Last night’s show did have a spectacular opening act in Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles. Sarah – sporting a cute lil black dress that showed off her tattoos – and her boys tore up the stage with a thunderous rock guitar extravaganza. You would have thought Led Zeppelin was on stage instead of a four piece rockabilly band. They opened with an upbeat song I didn’t recognize (but thoroughly enjoyed), then shook the floors with “The Day We Met” before settling into the more somber “Modern Trick”.
John Doe joined the band for a fun duet of “Stop & Think It Over”. Apparently it was a happy coincidence that the former X frontman – who happens to be Sarah’s main musical influence – was booked for the same show. I don’t know if Sarah and John had met before, but it was clear that they became fast friends. The band closed their set with the blistering “Diabolito”, with Sarah’s voice defying gravity on a Beyoncé belt at the end. I felt a little sorry for the rest of the performers, because Sarah & The Broken Singles set the stage on fire and everyone else had to play in their enormous shadow.
John Doe was up next. His truly was a good set, but bare acoustics couldn’t help but seem a little lackluster after that opener. The highlights were “There’s A Hole” and “Darling Underdog” from his new album, and especially his bluesy “The Losing Kind” from the Black Snake Moan soundtrack. Doe’s voice may be past its peak, but it’s still very strong. And he gives the impression of being a very likable guy, as well as someone who really loves music in general. In addition to singing with Sarah and participating in the big finale, I saw him standing off stage during some of the other performances and applauding along with the audience.
I hadn’t heard of Luke Temple before the show, and I have conflicting opinions about his performance. He has a very beautiful falsetto voice – somewhere between Thom Yorke and Sufjan Stevens. But his quirkiness seemed at least a little gimmicky – the tall black furry hat, the bizarre lyrics, and even the inflections in his voice seemed intentionally left of center. I could be wrong, as I said I knew nothing about him before the performance. I just thought the weird trappings detracted from his genuine talent. I’d say he’s someone to watch out for though, he definitely has a captivating voice.
Next up was Chuck Prophet. I had high hopes for this one, but it was way too jam bandish for my taste. Typical Mountain Stage sets last for 15 to 30 minutes at most. Prophet and his band played for almost an hour. The technical difficulties that had plagued the entire evening were partially to blame – the auditorium was so cold the musicians had to keep tuning their instruments in between songs. But the tuning problems were only part of what made Chuck’s set drag on. He stretched every song way beyond its limit with long guitar riffs while he made eyes at his keyboard playing wife. At first the lusty glances the couple exchanged seem sweet, but eventually it was just icky. Just as I was about to whisper “get a room”, someone else in the audience beat me to it.
Zap Mama was the last act of the evening. Now that’s entertainment! Lead vocalist Marie Daulne walked on stage looking elegant and statuesque in her long red dress, matching cape, huge earrings, and glittering clips in her sculpted hair. She was quite charming – enthusiastically thanking the audience for their “love” – and sang beautifully, as did her backup singers. Her musicians did a fine job as well. They effortlessly captured and enhanced the exotic sound of “Affection”, “1,000 Ways”, “Toma Taboo”, and the encore “Supermoon”. Zap Mama’s set wasn’t just a live performance, it was an experience.
The big finale of the night was rousing group rendition of “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World”. I was disappointed that Zap Mama didn’t join in, but the rest of the night’s performers happily returned to the stage with the house band. Larry Groce – decked out in denim overalls – could easily give Neil Young a run for his money vocally. And bffs Sarah Borges & John Doe did a cute little dance routine. Whatever weaknesses the rest of the night had, that was definitely one of the best final numbers.
Unfortunately, the show ran so long I couldn’t stick around to meet the performers this time. I exuberantly recommend seeing Sarah Borges, John Doe, and Zap Mama in concert if you ever have the chance.
The disc opens with the twenty second piano and organ instrumental “The Wilderness” before launching into “Hotel Ghost”, which features the revving guitar of former X member Dave Alvin. It and the crunching “There’s A Hole” – with guitar by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys – are the stand out rock tracks. Auerbach also plays steel on the bluesy “Big Moon”.
“The Golden State”, “A Little More Time”, and “Lean Out Yr Window” feature the twangy vocals of Kathleen Edwards. Jill Sobule pops up on the ballad “Darling Underdog”, though you can barely hear her for most of the song. And Aimee Mann guests on “Unforgiven”, which again simmers the guitars.
Doe’s best vocals on the album are probably on the Cash-lite track “The Meanest Man In The World” and the finale “Grain Of Salt”.