Friday, August 16, 2002

Rock Shows of Note XXXIII
After meeting with my landlord at the apartment to sign the lease for next year, taking out the garbage and recycling (the first time in a couple of weeks because of late nights and laziness), and showing Coco my place, I headed over to the Kendall Cafe with Coco to meet Kurt and Geraldine for dinner. And for the Gloria Deluxe show. Dinner was good. Geraldine and Coco both got the half-pound hamburgers, which come served with red potatoes. Kurt tried the Jamaican jerk chicken. And I fell back on an old standby: black beans and kale. The dish wasn't as well-spiced as I remember -- the first time I had the Kendall's kale was a green epihphany -- but it was still good eating.

Before Cynthia Hopkins, performing solo as Gloria Deluxe (which in the past has been a full band co-starring her brother Tom, an old friend who's since moved to New York City) took the stage, there was a solo singer-songwriter named Aaron Lippert. It seems that Aaron used to play with a band called Expanding Man. Not to be overly critical of the first time I've seen him play, but I was not at all impressed. In fact, it was a rather painful hour. From the very get go, I didn't think I'd like Aaron. During the brief soundcheck, he tried out a Tom Petty song and exuded an attitude that I found kind of pretentious. "Do you need me to check the mic again?" And the set itself? Self-conscious, overly yet flatly dramatic, mid-tempo, falsetto mope pop with extremely cliched lyrics. Just because an experience is universal (i.e. drinking cheap red wine, perhaps) doesn't mean that you need to make it boring and mundane or hold it up as something more than it really is. Besides, really, there are some phrases that just don't need to be song. Like "drinking cheap red wine." Geraldine thought he was inspired by Radiohead given his tempos, key, and falsetto, but I found him pretty uninspiring. I was rather sad that this was the first live music Geraldine had taken in since moving into Boston. I was also bummed that I have an aversion to talking during smaller, intimate shows (a quality not shared by a fellow not too far from us who talked loudly for quite a long time), because I certainly would have welcomed the diversion of conversing with Coco and the others. Sigh. The songs -- and the set -- were just too long.

Needless to say, Cynthia was an extremely appreciated followup to Aaron's laborious set. While Gloria Deluxe is usually a rock-tinged country band highlighting Cynthia's powerful vocals and Tom's plaintive vocal accompaniment, the show last night featured Cynthia solo, singing and playing accordion. Fresh off of a recent residency at AS220 in Providence, Cynthia shared some songs from a show she wrote while living in Boston's sister city to the south. And she played some old Gloria Deluxe favorites, including several requests from the crowd. One request was for an "angry song" about an abusive theater producer who underpays his actors and performers in the name of meeting other, less important expenses -- and the waitress who takes her revenge. The song is a rollicking string of profanities and criticisms, which are largely enjoyable because they're being delivered by a petite woman playing the accordion.

Cynthia is a musical artist and actress. Her singing style is extremely well honed and reminds me of musical theater. Her diction and delivery is interesting, and she punctuates songs with occasionally surprising hesitant pauses that only serve to accentuate what comes next -- and the point she's making. Cynthia also manages to work in fascinating facial expressions that help convey the content of the song, ranging from tight-lipped and coy demurement to almost uncontrolled caterwauls. Lastly, her in-between song banter was quite funny. Some of it was delivered in character and reminded me of the silly inconsistencies and playful falsehoods of some of the Brothers Grimm's shorter fairy tales and nonsense stories.

Thank you, Cynthia, for saving last night's show. I was slightly worried that Coco, Kurt, and Geraldine wouldn't take my next show suggestion seriously, but I think they will. (At least, I hope so!) Also, the band Barn Burning deserves thanks. They invited Cynthia to play with them last night, I hear, and even though all of us were too tired to stick around for their part of the program, they brought Cynthia up from New York for us. And that was awfully nice of them.

You can also read another person's review of the show.

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