When the day starts out with people looking for an ark to pick up a few passengers, the clear sky of the evening becomes a very welcomed sight. The City Winery in Manhattan, is a bar/restaurant/winery/show venue all rolled into one. With an open feel to the room, it is split into separate spaces, mostly set up with lots of small tables very close together.
As Marshall Crenshaw took the stage, it would be hard to believe anyone in the room would guess his opening number. Reaching back to the late 60’s, a cover of “Journey to the Center of Your Mind,” by the Amboy Dukes set the tone for the night; expect the unexpected. What hits you right out of the gate are the harmonies and tightness of the band. Once you got over the initial surprise of hearing this song, you then appreciated just how smoking a version it was. Crenshaw, who seems to enjoy playing with a whole list of different musicians, was joined this night by three veterans: Andy York on guitar, Graham Maby on bass and drummer Rich Pagano.
After making the band introductions, Crenshaw eased into the title track of his new EP, “Stranger and Stranger.” The song about a lost love is lyrically exquisite, with a haunting melody. Since he played Buddy Holly in the movie “La Bamba,” Marshall Crenshaw is no stranger to the music of the man to whom he was compared early in his career. Crenshaw manages to sneak in at least one Buddy Holly song per show; his choice this night was “Crying, Waiting, Hoping.” The band brought a more rock than pop edge to it, with Crenshaw’s voice full of tenderness and yearning.
While the next tune was one of his better known songs, “There She Goes Again with Another Guy,” the night was not centered on the hits. Pulling from his thirty year+ career, Crenshaw was comfortable playing many songs which never made it to the top forty playlist, and the crowd didn’t seem to mind either. As an artist, it must be gratifying having the freedom to change up your set list, and not be locked into doing the same half dozen hit songs every night.
Crenshaw’s idea to let the other band members choose a song for the set turned interesting as Andy York took over the lead on “Walk Hard,” as per Crenshaw’s direction. It was an enjoyable vocal to say the least, ending with an extremely impressive final note. Rich Pagano chose “Right on Time” from Marshall’s last full album Jaggedland and he offered a blistering drum line throughout. Also from the same album, “Stormy River” featured a hot guitar from Andy York, and a full-out jam.
Working way back into the catalog, “Something’s Gonna Happen,” still had the pop feel, and was full of fun. Throughout the night there was a great consistency in the band. Well done harmonies, strong musicianship and what seemed to be a nice bond among the men.
The last song of the set was the still wonderful “Someday, Someway.” Thirty years later, it doesn’t seem possible to hear this song and not smile. The first of the two encore selections was “No Time.” A song originally recorded by The Move and which appeared on his last EP I Don’t See You Laughing Now. Closing the show, he chose one very familiar tune, “Cynical Girl”
From Andy York, Graham Maby, Rich Pagano to Marshall Crenshaw to the sound technician, the night was heavy with professionalism. Working through a strong set list, the low-key Crenshaw looks to be a man quite comfortable with his career. And just like the signature series of Cabernet Sauvignon created by City Winery in his honor, a little aging has only made him smoother.
Written by Kath Galasso
OurVinyl | Contributor
Click here to read our interview with Marshall Crenshaw, in which we discuss everything from his recent EPs, the 80’s, as well as his interesting Kickstarter and Radio endeavors.
Journey to the Center of Your Mind
Stranger and Stranger
Crying, Waiting, Hoping
There She Goes Again with Another Guy
Calling Out for Love (At Crying Time)
Dime a Dozen Guy
Don’t See You Laughing Now
Right on Time
Something’s Gonna Happen
You’re My Favorite Waste of Time
Better Back Off
For an exclusive OurVinyl Q & A with Marshall Crenshaw, go to ‘Marshall Crenshaw – Interview’
Marshall Crenshaw Webite: www.marshallcrenshaw.com