Sunday, November 1, 2009

Matthew Perryman Jones, Ingrid Michaelson - Live Review

Singer-songwriters tend to be the bane of any rock critic’s existence. We are bored of hearing about their petty little romance problems. We cannot bear another note of simple, unoriginal guitar strumming. And we hate, let’s emphasize hate, getting stuck behind mushy couples making out all over the place. It’s pretty much the least cool way to spend a Saturday night.

But there are always exceptions, and if Bob Dylan isn’t coming to the local venue and Elliott Smith (RIP) isn’t coming back to life, we just have to hope that some true talent still exists. Matthew Perryman Jones and Ingrid Michaelson proved that it does to a sold-out show at the Beachland Ballroom on Halloween Eve. Fans didn’t want to miss a great show – or holiday – so they came dressed up and ready to hear some deeply meditative songs.

A few songs into his set, Jones pointed to the crowd, asking a fan “Are you Waldo?” “Yes,” the guy responded, to which Jones replied, “Found you! Dude, you are being way too obvious.” What wasn’t so clear is Jones’ style. The Nashville-based artist has said that he loves melodramatic love songs, but his voice doesn’t come off as overly sentimental. He balanced his tenor somewhere between rugged and smooth, between strong and overbearing, and between pop and country. Instead of sticking with one genre, Jones fills in the holes that link several together.

Fans screamed when he covered Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World,” and cracked up when he stopped a song in the middle to help the rhythmically-challenged crowd clap along with “When It Falls Apart.”

The fun didn’t end when Jones left the stage. Michaelson integrated candy throwing, singing contests (one half of the crowd was dubbed “stallions” and the other “hairy mammoths”), audience choreography, and sarcastic storytelling into her set of bouncy love/ex-love songs. Accompanied by a 5-piece band, the spitfire sang her heart out, her voice dipping and twisting at all the right times during songs like “The Hat” and “Be Ok.”

She improvised a new song on her keyboard, playing with one of the tootsie rolls she hadn’t yet thrown into the crowd. It was moments like this, the utterly spontaneous and spunky, that set Michaelson apart from some of her dull singer-songwriter counterparts.

While group sing-a-longs brought a piece of childhood into her live show, Michaelson also joked about four year olds smoking pot and got the girls in her band together to chant a ladies anthem under the moniker “Vag Force.”

We may be too old for trick-or-treating, but rock critics and fans alike are never too old for some good old-fashioned fun.

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