Live Reviews


Shalin Liu, Rockport MA

I like these theaters that use an unseen MC over the PA to introduce the band (and clear up the pronunciation of this venue—sha-lin lew)—it reminds me of when I was a teen attending amazing shows at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre. The “voice” introduces the Dejas, and two guitarist, one of each gender, find their seats on the stage. The 320-seat theatre is full tonight and Aaron Katz and Callie Lipton know this is not their typical gig. They straight-strum in unison as Callie spills a gentle warm vocal melody into the room with a delivery not unlike Ingrid Michaelson (“The Way I Am”). Next they’re strumming in 6/8 and harmonizing. Callie reminds us that this show was originally scheduled on the day of the big snow storm when the governor declared it illegal to drive after 4:00. “Rise Up” follows with Aaron switching over to piano. Both sets of their parents are in attendance and you can feel the pride swelling in the room. The Dejas respond with a reggae-tinged “Sounds of Silence” with Aaron on the djembe. They end with “Beneath You,” just like they end with it on  their CD, Speeding Softly.

Chelsea Berry walks out in a black layered dress, hair pulled back with glittering earrings, and let’s loose, unaccompanied, with David Sudbury’s “The King of Rome.” She leaves no one to question the gifted  presence and powerhouse vocals she possesses. She moves back to the piano to sweetly deliver “Never Saw Blue” then brings out the four-piece band to rock up the songs from her latest offering, Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. The beautiful “I Wonder” gets my pick for the highlight of the set with wonderful three-part female harmonies, a little glockenspiel, and a lovely acoustic guitar solo. Like the Jagger/Richards combo, Chelsea pals with guitarist Michael Thomas Doyle, who switches from a wild posing rocker to a deliverer of sensitive tasty fills, and even kisses Chelsea at the end of their sexy duet, “Running in Circles.” Chelsea also picks up cellist Kristen Miller with the line “What kinda guitar is that?” then rolls into Peter Gabriel’s “Here Comes the Flood.” They end with the title track of her CD, but it doesn’t feel like a finale. And it’s not. Chelsea returns after a standing O to remind everyone that she can do this with no instruments at all—as she does with her signature song, “Hallelujah” penned by Leonard Cohen. And the band is not far behind with a rockin’ version of “You Me and Mary”—and they don’t skimp—we get the big rock ending!         (T Max)


One Longfellow Square, Portland ME

Eilen Jewell is a little firecracker with a voice reminiscent of Patty Griffin. She is a terrific songwriter with a  passionate and playful stage presence, and insight imbued with a lot of heart. Sorta like a Buddhist monk gone cowgirl—the songs spiraling into the night, like prayer beads from a sagebrush mala. I am riveted and enthralled.

Man, this band is terrific. The stupendous, finger-flying bass player with the slicked back hair and the short-sleeved shirt is named Johnny (of course he is!) Sciascia—(pronounced Sha-sha.) The enthusiastic and excellent drummer, Jason Beek, vaguely resembles Han Solo. And Jerry Glenn Miller is unequivocally one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard. Man, can he play! He is a master—-he knows every inflection, wah wah, chorus effect, and melodic rock riff a guitarist could possibly know—the notes are pumping out of his bright orange guitar, splaying like the strutting feathers of a glorious bird. The audience is eating it up, howling with excitement at the solos and all the unexpected fun.

I feel like I’m in the boxcar waiting for my turn to swig the rot-gut pint as I listen to their version of Eric Anderson’s “Dusty Boxcar Wall.” If Jerry Lee Lewis could hear this version of “Shakin’ All Over” he would give her the copyright.

Take the Ventures, the theme from Secret Agent Man, the feeling of old James Bond movies, mix it with smoky barrooms and dust clouds, and that’s what you get with Eilen Jewell. She is beyond excellent!      (Kimmy Sophia Brown)


Old Sloop Coffeehouse, Rockport MA

Earlier in the day I lost my wallet, had a molar extracted, and slid into a guard rail on 128. So with no money or ID, a Novocaine head, and a second chance on life, I climb aboard the Old Sloop (Coffeehouse). I expect the first act to enter wobbly and smelling of booze, as their moniker suggests, but it’s a casual 18-piece vocal group pumping out one traditional sea shanty after the other, without the aid of a PA. Each song props up a new lead singer and the audience joins the rest of them on the choruses. There’s rum in the hold of the “Nellie J. Banks,” as the sailors be “Rollin’ Home to Old New England” or “Rollin’ Down to Old Maui” over the “Silver Sea” and they’re pretty upset with the captain—”Pay Me My Money Down.” But in the end, as in death at sea, the “Seaman’s Hymn” wraps it up solemnly.

Gordon Bok may stumble with a lyric here and there, and maybe the sound system is a little temperamental with it not being used for the opening act, but this gentle seafarin’ folk singer from Maine is never in danger of capsizing. His solid baritone voice and tuned-down 12-string take to the sea. Like a captain, he asks, “Yer all warm, arnt’cha?” in a manly Maine accent. Not having seen him before, I always thought he was a big man, but he’s slight and his thinning grey hair and the deep vertical lines in his cheeks are evidence of the wisdom he shares. He can be funny with a St. Patty’s Day drinking song; serious with of a tale of Ireland’s potato famine; cunning with neighbors boat bashing; and dangerous when the dragline fishnet takes a foot overboard. He gets spiritual, singing a repeating Navaho proverb, “Before me peaceful, behind me peaceful, under me peaceful, over me peaceful, all around me peaceful,” leaving the audience mesmerized. After a hearty standing ovation, he encores with “Clear Away in the Morning”—one of my Gordon Bok favorites.     (T Max)


Gulu Gulu Cafe, Salem, MA

It’s standing room only at the Gulu with every eye on the stage. Hannah Cranton, local folk hero and regionally famous actress, has captivated the crowd with her transfixing voice and eclectic words. Next to her is a lit up sign reading; “Without a Shadow of a Certainty,” which just so happens to be the title of her newly released album. Hannah is accompanied by a group of Gulu regulars including Jeff Savlon, Brian Donnelly, Dan Kupka, Jeff Lafontant, and Jeff Pearlstein—I’m guessing some or all of them played on the album.

The tone is very mellow, yet there is a very upbeat vibe and everyone is smiling. For each of the very few who walk out the door another person filters in from the cold. Even after being there for an hour it was still impossible to find a table. From Hannah’s performance you can tell she has lived out parts of her songs, just from the emotions she projects. The transitions from one song to another are very smooth and the sound and lighting are perfect. Hannah offers the crowd a variety of pencils, pens, crayons, and paper to create an audio-visual experience.

The sultry sound of the saxophone encompasses the room as the band begins to liven up again. Music comes in and out in waves going from mellow to more upbeat parts. Every now and then this flow is interrupted only by Hannah saying something clever. The mandolin and accordion parts are a change of pace from what one usually hears these days, making it an exotic selection of instruments. Overall the performance is very impressive, as is the turnout.

Many of the songs Hannah plays are from her new album, Without a Shadow of a Certainty, which is an incredible piece of art. A lot of the material on the disc is different from her previous work, but she mixes in a few of those pieces as well. Besides the use of many instruments, she also experiments a lot with her voice and writing style. The songs don’t sound alike but are all tied together by a musical and lyrical flow that takes you on a journey. I highly suggest picking up the album for ten bucks from Hannah, whether or not you experienced her live.  (Patrick Fitzpatrick)


Church, Boston, MA

Teenage Bottlerocket is better than anticipated. The quartet consists of bass and drums and two guitars. Their brand of pop punk is up-tempo and I tap my foot. Is it fair to say that the songs sung by Kody are a bit more melodic and catchy and the songs sung by Ray are a bit more raw and energetic? Maybe. It would be unfair to assume they each wrote those particular songs, and then judge them on that assumption. I am intrigued and will do further research.

The Queers are a power trio tonight. They open with “Tamara is a Punk” and never look back. We dance shout and raise our fists to “I Met Her at the Rat,” “Kicked Out of the Webelos,” “I Hate Everything,” “You’re Tripping,” “Granolahead,” and probably 30 more songs during a 30-minute set.

My journalistic integrity must be questioned at this point. I try to get as close to Joe Queer as possible, like a fanatical Beatles girl, only drunk. I let ugly people push me around while riding the wave of loud power chords and an overwhelming smell of body odor.

Joe Queer taught me many years ago that, a) it’s okay to write silly songs and, b) it’s okay for those silly songs to be energetic and intense and VERY real. Thank you Joe.   (Joey Jives)


Walnut Street Cafe, Lynn MA

Tonight I’m heading out to “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin.” The cozy Walnut Street Cafe has a vibe that is warm and inviting. There’s a thin, long-haired blonde with a red top and washed-out jeans slicing rhythms on her acoustic six-string and belting out vocals like nobody’s business. This is MaryBeth Maes. At times her big alto vocals take on a Cher quality. After a few songs she invites her husband up to share the stage. Brian Maes sets up his keyboard and vocal mic. If his name sounds familiar it’s because he’s been around—playing with Robert Ellis Oral, Barry Goudreau, Peter Wolf, Ernie & the Automatics, and Billy Shake. The keys and background vocals behind MaryBeth’s solid guitar rhythms flush out a more realized production of the tunes. They roll between Ray Charles’ R&B, “Hit the Road Jack,” and Neil Young political anthem, “Rockin’ in the Free World.” To lure people to stick around, Brian quips, “We switch clothes between sets.” Then they launch into MaryBeth’s Black Label-inspired,  “Talkin’ About the Brew,” before a break.

During the lull, MaryBeth gets face-to-face with her fans and makes sure they all know what she’s up to. She’s proud to be a full-time musician.

Their soon back on stage for the second set and bathe the Walnuters with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” then dirty them up with “Folsom Prison Blues.” To change things up, MaryBeth invites Dave Simmons up to slip and slide with Jethro Tulls’ “Skate Away,” before she’s off to hit the can (not like percussion—more pre-flushing). That’s when her hubby Brian crawls out of his shell and seduces us with Tom Waits’ “(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night.” MaryBeth is back to let us know she’s working on an EP and says goodnight with Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and Brian adds a cool popin’ honky tonk piano break.                 (T Max)


The Hard Rock Café, Boston MA

I arrive at the Hard Rock for a show that wouldn’t normally attract my attention: a Justin Timberlake cover band.  The moniker for tonight is “Cry Me a River: The Valentine’s Hangover Party.” I hate cover bands, and I’d rather listen to metal than mainstream pop, but alas, my friends have convinced me it won’t be so bad, so I’ll try to be objective. When I walk in, the first band, 51, is about halfway through their set. They’re doing an Amy Winehouse cover, and while I would guess that doing so is a slippery slope in Coverland, they sound pretty damn good. They play a variety of other top 40 hits from the past five years or so, and all are executed fairly well. As I get situated and look around the sold-out room, I observe that the female-to-male ratio is probably 3:1.

The Elektrik Kidd comes onstage shortly after, and they play what amounts to “lots of Kanye West covers or something.” I don’t even know. There are like 100 people on the stage and they’re all singing and it’s chaos and possibly a little off-key here and there. I liked the first band better.

The Timberfakes finally take the stage, and though the singer looks nothing like JT, his voice is spot-on. The band also consists of another (female) lead singer, and seven other musicians, including a full horn section. In addition to JT’s hits, the ’Fakes also cover several NSYNC and Backstreet Boys songs. I must admit that by the time the first NSYNC song rolls out, I’m right up in front of the stage dancing with my friends. It occurs to me that this is not so much a cover show as it is a live band singalong dance party. Since my generation grew up in the heyday of boy bands, everyone around me knows the words to every song, and I realize that is what makes the concept of the Timberfakes so awesome: they provide a setting for unabashed ’90s boy band nostalgia. My only complaint is that I feel the set is a little too long. It seems like the band is grasping at straws to have enough material to fill a 1.5-hour-long set; the set list degenerates into random ’90s pop covers by the time the encore (which includes “Sexy Back,” of course) rolls around. However, I leave the show feeling as if I’ve revisited my youth, which is hardly the worst thing I’ve ever felt while leaving a show. If it strikes your fancy, check out the Timberfakes as they kick off their upcoming tour with a Jay-Z cover band, Hard Knock Live, at the Middle East on April 19th.  (Emily Diggins)

Read for more live reviews of acts based in New England. The Noise gets a lot of requests for live reviews. Shows are never assigned. If you’re doing anything remotely exceptional, we’ll be the first to tell the world. If you’re horrible, same thing.

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