Zoe Keating: One Woman Cello

Zoe Keating
January 19, 2011
The Independent
San Francisco, CA

Zoe Keating: One Woman Cello

Zoe Keating has made a previous cameo on MV&R when she opened for Imogen Heap and stole the show. In the battle of the loopers, there was no question which was the true artist. Imogen Heap's songs may be more accessible, but Zoe is able to bridge the technological and the classical in an idiosyncratic way to create really amazing music. I have hope for IH, but ZK is already there.

To review, ZK is a celloist and in her solo performances, she uses foot pedals to electronically record and play back short loops, layering motifs, one on top of the next, until she is playing over an ensemble of, as many as, 15 or 16 different cello lines that she has created live. The cello is a beautiful instrument of great pathos and the music Zoe creates can be mesmerizing as she slowly builds up each song. You could hear a pin drop during the quieter moments at the sold-out Independent show. There were a few moments during her performance where I felt that she got a little Windham Hill but there is no doubt that she is creating art.

Zoe is also one of those rare artists whose live performance outdistances her recordings by some measure. Listening to her live performance is an enriching experience that isn't quite matched by her CDs. Seeing ZK perform at The Independent is a reminder of why I love going to live shows. If you get the chance, go see her.

One bit of criticism: She does need to work on her stage banter a little bit. It's never a good idea to tell the audience that they are missing out on a special guest that couldn't make it. Still, ZK is an unknown that needs to be more known.

A couple vids to check out: Tetrishead, Optimist

Willie Nelson: American Legend

Willie Nelson: American Legend

Willie Nelson
January 7, 2011
San Francisco, CA

As mentioned previously on MV&R, Willie Nelson is a national treasure- a 76 year old rebel, an irrepressible, incorrigible rascal, kind of like Huckleberry Finn if he had made it to senior citizen status. If you haven't had the pleasure of watching this piece of Americana perform, just do it. Willie makes you feel good about being American. His music is all about the good part of America, the open spaces, the freedom to be an individual, the love of a good time, the friendly acceptance of all-comers. Willie is the antithesis of the uptight, moralizing, xenophobic part of the US that has been dominating the national discourse during the last decade. His honky-tonk country songs and warm voice are the embodiment of Mark Twain's America populated by fun-loving characters.

When I arrived at the Fillmore on Monday night, the last thing that I wanted was an opening band. Bring on Willie! So, of course, Promise of The Real came on stage moments after I arrived. I should have anticipated as much since Promise of the Real is an eclectic looking blues band starring Willie's son as a Texas slacker doing his best hyperkinetic Stevie Ray Vaughn impersonation. To complete the Nelson-evening, Micah Nelson, another Willie offspring, was painting on stage during their set. Of course, I was trying not to be annoyed, I had a beer to drink and I just had to wait out this little bit of nepotism until Willie wandered out of his smoky bus. But, as Promise of the Real continued, I was grudgingly impressed and they did play an inspired version of Bob Dylan's “Meet Me in the Morning.” (link is actual video from the Fillmore) So, all is forgiven.

Finally, Willie came out accompanied by his band and (again) his Texas slacker son on guitar. Willie has been opening his concerts with 'Whiskey River' for many years and I think his enthusiasm for the song is waning, it was a rather perfunctory opening number. But, once he got rolling, the concert was just what I needed. Willie performed great versions of Beer for My Horses, Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys, Georgia on My Mind, Good Hearted Woman, Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground. Watching Willie perform helps to provide some perspective. He is a survivor and his songs reassure that after all the trials and tribulations of this thing called life, a good glass of whiskey can make it all OK.