Life in Music inspired by Joe Henry

dinsdag 21 april 2020

The concert that didn't happen (but maybe it did...?)

Hello Everyone,
Enjoying a nice glass of wine here, enjoying that beautiful full moon. But it’s time to go.

 I put down my glass and make my way out. While crossing; I take one last look at the moon, and then I enter the theater….

When I find my seat, all there is left to do, is waiting for the fading out of the houselights. On stage we already get a preview of what’s to come. There is a microphone in the middle and an empty barseat behind it, accompanied by an equally empty guitarstand. A little off-center a concertpiano is quietly waiting.

Ah, it’s time to begin….

Joe walked on stage with his guitar. He sat down, said good evening to us all and played ‘Salt and Sugar’ as an opener. When he was done, the audience embraced him with so much warmth ! Without saying something we all knew the circumstances on how this song, and his latest album, came to be. It was as if we finally could stop holding our breath. There he was, we had missed him, and kept him in our hearts all this time. There he was…
Joe looked at all of us, and made a little bow.  “ Thank you, I’m even more happy to be back here than ever.” As if he knew what we all were thinking.
‘Bloom’, ‘Orson Welles’ and ‘General Tzu Names The Planets For His Children’ from his latest album followed, with that last one a first highlight of the evening. Wow! Goosebumps, and we are only 4 songs in…. What treats will there be for us the rest of the evening ? 

He moved over to the piano, and first brought us ‘Tomorrow is October’ followed by ‘God Only Knows’. 2 songs that keep standing the test of time, and we will receive more of those further on the evening. Joe kept on moving over the keys, and slowly he turned in to a Jazzclub pianist. His fiddling on the keys referred to Dave Brubeck by shifting into the intro of ‘Strange Meadow Lark’. In the meantime, he told us a story:

You know, when I was kid, I was completely intrigued by Casablanca, the Movie I mean. I was intrigued by the entire atmosphere of it. I wanted to be in Casablanca, not the real one, I didn’t know that off course, No I wanted to be in THAT Casablanca, the only one I knew.
I remember myself hanging over the kitchen table, with my glass of soda water saying : “Off all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks in to mine.” (laughter in the audience) Or, sometimes when I was up in my room I’d say to a wooden puppet on the windowsill: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship….."

And sometimes I sat at the piano, and said to myself : “play it joe, Play ‘As time goes by’."

And then he did. He gave us a wonderful rendition of that classic written by Herman Hupfeld.

Leaving the Piano, Joe suddenly said: ”Please Welcome on Stage  : Mr JT Nero and Allison Russell of Birds of Chicago!"  Wait!? Did he really say that ?  I knew the answer when they, indeed, walked on stage. What a wonderful surprise ! 
We first got the wonderful ‘In time for Tomorrow’. The more I hear it, the more I find it one of the most beautiful songs Joe has ever written. Especially if you have JT and Alli backing up ! They received a well-deserved warm applause for that.

“I don’t know if you know this”, said Joe, “but they can make music that completely grabs me. If you don’t, I’m maybe a bit jealous for the experience of what you are about to discover”. In which we first heard their ‘Barley’, with the amazing voice of Allison in a lead role, and as last song before the intermission ‘American Flowers’. 
Slowly the curtains closed. Time to get a drink.

When the curtains opened again, there was another surprise for us. We now saw the setup for an entire band. While this sank in, they walked on stage : Jay Bellerose (Drums), David Piltch (Upright Bass), Patrick Warren (Piano) followed by JT Nero (guitar) and Allison Russell(Clarinet, backing vocals, small percussion,…).

“Say hello, to these fine crazy people with me !” They started with ‘Shook up the World’, a song Joe wrote in memory of Muhammed Ali. This followed by ‘Trampoline’.
Slowly the intensity build up, from ‘River floor’, over ‘Death to the storm’, to an impressive ‘The dark is light enough’. 
We could take back our breath with ‘Mule’, ‘The man I keep hid’ and ‘the Gospel according to water’. Just enough to go all the way through the roof with ‘Monkey’, ‘Time is a lion’, ‘Odetta’ and ‘Like She was Hammer’.
"We’ve got one more song for you ":  ‘Eyes out for you’.
We all needed to release tension and gave them a standing ovation!

As a first encore, Joe alone walked over to the piano and played ‘You can’t fail me now’. After that:  Birds of Chicago walked back on stage, and the 3 of them sang as a Gospel, ‘These Days’ by Jackson Brown.
For the last 2 songs, the band came back on stage.

"2 Weeks ago we had to say goodbye to John Prine. Although it was not unexpected, the loss of such mountain hit us hard. He came with a writing voice full-formed and perfectly tuned to his tremulous times; and it has grown deeper and more expressive with years because he had been willing to see us all with an eye as compassionate as it was unflinching. His gentle acknowledgment of our desires and failures was affirming, and made buoyant by forgiveness. Against many odds, we are thus nourished and persuaded to press on — and encouraged to just maybe forgive ourselves too as we go. This is Stormy Windows…"(1)

…And after that, there was only one more. To end the night they performed ‘lead me on’ from Joe’s album ‘Invisible Hour’.

But it was not the end…. We stood up, and just kept on clapping, until finally Joe walked back on stage on his own.

“Thank you all, this is not even a little bit overwhelming. But it is time to lay the evening to rest.
So with this song, I wish you all a good homecoming, and I hope to see you soon. “

The end was for his version of ‘Hobo’s Lullaby’ from his ‘Shine a light’ album with Billy Bragg.

It was indeed, also for us, not even a little bit an overwhelming concert. Thank you for this.

When I walked out of the theater I took one more look at the moon,
… I raise my glass to it…. and said  “That could have been quiet an evening.”
Slowly I start to clean up the table in the garden, and in the end, just before I blow out the last candle I say : “Here’s looking at you kid!”.

Much Love,

ull setlist :
Salt and Sugar – Bloom – General Tzu…. – Orson Welles – Tomorrow is October – God Only knows – As Time goes by (Herman Hupfeld) – In time for Tomorrow – Barley (Birds of Chicago) – American Flowers (BOC)


With band : Shook up the world – Trampoline – River Floor – Death to the Storm – Dark is light Enough – Mule – The man I keep hid – The Gospel according to Water –Monkey – Time is a lion – Odetta –Like She was a hammer – Eyes out for you

Encore 1 : You can’t fail me now (solo) – These Days (Jackson Brown) (With BOC) – Stormy Windows (John prine) (Full Band) – Lead me on (Full Band)

Encore 2 : Hobo’s Lullaby


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