Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monsters of Folk Put on Quite a Show at the Greek last Sunday

I feel pretty lucky to have seen some awesome “big ticket,” shows in the last couple of weeks. Pearl Jam with Ben Harper and a guest appearance from Chris Cornell was a high powered anthem-fest and last Sunday’s Monsters of Folk show at the Greek was a display of top notch songwriting and vocal harmonies...

Sunday’s Monsters of Folk concert at the Greek Theater was definitely worth the high priced seats my girlfriend Adrienne bought for my birthday. We we’re toward the front of the middle section and the show was one that kept us glued to the chair with our mouths shut. The concert, to my delight, was run like a musical revue not unlike the Bob Dylan 1975-76 tour entitled the Rolling Thunder Revue. The musicians all started out together playing a few of the tunes from the new cd, but then the lineup broke down to just M. Ward for two songs off of his last record played solo. Then some duets with Oberst and eventually built back up to everyone on stage again. Oberst was next to have a solo moment in which he played the famous “We are nowhere, and its now,” off of Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, album from 2005. The track was dedicated to all the touring musicians in the crowd including his friends from Rascal Flatts whom he “put on the list.” Again the other members of the Monsters of Folk touring band came out one by one as songs built back up before coming down a third time for Jim James’ solo section, which also indcluded some great renditions of tunes recorded by his brilliant and honest band, My Morning Jacket.
The musicianship award is a tie on this concert and goes to Mike Mogis and M. Ward. Mogis showed his value as a sideman and producer by adding color and skillful picking to every song whether it be on electric, pedal steel, mandolin, or bass guitar. He also played some important percussion additions including a tasty little triangle lick on one of the full band tunes. M. Ward’s solo tunes showed off his wonderful finger picking skills and use of open tunings akin to the style of Leo Kottke and his contemporary, Ward’s hero, John Fahey. Mr.’s Ward and Oberst also played some piano and organ on a few of the more rocking tunes fu;; band tunes showing versatility. Conner Oberst seemed to be the leader of this outfit if you had to put a C for captain on someone’s shirt like a football team, but he, M. Ward, and Jim James all shared the lead role smoothly and harmonized behind each other’s tunes beautifully. The singing award has to go to James with his lovely highs and wide range soaked in insane amounts of reverb, as always, and hauntingly beautiful.
The songwriting and singing on the new album made this a highly sought after ticket for anyone who picked it up in time or is familiar with these three gentlemen’s catalogues. I usually adhere to the superstition of not listening to the record of a band on the way to that same band’s show, but I wanted Adrienne to get another run through and had no fears that M.O.F. would not live up to their first formal release as a group. I was not let down. Considering the mixture of outside and new material I was most thoroughly impressed with the fact that even the songs I didn’t know were too intriguing to step away from and kept me from ever getting up for snacks or beer. The only constructive criticism I felt was that some of the “rocked out” songs seemed a little corny next to the serene acoustic ones. It was cool for them to get louder, but the overdone girations seemed a little ridiculous at times. Overall, the concert was definitely top quality and these gents deserve more than the cult followings they each respectively have. Well done sirs.

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