Mountain Stage: Kate Miller-Heidke, David Broza, and Marc Cohn

I hadn’t intended to review Mountain Stage’s July 18th FestivALL concert at The Clay Center here since I covered it for another publication, but Kate Miller-Heidke’s performance was too magnificent to keep to myself and I can share more details here since Muruch has no word count.

Kate was not only of the more interesting acts to have appeared on Mountain Stage, but she also possessed one of the loveliest voices I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear at the venue.

Considering the avante-pop theatrics of her latest release Curiouser (click for my album review), the stripped down acoustic set could’ve been a big disappointment. But Kate’s spectacular, rafter-scraping vocals and bubbly charm provided plenty of entertainment.

I can attest that Kate’s voice required no effects on the recording to reach those surreal high notes. Her vocal flights of fancy were even more astonishing and gravity-defying in person than on the album. And she was cute and graceful even when she flubbed a line and had to restart “Politics in Space.”

Her humorous piano rendition of “Facebook Song” was a big hit with the audience, but will definitely require some editing before the radio broadcast – if it makes it on the air at all.

I didn’t catch the title of the last song Kate performed, but her final series of operatic trills left the entire audience in awe and earned her a standing ovation.I suspect I’m not the only audience member who wished she’d been granted the special extended one-hour set instead of Marc Cohn.

Israeli artist David Broza was a last minute replacement for Aboriginal singer Gurrumul, whose U.S. tour was canceled last week due to “unforeseen circumstances.” Broza’s intricate, often frenzied guitar work blends folk, blues, and Latin rhythms. For his latest release Night Dawn, Broza set unpublished poems by Townes Van Zandt to music.

Other than a very dull set by Sahara Smith (someone should tell these country starlets that miniskirts won’t mask bland vocals on the radio!), the rest of the acts were also solid and enjoyable. But for me, Kate’s shadow didn’t let go of the stage until Marc Cohn walked out.

This was the second time I’ve seen Marc Cohn at Mountain Stage, the first was two years ago shortly after the release of his post-traumatic masterpiece Join the Parade. His 2008 performance was much more powerful due to the emotional content and events surrounding the songs on Join the Parade, but this time his demeanor and the general mood of his set was lighthearted and fun.

Before his set began, Cohn’s roadies packed the stage with white towels and glasses of what appeared to be wine…to which host Larry Groce quipped: “I don’t know what it is, but it ain’t clear, so it wasn’t made around here.” And after explaining the use of a prerecorded drum track (a rare occurrence on the live radio show), Cohn jokingly threatened to mimic Pink’s wet acrobatic act as he became progressively more “contemporary” throughout the night.

Cohn’s new release Listening Booth: 1970 pays tribute to his favorite songs that were originally released in 1970. The album features covers of classic songs by Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Cat Stevens, Van Morrison, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Smokey Robinson, Joe Cocker, Simon & Garfunkel and Eric Clapton.

Unfortunately, an early deadline elsewhere forced me to leave before the end of the show, so I missed the group finale. But what I saw of Cohn’s set was a superb end to the evening. Highlights were his bluesy rendering of Joe Cocker’s version of “The Letter” from the new album, “The Calling” from Join The Parade, and “Silver Thunderbird” from Cohn’s self-titled debut.

I managed to take a few shots during the concert, but they didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped due to the angle of my seat. Still, you can get an idea…

Mountain Stage: Jeremy Fisher, Amy Correia, and Marc Cohn

I was fortunate enough to attend last night’s Mountain Stage concert, which featured Jeremy Fisher, Amy Correia, Kelly Sweet, Bill Evans & Soul Grass with Richard Bono & Sam Bush, and Marc Cohn.

I have to send out an enormous “Thank you!” to Amy Correia for getting me into the sold out show. I was in the audience when Amy performed at Mt. Stage in 2001 and again in 2005, and I’m very glad I was able to attend her third appearance at the venue.

Canadian jazz singer Holly Cole was also scheduled to perform, but was apparently “hung up at the border” and didn’t make it to the show. I was very disappointed, as I was almost as excited to see her name on the lineup as Amy’s. Holly’s performance at Mountain Stage in 1998 was one of my favorite concert experiences.

Jeremy Fisher was the first to take the stage last night. He was adorable – like a young, more handsome Bob Dylan with that big curly mop of hair and harmonica strapped around his neck. I haven’t been able to get his album yet, so the music was unfamiliar to me. His voice and arrangements were very catchy and soulful. I think the songs I liked best are “Scar That Never Heals” and “High School”. I always like to see a musician really throw themselves into a song like Jeremy did. I only wish he’d had more stage time. (Postscript: Goodbye Blue Monday review here)

The incomparable Amy Corriea was next, accompanied only by her guitar. Amy was a late addition to the lineup, booked for a solo set after the show’s producers realized she would be coming to the venue to sing backup for Marc Cohn. Every time I see and hear Amy perform there, I’m astounded by the power and character of her voice. Last night was no exception.

Amy played three new songs and one from her Lakeville album. The first of the new songs was sung from the perspective of a little boy whose father is sent to Iraq. The second was “Love Changes Everything”, which you can hear on Amy’s MySpace page. The third was “Powder Blue”, a funny tune about a love starved barfly and her Trans Am. Amy finished with an astonishing a cappella performance of “Love Is”. As she grabbed the microphone and let the song rip its way out of her throat, she seemed to be channelling the spirits of both Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday.

I should probably refrain from commenting too much on the acts that followed, because it was difficult not to be bored by anything left in Amy’s wake. But I prefer to be honest. Kelly Sweet and Bill Evans & Soul Grass with Richard Bono & Sam Bush seemed to be big hits with the baby boomers in the crowd, but I eagerly awaited the end of both sets. Kelly had an undeniably pretty voice, but was way too saccharine for me…like an even more pageantic Charlotte Church singing lifeless pop ballads. And the first half of the overly long set by Bill Evans & Soul Grass with Richard Bono & Sam Bush was like an elevator music jam band. The exception being the brief time when Sam Bush did an impressively fast mandolin solo.

Marc Cohn got the show back on track for me. Amy Correia returned to the stage to lend her voice, guitar, and claps to his band. Marc’s voice has even more depth and power in person than on his recordings. His is another CD on my wishlist. Highlights of his set were “Live Out The String” from his new album and a slowed down, bluesy version of his hit single “Walking In Memphis”.

Everyone except Jeremy Fisher returned to the stage for the rousing group finale of The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek”.

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