Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Joan Osborne rocks

I’m not exactly sure why Joan Osborne isn’t selling out big arena shows or moderately sized theaters like the Paramount instead of 300-seat venues such as Seattle’s Triple Door. Osborne certainly has more talent in her thumb than any six standard-issue pop divas can muster up combined. Weisenheimer is thankful, however, for the shows in a more intimate club. At Madison Square Garden my sweetie and I probably would not have scored a front-row table about six feet from the great singer-songwriter’s left ankle as we did at Osborne’s appearance in town Monday night, part of a tour in support of her new album Little Wild One.

My only criticism of Osborne’s set, the second of two on the evening at the Triple Door, is that she saved the best for first. The opening number was a sultry, full-blues cover of “How Sweet it Is” that would have melted James Taylor’s guitar strings. Forget about Marvin Gaye and Sweet Baby James, this is now Osborne’s song, the title track of her 2002 album. Stealing from Marvin isn’t easy.

Osborne’s original material is top-notch. She played her smash hit “One of Us” as well as “Ladder,” both from her Grammy-nominated 1995 album Relish. But Weisenheimer says she’s at her absolute best singing the blues and covering funk hits. Her version of “Let’s Just Kiss,” the Manhattans’ chart-topper also recorded by Barry White and many others, was marvelous, as was “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?”, one of the tunes she sang in the 2002 film Standing in the Shadows of Motown, a documentary about the label’s incredible in-house band, the Funk Brothers.

Osborne’s band is top-notch, too. Andrew Carillo, a vaguely Neil Young-looking character, played guitar; Richard Hammond was on bass, Aaron Comess drums; and Keith Cotton keyboards. Osborne and the guys closed their set with an encore, the Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace.” Osborne toured with the surviving members of the band, billed as The Dead (apparently they just aren't grateful without Jerry Garcia), in 2003. A version of “Palace” is on her 2006 disc Pretty Little Stranger.

Singer Matt Morris opened the show, and also did a duet with Osborne during her set, on “Cathedrals,” a track from the new disc. Weisenheimer liked Morris’ slow blues version of the Beatles’ “Help!” My sweetie was having none of that.

No comments: