Joshua Radin | 2.25.11

The crowd was more than ready for him by the time he emerged, though it seemed to take awhile for him to return the openness.



Photo: Teresa Montgomery

The Blue Note, Columbia

From the moment I stepped into the venue for Joshua Radin’s show at The Blue Note in Columbia, I could tell the artists involved were aiming for a certain feel.  The stage was set up, of course, but also decorated – a handful of lamps with shades that had seen better days, what appeared to be an accordion, and a copy of Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Square Club album on vinyl, set against the legs of an old fashioned record player.  The set was the same for all three artists – and you have to wonder if this stage isn’t their second home right now, after the tour bus they’re sharing.

The lone woman on that tour bus was the first artist, Laura Jansen, who performed solo on the keyboard.  Her album hasn’t been released yet – it comes out on March 22nd – but that didn’t stop her from making quite the impression. She had the rapt attention of most of the audience during her six song set, both for the music and the stories she told between the songs. She was alone on stage, but not in the venue, as her performance managed to make the audience as a whole seem like a friend she was sitting down with.   Her songs are clever and heartfelt, ranging from heartbreak in the song “Single Girls” to the oddness of life in Hollywood in “Wicked World.”  She also included a cover, which is also on her forthcoming album, of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody.”  She claimed to have, “taken all of the rock out of it,” which if true, is only because she replaced it with a quiet, longing fierceness.  My only complaint with her set is that it was so short, but once the album is released, she will no doubt be touring more in support of it.

After Laura’s set came Cary Brothers.  I’ve seen him a few times before, and he always seems to introduce himself by pointing out that he is in fact one man, not a group of brothers with the last name Cary. Like Laura, Cary is also approachable on stage, but of the three artists that performed that night, Cary is the one where there appears to be the largest dichotomy between the music and the personality.  This is not a bad thing, or saying that the music or the personality is lacking. Cary’s music manages to be both ethereal and raw, combining overtly melodic rock with lyrics that seem to come from someone who has lived a very full life thus far.  Cary’s personality on stage, however, is not brooding but affable, calling himself the “happy meat” in the singer-songwriter sandwich created by Laura Jansen and Joshua Radin.  I’ve seen Cary before and was aware of the difference between the sadness of the songs and the approachability of his stage demeanor, but it was in rare form that night.  The music was as fantastic as ever, though, and Laura Jansen did join him onstage for an exceptionally beautiful rendition of “Blue Eyes,” the song Cary says helped him get his start.

Last on the night which Jansen had dubbed “The Joshua Radin Extravaganza” was, of course, Joshua Radin himself.  The crowd was more than ready for him by the time he emerged, though it seemed to take awhile for him to return the openness.  The music, starting with the quietly powerful, “No Envy, No Fear,” was incredibly well performed – not carbon copies of the versions on the albums the songs came from, yet managing to convey most of the same intimacy.  One of the highlights, however, was when Cary and Laura joined him onstage for the song, “Nowhere to Go.”  They taught the crowd a clapping pattern and recorded the entire thing on iPhones held by people they had stationed throughout the audience. 

It was a rowdy time, but the crowd calmed down well after that, allowing them to enjoy songs from Joshua’s first album – songs that are much quieter than the two albums that have come out since then.  He also performed an exceptional cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me,” thus explaining the album being part of the setup on stage.  He also performed a new song, “She’s so Right,” explaining that he’d been working on it a long time but couldn’t find a way to play it that felt right.  He was going to try it with us that night, though, and while he didn’t comment on how he thought it went, the song, which was more upbeat than most of his music, was incredible, and hopefully will be on a recording in the future.  Joshua ended his set with the first song he ever wrote, “Winter,” performed with the same intensity I can imagine it was the first time it was performed.

I had known going into the show that the music was going to be good, but I was impressed with how comfortable everyone seemed on stage.  This, combined with the fact that their own enthusiasm for their music – and each other’s music – was something that was conveyed to the audience so well, provided for an exceptional show. All three artists have been known to tour extensively, so hopes are high that all three of them will return to the area soon. | Teresa Montgomery



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