffreys watch her play her two songs from the opposite side of the stage. He had smile on his face that seemed half proud father and half the nervous parent. Though I don't think with Savannah's talent he had much to worry about.
Savannah's alto voice reminded me of a cross between Fiona Apple and Joan Armatrading. But now that I think about it, both comparisons may be the same difference. I thought her songs were wordy in that deep and meaningful way that songwriters write when their still in school. Nonetheless, the songs were well done enough to leave any teenage boy who might have been listening in awe.
Savannah Jeffreys Set List
1. Key In Lock
Garland Jeffreys opened up with a song that felt like poetry set to music or even more so, spoken word. The lyric had a meter that felt similar to lyrics by songwriters like Jim Carroll or Warren Zevon. Though I enjoyed the song, it gave me a bit of a lonely feeling by virtue of it's title "Coney Island Winter." I remember going to Coney Island in late fall as a kid and recall it as a very lonely place.
Jeffreys said it was good to be back again and on the scene, which made me scratch my head and wonder where he went. But then I realized, his dialogue was just patter which ended with the words "I'm Alive," taking him into his next song. Jeffreys two opening songs were the same two that open his most current CD, The King of In Between.
When guitarist Gray Reinhard and Adam Roth played the opening chords for "35 Millimeter Dreams," I felt like if I closed my eyes I could be listening to an 80s hair band. It was an okay song but I'm so glad that Jeffrey's broke things up following with the cool reggae song "I May Not Be Your Kind." Loved it. So much so, I automatically found myself singing background vocals.
I got into the next song "The Contortionist" equally as much. It had a beat that reminded me of Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up" and interesting lyric that took the feel in another direction. I especially dug the lyric on chorus of "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" but actually calling it the release seems better than calling it a chorus.
Jeffreys did two more songs from his latest CD and again he did the songs in consecutive order. Coincidentally, the songs "'Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me" and "Love Is Not A Cliché." are 6 and 7 on his recording and were 6 and 7 on his set list. I wasn't wild about song number six, the song's lyrical references are all about Hooker but the music felt like it was channeling ZZ Top.
I did, however, really enjoy "Love Is Not A Cliche." Jeffreys dedicated the song to his sister who he recently got in touch with, through facebook, after 46 years. He explained she wasn't lost, "I just didn't know where she was...in the south somewhere."
As soon as Jeffreys spelled out the word Lovers as an intro, the crowd of us old folk on the grass knew where he was going. It was back to the 80s with the song "Modern Lovers," from Jeffrey's album Escape Artist. I haven't mentioned that Garland Jeffreys' band is relatively young yet they seemed to enjoy playing the song as much as we enjoyed hearing it.
"New York Skyline" from Jeffreys' 1977 album Ghost Writer was my favorite song of the set. Perhaps it's because I had heard him sing it before with the earlier mentioned friend, but I don't think so. I just think it's just a beautiful ballad which is why Jeffreys still includes it in his set. Adding to that, singing it on a summer late afternoon outdoors in New York City doesn't hurt.
I don't think that Jeffrey's was trying make a political statement by following up "We The People" with the "Wild in the Streets." But the songs opposed each other feeling a bit like democracy followed by anarchy. Still, the old folks and the band seemed to once again enjoy the latter and older of the two. The two songs seemed to build up to "96 Tears" which besides being a cover of a song by ? and the Mysterians, Jeffreys included a song quote from Lou Reeds "Waiting for the Man."
I met a guy from Switzerland, on holiday with his son. He said that he was hoping to see Garland Jeffreys but I told him the show had unfortunately passed. He told me how much he liked Jeffreys and how Jeffreys exploded in your Europe after the "Buckwheat" album. I thought it was odd. I was aware the Jeffreys played to large audiences around the world but I didn't realize that recognition had come that late in his career. After all, Jeffreys has been around since the 70s even though someone like me thinks of his music as 80s.
Garland Jeffreys came back with "Moonshine In The Cornfield," which he sang accapella. The song is the introduction cut, also on the "Buckwheat" album, except on the recording Jeffreys' did it a la Joni Mitchell with the Persuasions doing "Shadows & Light" on album of the same name.
Not long after ending ".. Moonshine in The Cornfield," Gray Reinhard started the piano part for R.O.C.K. On the grass, the little children danced, the adults sang along with chorus and the band rocked out, ending with thunderous applause.
Garland Jeffreys Set List
1. Coney Island Winter
2. I'm Alive
3. 35 Millimeter Dreams
4. I May Not Be Your Kind
5. The Contortionist
6. 'Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me
7. Love Is Not A Cliché
8. Modern Lovers
9. New York Skyline
10. We The People
11. Wild In The Streets
12. 96 Tears
13. Hail Hail Rock 'N' Roll
1. Moonshine In The Cornfield
Garland Jeffreys (Lead Vocals, guitar)
Gray Reinhard (vocals, guitar, keyboard)
Adam Roth (guitar),
Tom Curiano (drums),
Brian Stanley (bass)
Concert-log note/update 8/5/2012
This post of Garland Jeffreys & Shamekia Copeland will be my last post in the current format.
At the time of starting this blog, I wanted to know and learn from every concert I saw. I wanted to learn how different bands performed their music, by what they did differently, or the same, as well as, note the current concert conventions. I also wanted to get a feel for the different genres, and to see how the different band audiences reacted to their performances.
I noticed, quite awhile ago, that the process of writing Concert-log had gotten longer and longer. And that I end up repeating the same sort of things in each posting. For awhile that was beneficial but now it's become tedious and I realize that I need to try to write about the essence of a performance rather than give a blow by blow.
Concert-log is my baby; it continues to change and grow with me. At first my postings were just written postings with each band's photo on top. Then I started taking pictures with my Smartphone and including set lists. I eventually bought a camera with 15X optical zoom then eventually pumped that up to a better camera with a 35x optical zoom and started including video.
Concert-log has revitalized me. I've started a blues band recently and I'm also learning to play guitar (I already play a little keyboard and sing.) Therefore, I can no longer invest as much time as I used to in Concert-log. So, going forward, I will still include photos, band member names, set lists and sometimes videos. However, as for writing, I will keep it short. Basically two or three paragraphs for each band, four at most. As, I finish up my Garland Jefferys' posting, I'm 3 postings behind writing about each band. I will catch up by writing about the bands in the new format.
keep comin' back and thanks for your patronage.