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Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

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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, 1/26/06
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
(photos courtesy Bob Mantin)

Since Jill moved to Los Angeles, we don’t get as many shows here in her former adopted home town as we used to. Joe’s Pub, a classy little downtown room, has become her new Manhattan home base, and on Thursday January 26, the second of two shows, many of the usual faces are scattered throughout the crowd.

The stage is set up for a full band, a pleasant surprise for a Jill gig; I personally had never seen her with a band before. Others in the room report that the night before, Cyndi Lauper’s band had sat in; we expect to get them again. Jill hits the stage solo at 7:30, nods hellos around the room, and strums her way into “Jet Pack.” I’m sitting at a table for one at the foot of the stage, and it seems as if Jill makes eye contact with me as I applaud the song; a momentary distraction that causes her to lose the line. She curses, asks me for a prompt, which I provide, and she tells the crowd, “This is why I don’t do blow anymore.” Right out of a wistful “Jet Pack,” Jill assays “Cinnamon Park,” declaring that tonight she was playing the hits, and noting that only at Joe’s would this song be received as a hit. Jill does the song alone, stepping onto the effects pedal to raunch up the freak-out section in the middle, which decays into a “Name That Tune” take on 70s classic rock and ends in an instrumental “Dust in the Wind.” Then back to the acoustic sound for the song; towards the end she notes that sometimes I play a horn part on the tune, and then invites me to stand up in the audience and play the air trumpet to take her into the outro. As usual, I kill.

Next she plays a new song, clearly about a musician, with the refrain “The most miserable person in the world;” apparently a musical idol who disappointed when Jill met her. Whoever this person is, she seems to be even worse than the “Bitter” girl. Next up, with a laptop-holder still onstage (it was Chelsea, the tall girl with the green hair, who as it happens is my friend Ira’s cousin), Jill answers a request to play “Ready for the Rapture,” her song based on an email dialogue with ex-gay ministries chief Steven Bennett. “I thought I was done with that song,” she noted. Jill notes that the guy’s website, for converting gays, is in fact the world’s gayest site; you be the judge.Next up was a sensitive and melancholy take on “Strawberry Gloss;” then “Underdog Victorious,” her rock anthem for acoustic guitar, with a feedback-drenched outro. (For those keeping score, each of the 4 familiar tunes she’s played are from the most recent record, Underdog Victorious.)

Here’s when things get interesting. Most of Cyndi Lauper’s band joins Jill onstage: Steve Gaboury on keyboards, Bill Wittman on bass, Sammy Merendino on drums, and Allison Cornell on violin (or maybe it was a viola?) and vocals. Jill picks up her electric (well, to be truthful, Jill asks me to hand it to her); and she leads the band into the title track from her latest, an anthemic “Underdog Victorious,” her 70s arena anthem usually performed solo acoustic. We hold lighters aloft and sway as Jill soaks the outro in feedback. Next a brisk and staccato “When My Ship Comes In,” jangle-driven, Jill rocking out with bursts of electric guitar. Jill totally smokes like a guitar hero on the break; Allison drives the song home on violin (or, prehaps, viola).

“This is before Brokeback Mountain!” she exclaims before leading the band into her hit, “I Kissed a Girl.” The song rides a rollicking bass line, and features nice piano fills; with full band (Jill has moved back to acoustic) the song rocks in a major way, and they totally kick ass.

Next Jill and Allison duet on “Mexican Wrestler,” evocative of the duet of the song with Cyndi Lauper posted on her website. Allison’s violin parts are sparse and color the song’s sad message perfectly, dripping with tone in the tiny room; when she wraps her voice around Jill’s, it sends chills up your spine. Her violin takes a lead spot on the bridge, and her and Jill’s powerful, nuanced vocals on the climactic part of the song are spot-on.

Next is “Somewhere in New Mexico,” also featuring lovely harmonies. Then Jill and some of the band do a new song, with a line like, “There’s nothing I can do.” Jill brings her mother Elaine out, and they duet on the Nelly song “Its Getting Hot in Herre” (Elaine: “Gonna take my clothes off.”) Apparently Mama is an original gangsta.

Steve on piano and Alison join Jill for “Resistance Song,” which is another surprise for them; with the tentative piano part and the violin, the song sounds vaguely Hungarian, which is good. Jill observes the similarity between “Too Hot in Herre” and “Resistance Song,” which is true, at least if you play the former on an acoustic guitar. The trio stays on for a closing “Bitter” (Jill: “Keep up; the key and time signature changes every four bars.”) with Steve doing some lovely, exploratory improvisation on the bridge and Jill following him out on a limb, before heading back to the song to bring the set home.

The house is begging for an encore, and if we can’t get more cowbell, at least we want more Elaine. Everyone comes back out; “Big Shoes,” full band, is next, riding on top of a lumbering, thunderous bass groove. Elaine sings her answer rap in the middle and helps out on the backing vocals. Out of the song Jill segues on the fly into “All the Young Dudes,” calling out “Open E!” to the band as she steers into the song, knowing that they’ll be there with her. Arena rock with a two-drink minimum; just the way I like it.A great show, one of the 2 or 3 very best Jill performances I’ve been to, and a tip of the hat to the band, especially Allison.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 1:36 PM  

At 2/09/2006 1:53 PM, Blogger Johnnie said...   

Josh Chasin scribes another great review of reflection, inspired by an invigorated Jill coming off the winter tour of 2005. All the titles sound the same, however, just reading, I can hear that we've ushered in a new era of Jill sound, with angst still being the house foundation, however, the lights are all on, the dark curtains have been ripped from the walls, the windows are open....and there is a kick ass kegger goin on in the backyard and the block is rockin!

At 2/09/2006 1:59 PM, Blogger --josh-- said...   

Thanks much Johnnie for the kind words. And you are spot on correct; color and light imbuing the angst.

Par-tay in the shtetl!

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