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Seth Yacovone: Burlington, VT, July 20-21, 2012

Doug Collette By

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Seth Yacovone
Nectar's and Red Square
Burlington Vermont
July 20-21, 2012

A dyed-in-the-wool native of the Green Mountain state and a formidable figure in its contemporary music scene, in particular in the greater Burlington area, guitarist/vocalist Seth Yacovone has created a niche for himself over the past seventeen years that is anything but insular.

From opening for Phish with his blues band, touring Europe and most recently his peripatetic activities within Vermont and the greater Northeastern US, Yacovone is the archetype of the independent musician relying on his instrumental, vocal, compositional and interpretive skills to network with the music community: leading his own electric band and functioning as lynchpin in at least a couple Grateful Dead cover bands, in addition to solo performances, with just acoustic guitar . Two such recent appearances illustrate how Yacovone is upholding and updating the role of troubadour.

The once and future leader of The Seth Yacovone Band has been doing the Friday night acoustic residency at Nectar's for over seven years and, while he's got his approach well-honed—alternating originals with cover material by the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter—he's proven capable of developing a theme throughout the course of the two hours, emotional or otherwise. His July 20 show was one of the most deeply felt performances he's offered at the famous venue, to the point of attendees perhaps wondering what PO'd this generally laidback guy before he came to play.

Not that his banter with the unusually boisterous audience was any less good-humored than usual; only that the passion which usually only approaches a ferocious level when he plays slide—or performs The Bard's "Isis" as he did to close here—surfaced again and again. In such an intimate setting, such naked emotion can be off-putting, unless the performer connects with his audience, at least to the extent that they appreciate his honesty. No problem there with Seth Yacovone, which is probably why the most vocal in the room feel they know him personally (and probably do).

"Tears of Rage" may have keynoted the set, as much for the delicacy with which the burly, bearded musician elicited the delightful melody as for the gentle way he delivered the bittersweet lyrics by Dylan and The Band's bassist, the late Rick Danko. But the Rolling Stones' "Let It Bleed" was an absolutely cathartic few moments, where the guitarist/singer/songwriter exorcised some demons, so that he could more positively punctuate the performance with his own "Know That You Will Never Be Alone."

Yacovone's set the very next night, around the corner outside at Burlington's Red Square, was in keeping with the sunny hot and breezy weather, a much more easygoing affair—at least on the surface. Opening in jolly form with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' "Factory Girl," from Beggars Banquet (ABKCO, 1968) (no obvious choices from the icons here), Yacovone's acerbic side made its first appearance in the form of Elvis Costello's "Cheap Rewards." Yacovone embellished the statement he made performing Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied" with his own "I Need A Change," the isolation of which he furthered with Dylan's "Visions of Johanna" and one of the Stones' greatest early 1970s tunes, "Sway," from Sticky Fingers (Rolling Stones, 1971).

The cold air of those covers also blew through Robbie Robertson's "King Harvest Has Surely Come" in such a way no one—not even those in direct sunlight—could avoid the hint of autumn left hanging in the air. Neil Young's "Ambulance Blues" sounded more than a little unsettling—and intentionally so—but Seth Yac, as he's fondly known sometimes, never leaves his listeners with anything except high spirits, so when he ripped though his own "Little Richard Will Rise Again" to close his early (5pm-7pm) set, he left the attendees with comforting thoughts of solace during the coming winter month, when the former home of Phish becomes an oasis similar to this open air stage on Church St.

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