Thursday, May 27, 2010
Peter Wolf & Bettye Lavette: Live At The Highline Ballroom
Bettye Lavette has a lot of stories to tell. One of her most famous, is the one about not being famous. Peter Wolf can spin a few yarns himself. They shared a stage last night at NYC's Highline Ballroom for a long-ish night of rock and soul and some name-dropping.
Lavette had been booked to perform her just released "Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook." Weeks later, when Wolf's mini-tour was announced, he ended up on the same bill as the headliner. It seemed like a no-brainer.
Lavette took the stage promptly at 8, and did what she promised. It took 90 minutes to perform the 56 minute record from head to tail. The band was solid, but it was Lavette's electricity that carried the evening. She never came across as a has-been, and her stories about being neglected never sounded bitter. She talked about her famous neighbors. "I'm from Detroit, so all my neighbors were more famous than me. I just saw it as more people I could borrow money from." She cited Baby Washington as her biggest influence, and admitted that the artists being covered on her new record---The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Traffic, Led Zeppelin---were not really influences at all, but nemeses, as they would get airplay while she did not.
Her set was delightful, if a bit too long. "Interpretations" is a wonderful record, if a bit lacking in upbeat material. Most of Lavette's versions have been arranged for her sorrowful, soul begging voice, and though she put on an amazing show, it may have worked better with a few less dirges.
Peter Wolf took the stage at 10 P.M. and launched into a rocking set, that at this point in the evening, was most needed. The set included songs from his fantastic new record, mixed with older solo stuff and of course, some J. Geils gems. His band, with Duke Levine on guitars and the absolute monster Marty Richards on drums, turned this night into the houseparty the crowd was hoping for.
Wolf jawed with his older sister, who was sitting at a table up front, about the old days, concerts they attended, and some legends they had met, including Muddy Waters whose Cadillac once pulled up in front of a coffee house in Boston, while Wolf was a 15 year old waiting for an autograph. He gushed about being such a fan, and Waters replied, "Hey man, help me bring those amps into the club!"
The Strangeloves' "Night Time," Bobby Womack's "Looking For A Love," "Love Stinks," and "Homework" all made the cut, and the material off of "Midnight Souvenirs," which I feared may not pack the wallop live without the guests---Shelby Lynne, Merle Haggard, and Neko Case---were just as strong.