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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 9

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 9

12/2/03 Miles Of Wire, Frederickís. I mostly just stopped off to say "Hi" to Fred, but I caught a few songs by this upstart local trio (I think this was their second gig) in the process. Not a bad crowd for a Tuesday night- maybe 40 or 50 people. They started off with, for lack of a more original phrase, an indie-rock jangle. As always, I was tempted to come up with a sound-alike for the lead singerÖhe sings in a distinctive, honest, higher range voice- the closest I could come up with was some hybrid of Dave Matthews and St. Louisí own Mark Stephens. But about six songs into the set, they did a song called "Birds" that reminded me of Ryan Adams in just about every way. This song started off all quiet and dramatic as that near-falsetto voice delivered a lyric like "the birds were singing for me, at least I think they wereÖIím a selfish guy", followed by a pause before the song erupted into an anthemic rocker. As with Mr. Adams, the quality of each of these elements is open to debate, but the basic M.O. was strikingly similar. Iím guessing Iíll see these guys again some time.

12/5/03 Kip Loui & The Town Criers, The Lemmons. We brought the whole family (in 2 cars) to this south St. Louis eatery, where the early hours were filled with pizza and our kids stomping around on the stage with their toy instruments. (BTW, Lemmonsí thick crust pizza is very thick and pretty dry and chewy). This was my first trip to Lemmonís since theyíve moved the stage up from the "fire trap" basement. Fire codes not withstanding, this first floor space is a much more pleasant place to sit and hear musicÖand thereís that side room that allows the talkers to accommodate the listeners (and vice-versa)- kinda like at the new (and old) Way Out Club.

About an hour after I sent the rest of the family home, The Turnstiles opened tonightís show with their debut set as a six-piece: a bunch of ex-One Fell Swoop members plus Nate Dahm on keyboards. They opened with a couple of songs sung by Andy Ploof- Iím always struck by how similar Andyís voice is to that of Jonathan Edwards.

After these two songs, they were joined by the ever-charming Anne Tkach (Nadineís bass player) on vocals. Anne was somewhat nervous about her singing debut in this band, moving about with aw-shucks, Olive Oyl modesty, but she sang convincingly enough to dispel any such reticence. In one of her other bands, Hazeldine, two other women do most of the singing, Anne adding the occasional backing vocals. From what I heard tonight, her singing could (and maybe should) come more into the forefront of their mix as well. I especially liked her singing on John Wendlandís "Destination Anywhere", "Flesh and Blood" and the old Swoop favorite "Sinkhole".

The prospect of an incarnation of One Fell Swoop without the considerable vocal talents of Cheryl Stryker seemed less than ideal, but her absence has forced the remaining members to pick up the slack and do more; Andy has added electric guitar to the list of lead instruments (mandolin, dobro, fiddle) he has mastered, and John Wendland now plays a bit of lead electric guitar and mandolin, as well. Nateís keyboards can range from the honky tonk piano sound added to their cover of The Talking Headsí "Heaven" (Andy on vocals, and yes, it really works in a totally un-ironic, endearing way) to soulful organ fills on The Bandís "The Rumour". The latter was treated as a duet between Andy and drummer Sean Anglin, but their voices are so similar that the most discernable difference was simply the volume level of each singerís mic. They ended their set with another One Fell Swoop classic, "Fences" (John on vocals). I gotta say that as nice as it sounded, I finally found a moment where I missed ex-vocalist Cheryl Strykerís voice. If that didnít happen until their last song, they must be doing something right.

Tonightís headliner was Kip Loui & The Town Criers. In addition to Kipís many other projects (his radio show & the forthcoming Chuck Berry tribute CD, to name a couple) this is one of three stylistically diverse bands he is a member of, and the best conduit for his original material. Heís assembled a four-piece (B, D, G & keys) band that fleshes out Kipís catchy originals just fine. Even though I thought the melodies and the instrumentation were fine, I wasnít blown away. The overall delivery somehow felt a bit stiff, as though the songs were being delivered by an actor. I donít doubt that Kip is sincere in his intent, and means every word, so it must just be me. A friend of mine was totally impressed, so there you go. After a few songs, I became a member of the "talkers faction" over in the side room. They ended with a Beatles cover, Iím not remembering.

12/17/03 Chuck Berry, The Duck Room. Chuckís a living legend, and itís a cool thing that St. Louisans can still get a chance to see him in the intimate confines of The Duck Room, even if his actual performances can be a bit of a crapshoot. Iíve seen him a couple of times there over the years, but his monthly gigs are not a staple of my concert-goingÖbut when my friend Doug told me that he was moving to Baltimore next month and wanted to make sure he saw Mr. Berry before he left town, I was up for another trip to the room named in Chuckís honor.

The place was packed, but not sold out, as Joe Edwards provided a grand and glowing introduction and soon Chuck was plying his trademark voice and guitar treatment to "Roll Over Beethoven". Oh, yea, there was a band playing behind him, but they were nothing special- local legend Bob Kubanís drumming kept the beat well enough, but his heavy reliance on the shuffling cymbal sound made the overall sound come off like some kind of lightweight oldies revue. Lead guitar (played by Chuckís son) and keyboards were competent, but once again, unspectacular. Soon, Chuckís daughter, Ingrid, joined the mix, providing some lead vocals and harmonica and adding to the homegrown feel of this mom & pop operation. Often the songs, including "Reeliní and Rockiní", "Rock and Roll Music", and Tampa Redís "It Hurts Me, Too" fell into a relatively forgettable mid-tempo blues-rock groove. The novelty hit, "My Ding-A-Ling" seemed to please most of the crowd, but just bugged me. Why this true musical pioneer ever recorded this sophomoric nursery rhyme is beyond me.

In spite of all that was less than ideal tonight, Chuck still offered several glimpses of the cool charisma that made him one of the quintessential figures in Rock and Roll. I got the feeling in those moments that we were in the presence of genius. While obligatory hits like "Maybelline", "Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Johnny B. Goode" (and a couple of duck walks) were nice enough, I was more taken when he would get into a groove grinding out the chords on more obscure songs like "Carol", "Nadine" and especially "Let It Rock". Even in his seventies, he performs with impressive grace and ease, and can still get a rich, glowing tone out of his guitar.




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