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.


sclinchy said...

Please tell us you've recorded these!

Sal Nunziato said...

Sean, I don't record anything, but you can be sure, if anyone did, I'll try to get my hands on it.

Anonymous said...

Sal, i saw you last night at this show but was hesitant to come by and say hello as i didn't want to disturb you but i want to tell you i love your blog and the way you tell it like it is.
Thanks for turning me on to the new Peter Wolf cd, it's my favorite album of the year, any other albums of his i should check out?

Kenny Sanders

Sal Nunziato said...


You should have said hello. Thanks for the note. His last solo album "Sleepless" is a killer, as well. If you don't know it, you should.

Noam Sane said...

I've enjoyed what I've heard from the new Wolf record - I trust you heard his interview on Fresh Air a few weeks back? He told (and expanded on) that Muddy story. Great storyteller, and great musician. One of the songs on the new album is called "Overnight Lows" - a killer song title. Why didn't I think of that first?

How's the new Lobos, Sal? I remember seeing them blow the roof off the Chestnut Cabaret in Philly back in '86 or so. Caught them few times since, including the Jerry Garcia wake in Golden Gate Park in '95...but the first time is always the best, you know?


Sal Nunziato said...

Missed the Wolf interview, Noam.

The Los Lobos is good. Nothing groundbreaking, but with them, I don't mind. They don't make bad records. Some are just better than others. Same formula on the new one--3 Cesar cumbias VS. Hidalgo grooves plus a Dead cover. I like it.

mpjedi2 said...

I'll just say thinks for reminding me that Wolf record was coming out weeks back (too old to remember such stuff.)

It's my fav of the year, so far.

liz said...

it was a great show ...

Michael Giltz said...

The only bad part about being in Europe in May was missing this show. Damn you, Sal! I knew you'd be there. By the way, my code word below for verification? Dingl.