Trombone Shorty & Los Amigos Invisibles: Energy

Trombone Shorty
Los Amigos Invisibles
February 11, 2011

There was a festival atmosphere outside the Fillmore on Friday night. Maybe it had something to do with the people's revolution in Egypt and Mubarak's final capitulation and resignation earlier in the day or maybe it was just Friday night. There was a street band playing New Orleans jazz on the corner of Fillmore and Geary and plenty of smiling people milling about in hopes of a ticket to the sold-out show.

The Amigos
The scene of jubilant celebration continued once inside where Los Amigos Invisibles had the crowd shouting and dancing with (almost too much) abandon. Los Amigos Invisibles is a Venezuelan band that plays a high-energy combination of acid-jazz and funk with Latin rhythms. They also have a well-deserved reputation for explosive live performances which they definitely did at the Fillmore. The band is super talented and knows how to get a crowd dancing. Mucho, mucho divertido.

The Trombone
Trombone Shorty has been compared by many, including himself, to New Orleans jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. There is no question that Shorty is deeply talented but, I think, he has a way to go before that particular comparison has any merit. Although from Nawlins, TS does not really play New Orleans jazz. He occasionally includes covers of AC/DC in his set. One of last night's highlights was "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson. Shorty reminds me much more of Robert Randolph's high-energy jam band with a trombone center-stage instead of RR's slide-guitar. There is lots of thumping bass and a rock beat keeping the music driving forward. But to compare him to Marsalis or to call TS a New Orleans jazz musician will lead to false expectations.

The Comparison
Trombone Shorty might do better than to tour with Los Amigos Invisibles. By the end of the night, it was really a toss-up as to which was the better performer. If this concert were in Venezuela, Los Amigos would certainly be headlining. They had big energy and had the crowd jumping with their Spanish dance funk. I could feel the floor shaking. Los Amigos have also been together for 20 years while TS is only 25 years old. Although Shorty was a child prodigy at the time and is certainly the best rock trombonist today, it's tough to compete with that kind of experience. The crowd gave TS plenty of love, but I'd have to give the Hollywood ticket to Los Amigos.

Overall, this was definitely a night of big fun. Two great bands that came to party. Either one is well worth the effort to check out.

Trombone Vids: a brief intro to Shorty, One Night Only, Back in Black.
Los Amigos Vids: Sexy, Ultrafunk.

Martha Wainwright: Champagne

Martha Wainwright sings Edith Piaf
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA
February 10, 2011

Martha Wainwright: Champagne

First, note to self: before spending the night listening to French songs, brush up on my French.

It's tough to write a review of Martha Wainwright without mentioning her musical genealogy. She is the daughter of musician and actor Loudon Wainwright and folk musician Kate McGarrigle (half of the famous Canadian folk duo Anna and Kate McGarrigle) and her brother is musician Rufus Wainwright. This may suggest that she is the beneficiary of some musical nepotism rather than earning her success through individual talent. In fact, if anything, it's the opposite. MW is the beneficiary of a talented gene pool and may actually be the best of the bunch. She is a terrific singer and songwriter.

For the non-francophile, Edith Piaf was a French singer and cultural icon, widely regarded as France's greatest popular singer. She lived a typical French life, born to a cafe singer and street acrobat and raised for a time by her grandmother who was the madam of a brothel. Before being discovered, she sang on Paris street corners while her father performed. Just like all the French. Still, it's no wonder that MW might be drawn to the songs of a street performer from a minstrel family.

I also feel compelled whenever reviewing a show at the Great American Music Hall to mention what a fantastic venue it is. So, I just did.

Martha's songs of Edith were accompanied by piano and stand-up bass which definitely captured the Parisian cafe vibe. The only thing missing for MW was a jaunty beret. In the middle of the set, Martha pulled out her guitar and played a small collection of her own songs before returning to EP which was a nice break. Still, her updated takes on Piaf were tasteful and well-done and I found made the French chanteuse much more accessible. It was a really nice evening of quality and class.

Since MW's EP LP is not available in the US (why is that?), you'll have to check out these vids: A promotional video for the LP, Le Brun et la Blond, Une enfant.

Cat Power: All the World's A Stage

Cat Power
San Francisco, CA
February 4, 2011

Cat Power: All the World's A Stage

Cat Power appeared once before on MV&R when I occasioned the desire to see her perform in a a smaller venue than the outsized, outdoor festival setting at Outside Lands. And now, la, here she is at the Fillmore. I suppose this is the smallest venue that she could play given the demand for tickets at this sold-out show. I would prefer even one step smaller for Cat Power's quiet bluesy minimalist music.

Cat Power is the stage name for Chan Marshall. Her performance last Friday at the Fillmore reminded me a bit of the review I did for Ray Lamontagne a couple years back. She is an interesting performer since she often appears so distinctly self-conscious on stage. This may also be the source for her renowned reputation for mercurial performances, storming off the stage after a couple songs, abandoning the band mid-song, etc. She did make it all the way through the concert at the Fillmore but rarely faced the audience. She spent most of the concert facing stage-left. She also made random and unexpected, almost bird-like, gestures that seemed out of time with the song.

For me, it made the show even more captivating and made me think of a Cat as an individual rather than a performer on stage which also led to other ruminations about the performances we all make in our daily lives and the different roles we play: son or daughter, brother or sister, mother or father, friend, colleague. Each is a different person. I got the feeling that Chan Marshall is the same person off stage as Cat Power is on-stage. And I think this combined with her tremendous voice and good looks only endears her more to her fans.

Cat Power's breathy and sultry voice is seductive and powerful and she surrounds herself with talented musicians. However, her live arrangements do not differ very much from her recorded efforts. Still, hearing live music always adds a new perspective to a favorite song and I enjoyed the concert. Here are a few tunes to check out: The Moon, New York, New York, Lived in Bars, Metal Heart.