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Live Reviews

Live Guitars From New York: Chris Brokaw, Alan Licht, Elliott Sharp, Sonny Landreth & Daniel Johnston

By Published: November 7, 2009

His trio smokes from the uncut essence of over-the-top. Landreth plays the blues, frequently in instrumental form, but he casts in traditionally Southern flavors, sometimes following in the wake of Creedence Clearwater Revival, at others aiming for some kind of magnified zydeco thrash. The bass and drums are solid, but the latter in particular attain a free fluidity, especially at the extended climaxes of each number.

Landreth packed B.B. King's Club, transforming the crowd into a howling, head-shaking rabble. This is an artist with a devout set of followers, and this seething show acted as a suitable illustration of how he's earned such a heavy degree of worship.



Daniel Johnston

Highline Ballroom

October 14, 2009

The Californian singer and guitarist Daniel Johnston has made his reputation as an outsider artist, a musical primitive who nevertheless knows all about projecting a song. Playing to a crammed crowd at the Highline Ballroom, Johnston studiously makes his small electric guitar sound like an abused plastic ukulele. His vocal delivery is 'wayward,' when judged from a conventional, academic perspective. What Johnston possesses is an uncut communicative power, a naked channel inside his unsullied-by-training gut. His habit of shaking the microphone became so extreme that it fell apart twice, needing to be re-assembled by his co-guitarist and the sound engineer. Eventually, they gave him a new, indestructible replacement.

Johnston's own words are personal, but he also makes the lyrics of John Lennon

John Lennon
John Lennon
1940 - 1980
composer/conductor
and Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
b.1942
composer/conductor
resound with a fresh placement. It's no secret that Johnston has a personal shrine for The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles

band/orchestra
. Watching this performance, a realisation hits that most of the artists who cover Beatles songs lie at the easy listening end of the spectrum. In modern times, not many outfits will attempt a 'meaningful' reading. How extraordinary, then, that Johnston, with all of his supposedly untutored tics, can make an impromptu selection resonate with such profundity. By this time, he'd been joined by a full band, and the versions of the largely-Lennon "A Day In The Life," "I'm So Tired" and "Isolation" pricked deep inside an exposed nerve. Johnston managed to build up from a completely solo fragility to a rocking climax that suggested a 1970s maraca-shakin' jam session, the stage invaded by a crowd of guests and/or supporting act band members.


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