Monday, September 14, 2009

City Whinery: My Problem With Sid 'N' Susie

Always the cynic, yes I know, but...please hear me out.

I raved about "Under The Covers Volume 2," the second installment of rock and roll classics from Sid 'n' Susie, better known to most of you cats as Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs. Really I did. Just look HERE.

I had been looking forward to Friday night's performance at City Winery for weeks. YEARS, even. (Okay, just weeks.) And it was a fun evening....kind of.

It was one of those "loosey-goosey performances", you know, where the band just wants to feel like they are in their own living rooms, chilling with friends, sipping some wine, and sharing stories about their day. This type of performance used to be a rare treat; a special night out, a diversion from the big concert hall experience. You know, the experience where the artists were actually prepared. In recent years, this non-chalant way of performing has become commonplace. I am so over the "charm" of forgetting lyrics, being under rehearsed, and "wanting to know if the audience has any questions about pottery."

I have a question. How is it you forgot your guitar in a cab, Susanna, and couldn't find anyplace in NYC for a replacement? That's my question. NOWHERE in NYC were you able to get a guitar for your performance? You're a damn Bangle. Hoffs was without an instrument for the entire show until she borrowed guitarist Paul Chastain's for the last two Bangles' tunes, "In Your Room" and "Manic Monday," which by the way, were the highlights of the show. (Apparently, she KNEW those tunes.)

Cheat sheets, "fakebooks," bad chords, and wrong lyrics were in abundance on Friday evening. The show started a little after 10PM and by 10:30, Sid N Susie had played 4 songs, 2 of which were a bit of a mess. Now before all of you start sending me "lighten up" e-mails, I am asking you for a break here. I mean, I know the lyrics to "Cinnamon Girl," and "Hello It's Me," why don't they? What are THEY doing all day? Singing and playing guitar, right?

On the upside, Susanna Hoffs' voice was better than ever; a pure singer who can effortlessly convey the melancholy of Sandy Denny and sex appeal of Linda Ronstadt, while rocking with the best of 'em. And Matthew Sweet has written album after album of pop perfection. But for Pete's sake, don't piss on your audience. The 20-30 minutes used for "unhilarious" storytelling that must have seemed a lot more amusing to the performers than to the squirming audience, could have easily been used for 5-6 more songs. And if both volumes of "Under The Covers" were created because of the love and admiration you have for the artists and songs that inspired you, why the hell don't you show these artists respect, not to mention your paying audience, by learning the repertoire?

If I sound angry it's because I am...a little. I'm mostly disappointed. If you want to sip wine and just have a hootenanny, do it in Washington Square Park. I could have saved $100, since no one is comping me to any of the shows I attend. I am a fan and I have to pay.

That said, here is my Zapruder-inspired footage of "Second Hand News." The audio gets better about a minute in, when I realize my hand was covering the mic.


The Phantom Creep said...

Oish. I'm seeing a Fountains of Wayne acoustic show tomorrow night. Now you've got me worried....

Sal Nunziato said...

Don't be worried. I've seen FOW acoustically a number of times and it's never been anything but amazing. Plus, they are HILARIOUS

geno said...


I am with you on this. When they decide to charge the admission, whatever the price, then the audience deserves the best that the artist can deliver. There is a word for it, it is "Professionalism."
Can you imagine losing your guitar (in the first place) and not being able to get a "loaner" from someone? Funny, when her songs came up, the guitar on loan suddenly appeared...I guess when those guitars are free, they're just a little less careful about where they put luggage nearly four feet long.
This hasn't been your lucky nights as far as shows go, Steely Dan, Todd and the Sid 'n' Susie.

Chris Swartout said...

A couple of things:

You didn't mention that Matthew Sweet is now as big as a house! And his constant shilling for his pottery that he was selling. You are so nice, keeping it just to the music.

I agree that they needed to take the time to learn the songs better. Holding up the Fakebook was lame. And I thought Matthew's voice was too low in the mix, especially early in the show.

I'm curious if they will have their repertoire more together when they return in November.

And besides, they mentioned the Bee Gees, but didn't play "Run to Me" my favorite song from their first record!!

And finally, maybe they should change their name to "Little and Large."

FD13NYC said...

Hey Sal, sorry to hear about the bad luck shows you've been attending. It's a lot of wasted money to see acts put on halfhearted performances.

On the Second Hand News video you posted the tempo gets slower and slower, and she keeps looking at him not knowing when to end the song. Know what you mean. YUCK!!

I was thinking about going to the Winery in November to see them, but now I think not. Thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this will post, given that the original was written three and a half years ago...okay, almost four. I loved reading this piece, not because I care about Sid n Susie, cause I don't, but because you have 'hit' on the atmosphere of shows- whether in theatres, clubs, or at fests- that I've come to fear: the looser, the better. And we know that that isn't true, at least from an avid listener's perspective. It may be fun for the performers to 'make it up' as they go, but it is painful to be in the audience. Kudos, my friend. Am bookmarking your site; just discovered it again.