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I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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Jill Sobule at Joe's Pub; December 27 and 28
Friday, January 14, 2005
I posted this to Jill's listserv. I've written about her before. She's best-known for "I Kissed a Girl," probably a blesing and a curse, because it tends to trivialize the breadth and quality of her work. She's a top-tier songwriter, and a fabulous live performer, one of the few artists I can think of who is more compelling as a solo act-- just voice and guitar-- than she is on record. Her personality and total command of the room shine through. But the thing I like best about her, and probably the same can be said for many of her fans, is her heart, her sweetness, her accessibility. She has a song called "Good Person Inside;" there is no question at all that she is. Outside as well.

Anyway, here you go. The horn player on "Cinnamon Park, of course, is me, playing invisible trumpet.


You know, if these concerts were in the late 70s I'd still remember every detail. Unfortunately they were 2 weeks ago, and so they are now officially a blur. And did anyone see where I left my reading glasses? Oh, wait-- here they are, on top of my head. Oy, my corns are aching. It’s gonna rain.

Anyway, I had the privilege of seeing the first two shows of Jill's first-ever three-night stand in New York City, in the intimate and hip-vibed Joe's Pub. Believe me, I claim no authority as the arbiter of hip, but any place where I can sit on a comfy couch, order drinks, and see one of my favorite musicians in a small room is hip in my book.

First the setlists:

12-27: Resistance Song * Dreidel Spinner * Christmas Break-up Song * Merry Christmas From the Family * Bitter * Under the Disco Ball * Underdog Victorious (segue into Love Hangover snippet) * Soldiers of Christ * Mexican Wrestler * Cinnamon Park * Lucy at the Gym * Karen by Night * something I seem to have called St. Francis * Tel Aviv * Survivor * I Kissed a Girl * The Jig is Up * e: When My Ship Comes In (with Way-Outs excerpt) * e: Jet Pack

12-28: Underdog Victorious * Resistance Song > * Dreidel Spinner * Merry Christmas From the Family * Freshman * excerpt from the Christmas Break-up Song * Angel/Asshole * Que Sera Sera * Half a Heart * Texas * Youthful Indiscretions * Karen by Night * Sunrise, Sunset (closing with snippet of Stones song Angie) * Jet Pack * Ritalin Kid * Cinnamon Park * Love is Never Equal (w/Lloyd Cole) * I Kissed a Girl (w/Cole) * Kathie Lee * Margaret * Mexican Wrestler * Big Shoes (Mom on cell) * Survivor* e: When My Ship Comes In

Jill took the stage on Tuesday the 27th promptly at 7:30, and professed her nervousness at the home town gig—New York being the only place, she says, where she gets nervous. Of course every time she makes this complaint, she proceeds to lay waste to the room, so maybe a little fear is good. She is wearing a purplish-gray dress, no lines but short enough to be sexy, solid color save for the Prince-style glyphs for male and female, one over each general breastal region. It was designed by the same person who made the peace sign dress Jill wore at XL, and it looked great on her, the funky bohemian chic of the retro-mod design pitched perfectly to Jill’s very being.

After a commanding “Resistance Song” featuring crowd la-la-la-las, Jill confirmed that it was still OK to play Christmas songs, then favored us with a seasonal section—“Jesus Was a Dreidel Spinner” (to much laughter); the new Christmas break-up song (which Jill says is her saddest song ever, with snowflakes on Christmas really the tears of a jilted Santa); and Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family.” On this last tune, it is really hard to believe Jill didn’t write the piece herself, as the biting lyrics match her voice and persona to a tee.

Having imbued all of us in the unique Sobulian sense of Christmas spirit, Jill made her way through a crowd-pleasing “Bitter,” with the “she was actually pretty good” line apparently back replacing the “’cause she’s a slutty mouseketeer” line. Then a quick “Disco Ball,” a short song that again elicits laughter from the room, especially the climactic joke about women who play golf.

“Underdog Victorious” was anthemic, with Jill instructing us to wave our lighters in the air for the final verse and chorus. Then out of “Underdog” Jill segued into a brief excerpt from Diana Ross’s “Love Hangover.” Which one is the real diva?

“Soldiers of Christ” appears to have made its way back into the setlist in a major way, a logical choice given the political climate in the country today, and it carries a profound poignancy. Indeed Jill may have been prescient when she wrote it way back for Happytown. “Mexican Wrestler” was next, one of Jill’s most oft-requested songs, and one of her most powerful. Jill plays with the ending, mixing up the dynamics for dramatic effect. “Lucy at the Gym” and “Karen by Night” are both responses to crowd requests, Jill still leery on the latter about dissing Marlon Brando so soon after his death.

Next Jill brightens the room with “Cinnamon Park,” accompanied on the invisible trumpet by some guy whose name I didn’t get, but who is apparently a platinum artist. There were just two of us on stage singing with her, and as usual the song is an upbeat highlight. The horn riff is particularly poignant, truly capturing the pathos of the song.

“Tel Aviv” is powerfully and empathetically rendered; still new live, this may end up being the “Mexican Wrestler” of the new album. “Survivor,” “I Kissed a Girl,” and “Jig” make for an upbeat and crowd-pleasing close.

Jill picks up an electric guitar and scratches out a raucous version of “When My Ship Comes In,” drenched in feedback and effects and bent notes. I half-expected her to bust into “Purple Haze,” instead of the popular Flintstones hit “The Way-Outs Song.” Finally “Jet Pack,” with Jill leaning away from the mic at the end, forcing everyone to lean in, the room growing drop-dead quiet. A beautiful ending.


The next night Jill is dressed more casually, in jeans and a top. She opens with the “la las” of “Underdog Victorious,” and tells the story of getting booed at the Don Henley concert before asking the crowd to wave our cell phones as we sway to the anthem. Last night’s opener, “Resistance Song,” is up second tonight, segueing directly into “Jesus Was a Dreidel Spinner.” Then Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family,” and “Freshman", which Jill has apparently grown comfortable playing on guitar (as opposed to the omnichord.) Tonight Jill didn’t have the lyrics to the Christmas Break-up Song at the ready, so she sang the chorus and the verse about the snow being Santa’s tears, to a collective “Aawww!” from the house.

“Angel/Asshole” was up next followed by a downbeat, cabaret-style “Que Sera Sera.” “Half a Heart” is outstanding, an unquestioned highlight; Jill uses her outside voice, and accompanies it with expressive, percussive guitar work. Next up is the Dubya section, with “Texas” (which Jill tells us she wrote before Bush was nominated the first time) followed by “”Youthful Indiscretions.” Next “Karen by Night,” one of several requests bellowed out from the bar, is chiming and anthemic. “Let’s rock!” she exclaims, breaking into a sing-along on the always raw and ragged “Sunrise, Sunset.” It was like a little taste of my Bar Mitzvah. “Sunrise, Sunset” gives way at the end to an excerpt from the Stones song “Angie.”

A glorious version of “Jet Pack” follows (“yeah, I’m gonna play it,” Jill assures the bellowers at the bar.) Jill has someone from the crowd phone her mom for “Big Shoes,” but she isn’t home, and so the guy leaves a message. During this exchange Jill performs “Ritalin Kid,” forgetting—in a funny piece of irony—that the song has no guitar part. Then “Cinnamon Park,” with a slew of singers on stage and that trumpet guy reprising his spot-on take on the “Saturday in the Park” riff. Jill puts her guitar down at the end and walks out into the crowd to lead an a capella sing-along, then finishes off with her Missy Elliot, Mavis Staples, Big Mama Jill voice (see her journal entry of 11/8/04.)

Lloyd Cole joins Jill onstage to accompany her on two numbers, “Love is Never Equal” and “I Kissed a Girl.” On the latter, for the second night in a row, Jill does a full version. Cole accompanies on guitar, lending both songs a rich texture. Jill follows “I Kissed a Girl” with “Kathie Lee,” who we now know is the secret subject of IKAG.

Jill tells the story behind the song—including parents’ address—before favoring us with “Margaret.” “Do you mind if I give the annotated versions?” she asks. Next is a gorgeous rendition of “Mexican Wrestler,” with a close wherein she moves off the mic and fills the room with unamplified singing. Pin drop stuff. Then “Bitter,” and finally Mom is home (“Hey! I went out to dinner”) so she and Jill do “Big Shoes,” complete with Mom’s rap (if you ask me, it sounded like she phoned it in.) Jill closes the set with a ballsy “Survivor”—tonight’s show is distinctly longer than the night before—and again encores with an electric version of “When My Ship Comes In,” more guitar histrionics, but no “Way-Outs.”

Two excellent, enjoyable shows; after each, Jill takes the time to meet and greet every fan who wants a CD signed or a photo taken or a moment with her, and for your moment, Jill makes you feel like the only person in the world.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 2:56 PM  

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