Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Going solo: a night with Jill Barber

On November 22nd (yes, I'm rather behind) I went to see Jill Barber. This was my first solo concert ever since the lovely Andrew was in Baltimore for a conference. I tweeted some time ago that I was distressed that the concert fell over Andrew's absence and would I go by myself? A little later I got a response from Jill herself telling me that she'd be my date, but that she couldn't sit with me. I decided I wanted to see Jill bad enough that I would brave up and go by myself. I figured since the venue was relatively small (Myer Horowitz) and it was a jazz concert that I would be fine on my own. As it turned out there were three solo concert goers sitting in a row--the front row I might add. Naturally I'm way too much of an introvert to have drummed up a conversation with either of the other two.

So yes, I was sitting in the front row for this concert, just off to one side. It gave me a great view of the show and so it was easy to see that the band and Jill were having a wonderful time. Accompanying Jill was a 5-piece band, all guys (Jill pointed out that one problem with touring with only other men is that sometimes she starts to become a 'dude' too). There was a guitar, and a bass player (mostly upright but some electric as well), a drummer, a keyboardist (he played piano, keyboard and accordion) and a violinist/clarinetist/saxophonist who also had a whistle solo in one of the songs. They got individually introduced about a third of the way through the concert, with Jill taking the time to tell a little story about each one of them. They were all excellent, and as I said, they all seemed to have a really good time, enjoying the music they played.

Jill's tour was to promote her new album Mischievous Moon, which came out back in April, and I've had a copy since. A good chunk of her set list came from this record, although there were several from the previous one (Chances), and a few earlier ones I didn't know. This concert was very different from the previous one with Sarah Sleen, which was more of a rock sound, and considerably louder. Also, the singers shows were quite different. While when Sarah told stories she fiddled around on the piano, everyone was quiet as Jill spoke. Jill has a very light and cheery voice, where Sarah is more solemn. I would say most of Jill's songs were about love (and mostly happy), where Sarah's were 'deep' and considerably more dower. Also, Jill primarily just sings, only occasionally picking up her guitar, where Sarah played piano for almost everything. I liked them both for their different qualities.

I really enjoyed the concert. It was fun and if the seating hadn't been theatre style, I would have loved to dance (and if my partner had been there with me). At the end, Jill told a story about a dream she'd once had (this was the only time the band played while she talked--creating 'mood' music) where a woman with a broken heart had gone to a doctor to have him fix it. This segway eventually lead into Don't Let Me Go. At on point during the song she tried to get the audience to participate (you know how musicians will stop singing a popular song and expect the audience to keep going) but we were a little slow on the uptake. So she stopped singing, and we didn't pick up the slack. It took another try before everyone caught on. Then, as this was the 'last' song of the evening she wondered to the back of the stage to allow her musicians to jam for it bit--I thought this was kind of awesome.

Of course, as at most concerts I've been to, the last song is never quite the last song. There was an encore, and as with Sarah Sleen's concert, someone yelled out a request, and Jill obliged the fan by playing Hard Line. Then she got down to the planned encore, which was much slower, quieter song titled Lullaby (which is apparently also a children's storybook.
Jill and the band--I think this was just after the concert started.
Jill and the band performing 'A Wish Under My Pillow.' The band sang backup with just slight accompaniment from the acustic guitar and string bass, which was also used as a drum kit :)


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