This night with Rhett was special not only because it was a group of 12 but more than half had never seen Rhett live so in a lot of ways it was like experiencing him for the first time.
Crispy and family were visiting NYC so we took a look at who would be in town and there was Rhett at one of our favorite clubs. Mrs. Devereaux, mollyT, H, and D joined Crispy and family, rtb, violaleeblue, and me. I got there first and the staff kept mentioning that we were a large group. Eventually the sommelier came over to ask if this was going to be a large group and if it was a celebration. Without looking up from her phone, violaleeblue told her that it is a large group and no we are not celebrating anything. The sommelier left the wine list with us anyone. Now it made sense. Usually all you get is a menu with the food listed on one side, the wine by the glass and beers on the other, and in the middle is a list of the wines by the bottle. Apparently when you are a big and festive group they figure you’ll want a expensive bottle to celebrate. We decided to keep to the wine by the glass and beer by the bottle.
As I’ve said before, the City Winery makes very good food – not only for a club but for a restaurant. I had, as always, the caramelized Brussels sprouts and I started with the scallops. Everyone else was happy with what they ate. Crispy’s husband also ordered the sprouts and we bonded over our love for caramelized Brussels sprouts.
Before the music starts there is a screen on either side of the stage listing the upcoming acts and there was 10,000 Maniacs. I had to look them up because I didn’t know they were still recording and it turns out that they are but with another female singer. How could it be 10,000 Maniacs without Natalie Merchant? Another band who will be playing at City Winery is The Proclaimers. I saw them years ago in a small downtown club and loved them. I was wondering what they sound like now. Then The Dunwells came out and I got my answer. Wow, did they remind me of the Proclaimers right off the bat. Actually the Proclaimers without the intensity. But two guys who were obviously brothers singing in harmony with acoustic guitars and surrounded by a tight band and more pretty harmonies. The melodies took me back too although listening their songs online the rock edge isn’t as strong as it is live.
The Dunwells are from Leeds and had just arrived from England and hadn’t even had a chance to get to their hotel. If they were tired they didn’t show it. Brothers Joseph and David Dunwell were on vocals and acoustic guitars, Jonny Lamb on vocals and box drum, Rob Clayton on electric bass and vocals, and David Hanson on lead electric guitar and vocals. When Rhett came out he commented that his female friends in the audience were texting him and asking what the deal was about the Dunwells – single? Rhett told them they’d have to talk to the band and find out. The song that stood out for me was “I Could Be a King” although there were several that caught my attention.
Rhett Miller came out with acoustic guitar and a glass of whiskey to whoops and hollers from the sold-out house. This was probably one of the best shows of his that I’ve seen. Part of it was my being able to lie back into the lyrics in a way I never have before. The lyrics carried me around above the melodies and every so often would put me down softly into an inspired musical break so I could feel the guitar inside me and then the lyrics would carry me away again.
The other great thing was watching people enjoy Rhett for the first time. The tween in our group was sitting sideways when he started but then straddled her chair so she could see him full on. Soon her head was bouncing back and forth and then her entire body was moving with music. Her mother and I were enjoying the close up view of Rhett’s hip swiveling and head banging. At one point when Rhett took another sip of whiskey, Crispy said, “He never drinks from the water bottle, does he?” and I laughed because no, he does not. He did throw the water bottle onto the floor when he needed to move the table up so he could read the lyrics to Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” He also covered Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” and Wilco’s (and Woody Guthrie’s) “California Stars” but the highlights were his own “Wish the Worst,” “Fireflies,” and his stories – one about appearing on Good Day New York when Greg Kelly was a host (he’s the son of NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly), how The Old 97’s got their name, and a masturbation joke by Woody Allen.
I wish every time I saw Rhett it was with this group.
By Carene Lydia Lopez