Thursday, June 09, 2005

Shell Shocked

We saw Michelle Shocked this afternoon down in Lafayette Square as part of the free Wednesday at the Square concert series the city puts on every year. Great show!

Just like with Jonathan Richman on Sunday, we got rained on. Part of Summer in New Orleans, I guess. Actually, we found a spiffy spot with a clear view of the stage under a huge live-oak tree which blocked the worst part of the rain. We could've been closer, but we'd have been wetter and in the mud.

And the sound guy seemed completely oblivious to a horrible spike around 12KHz which simply killed my ears every time the trumpet went altissimo or the piano went up into the top octaves. I really didn't want to get any closer to the speakers than we already were. I'm listening to one of her CDs now and it sounds a bit muffled, meaning my ears haven't recovered yet.

Paralleling Jonathan Richman, she put on a totally different show here than she did in Cincinnati. Similarly, that show was more straight-ahead and the one here in New Orleans was devoted to more improv and new material. I really enjoyed it, but have to admit to my inner teenager jumping up and down and whining, "why don't you play your hiiiiits..."

She was working with a fantastic array of local musicians. Good enough that they had only started working on the songs together the night before (!) but sounded amazingly tight. It was mostly N'awlins-influenced rockin' R&B souding, but with her unique twist on top, rather than the folky stuff she's usually known for, but it really worked. Evidently she lived here for a while, which I never knew. She seems to have come by the sound honestly as her reason for moving here back in the day was to work with Alan Toussaint, which is enough N'awlins music cred for this non-native.

She's one of those incredible but hard-to-classify artists who seem to keep doing new things. This irritates fans who only want more of the same, but I tend to prefer musicians like this. Especially when they always seem to do the new stuff damn well, like she does. And with a great sense of humor. It's always nice to see people who're having just a fantastic time up on stage.

She did a short acoustic bit when the band left the stage which I loved, as I fell in love with her for her Texas Campfire Tapes, and always will love her best when it's just her and her guitar. She did some of our faves, like Amsterdam, Come a Long Way, and Anchorage, all of which she said people were calling out for. Wonder what she would have done on her own choice? Come a Long Way is one of my favorite songs ever, but I liked the Cincinnati version better. Here it sounded like she was kinda sick of playing it, which doesn't surprise me. She seems like an artist who gets bored easily doing the same thing over and over.

She'd kinda been letting the excellence of the band do the heavy musical lifting for the first set. Not a complaint, and I'm sure it was just great fun for her to be working with such excellent professionals. But when she got up there by herself, and did some stunning acoustic fingerpicking while just belting out some powerfully emotional vocals... *chills*... oh, yeah! she's one of my favorite musicians and this is why!

Her trumpet player came back and added some beautiful and tasteful backup to a couple of songs. Acoustic guitar and trumpet is a combo I never would have thought of, but it was a great musical moment I'm glad I was there for.


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