Monday, April 3, 2017

Cindy Lee Berryhill at McCabe’s, 4-2-17 Concert Review

Cindy Lee Berryhill performs "Gravity Falls"
At the beginning of last night’s concert at McCabe’s, Cindy Lee Berryhill announced that it was her first time ever headlining a show in Los Angeles. Seems hard to believe, but it’s true. The concert was in celebration of the release of her new album, The Adventurist, her first in like a decade. In fact, the main set consisted only of songs from the new CD. Cindy had quite a band backing her. There were different configurations for different songs, but I think there were twelve musicians in all, including Cindy. The band included two cellists, which of course I appreciated, as the cello is one of my favorite instruments. There were also two horn players, including Sarah Kramer, whose own band I saw open for I See Hawks In L.A. in February. There were two vibraphone players, including DJ Bonebrake from X. David Schwartz, who co-produced the album (and who has composed music for television series like Deadwood and Arrested Development), played bass.

The show started just after 8 p.m., with “Somebody’s Angel,” the second track off the album, and one of my personal favorites. The two cellos sounded excellent, playing prominent parts in this song. By the way, that was Renata Bratt and Joyce Rooks on cello. After that song, Cindy said, “And that song is the answer to ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.’” She followed that with “Contemplating The Infinite (In A Kiss),” with Syd Straw joining on backing vocals. Something I don’t recall seeing at any other concert is a musician reading a book when not playing on a certain song. During the first song, Robert Lloyd was reading a book while seated at the piano. And during this song, Renata Bratt read for a bit. By the way, there were so many musicians, that they didn’t all fit on the stage. The horn players – Sarah Kramer and Justin DiCenzo – were just off stage right, and there was also some percussion in front of the stage. I couldn’t see the instrument very well from my seat, but Cindy mentioned that it was a vibraphone (not a marimba or glockenspiel? All three instruments appear on the album).

Cindy gave a little introduction to the album’s title track, “The Adventurist”: “The troubled protagonist had some trouble at home, and then, you know, the magic kiss happened. And when the kiss happens, the adventure begins. It’s all a mess after that, folks.” This song is another of the album’s highlights. Robert Lloyd switched to banjo for this one.  That was followed by “Thanks Again,” in which she sings, “Thanks again for doing me in.” There was a humorous moment at the end. Apparently, Cindy expected something on piano at the end, but Robert Lloyd was reading again. “Piano,” she whispered. “Sorry,” Robert whispered back. “I know it’s engrossing reading material,” she teased afterward. DJ Bonebrake played the vibraphone on that one.

Cindy then played a couple of the most playful tunes from the album – “Horsepower” and “I Like Cats/You Like Dogs.” I like the instrumental section at the end of “Horsepower.” And Syd Straw returned to the stage to sing on “I Like Cats/You Like Dogs.” (By the way, she’ll be headlining her own show at McCabe’s later this month.) After “I Like Cats/You Like Dogs,” Cindy said, about Syd, “She’s a dog and I’m a cat.” “That’s the only true thing you’ve said tonight,” Syd teased. Cindy then mentioned that it took a long time for her to get the album out.

So we have two vibraphonists on this song,” Cindy said, introducing “The Heavy.” “DJ, who you already know, and then Dr. Paula Luber.” They both played in front of the stage. Robert Lloyd played banjo on this song. Then Michael Jerome Moore joined the group on drums for “Deep Sea Fishing,” with Danny Frankel exiting the stage to make room for him. Well, he didn’t completely exit the stage, but sat on the stairs leading up to the backstage area, playing tambourine. Before the song, Cindy asked, “Any questions at this point?” An audience member called out, “What’s in Danny’s box?” He was referring to a percussion instrument that sounded like it was full of broken glass. Robert Lloyd played piano for “Deep Sea Fishing.” Before “Gravity Falls,” Cindy Lee Berryhill introduced the band. “Gravity Falls” sounded seriously bloody good, and I got happily lost in it.

Then, before “An Affair Of The Heart,” Cindy mentioned how one of the writers who reviewed her new CD asked her if she were influenced by the Grateful Dead. That got a laugh from most of the audience, but one guy behind me called out, “Dark Star.” “The Grateful Dead, that’s interesting,” Cindy said. “But no, not really.” David Schwartz switched to stand-up bass with a bow for “An Affair Of The Heart,” which is a beautiful song and another of my favorites from the album. Partway through it, Renata put down the cello and played melodica, then returned to the cello. Cindy Lee Berryhill then ended the set with “American Cinematography,” the CD’s opening track. “It’s been a total pleasure playing for you guys,” she told the audience.

The first song of the encore was “She Had Everything,” a fun, energetic rock song, which included a little nod to “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.”  It was the opening track from her first album, Who’s Gonna Save The World?  That album title is a question many of us find ourselves asking often these days, with that unstable narcissist occupying the White House. And speaking of that demented fascist, on Cindy’s second album, Naked Movie Star, she included a song titled “Trump.” This was back in 1989, long, long before our current troubles began. Well, to conclude the show last night, Cindy chose to play that song, accompanied just by Robert Lloyd on piano, the rest of the band leaving the stage (well, the stage, and the area around the stage). “This is a song I wrote back in 1989, and it was about a landlord in New York that I didn’t like,” Cindy said. “And nobody I knew in New York liked him.” Well, that certainly hasn’t changed. New York still hates Donald Trump. So does California, amen. And I love this song. Cindy joined Robert on the piano bench, and the two delivered a loose, fun rendition, with the audience doing that “Trump, Trump, Trump” chant part. The show ended at 9:29 p.m. Yeah, it was a short concert, but it was really good.

Set List
  1. Somebody’s Angel
  2. Contemplating The Infinite (In A Kiss)
  3. The Adventurist
  4. Thanks Again
  5. Horsepower
  6. I Like Cats/You Like Dogs
  7. The Heavy
  8. Deep Sea Fishing
  9. Gravity Falls
  10. An Affair Of The Heart
  11. American Cinematography 
  1. She Had Everything
  2. Trump
Here are a few photos from the show:

"Contemplating The Infinite (In A Kiss)"
"Contemplating The Infinite (In A Kiss)"
"An Affair Of The Heart"
"An Affair Of The Heart"
McCabe’s is located at 3101 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, California.

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