Celebrate Brooklyn! has several benefit concerts every season and one of them was M Ward, an artist who I really enjoy seeing live.
When the subway came above ground in Brooklyn my view was a huge orange sun directly behind the Statue of Liberty. I know there are many beautiful natural sights in this country but the Lady in the Harbor always takes my breath away. Walking into Prospect Park I could see an ambulance leaving with its lights blazing and sirens blaring.
Scheduled to open were Wyatt Cenac and Yo La Tengo. I had some work that had to be taken care of in the office so by the time I met up with rtb and violaleeblue, I had missed Cenac and Yo La Tengo was on stage. rtb told me that bassist James McNew was not on stage because he’d had an attack of appendicitis. I was hoping that wasn’t him in the ambulance I just saw leave. It took me a while to settle into listening to music mode so Georgia Hubley (drums), Ira Kaplan (guitar) with Dave Schramm (guitar) and David Mansfield (violin) filling in for McNew played background music for me while I surfed the internet. I like this band and enjoyed them when I’d seen them live before and I hope to see them live again.
M Ward will forever remind me of a little Bob Dylan. The little refers to stature and his voice. Not enough of either to make me see or hear Dylan but enough to remind me of Dylan. The stage set included “windows” on the back wall where the outdoor scene kept changing – blue sky, sunset, starry night sky, trees, plants, city skyline. I think he had a similar set up when we saw him at the Apollo. Ward is a great guitarist – he throws his entire body into it. He is also excellent at the keyboards.
One of my favorite things is what he does to covers. “Rave On” was faster and harder than Ward’s original cover version. “Roll Over Beethoven” woke up Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and a boatload of dead longhairs. John Fahey’s “Bean Vine Blues #2” was bluesy and fuzzy and respectful and loose. Ward deconstructed “I Get Ideas” so much that it was unrecognizable as a tango. For the first encore, Jolie Holland (The Be Good Tanyas) played violin for Ward on Daniel Johnston’s “Story of an Artist.”
Ward’s own “Chinese Translation” is always a highlight and you can now add “Primitive Girl” to that list.
After a very short set, Ward played two songs for the first encore and then two songs for the second encore. It was really much too short a set for such a great band. I didn’t catch the names of the bassist (who did this great fuzzy bass solo), guitarist/pedal steel, drummer, or keyboardist/horn player.
By Carene Lydia Lopez