Little Lies and Massive Dreams

My name is Bear. I play in a band called Talking About Commas and live and work in Providence, RI. I like music.
Free Hit Counter
Free Counter

Feb 7, 2007

2/4: M. Ward solo at Bimbo's, San Francisco

As a musician I realize how hard it is to captivate a crowd - especially when you are playing by yourself. Last Sunday night, M. Ward did just that when he completed the latter show of a two night stand at San Francisco’s Bimbos 365 club. (The photo to the left was taken the first time I saw Ward, at the Newport Folk Festival in 2005. I didn't bring my camera to Bimbos) This was my first time at Bimbos, and I think I have discovered my new favortite place to see a show in the city ( Well, when I’m on the west coast. New York will always be my true “The City” - Not unlike The Slip being “The Boys” now as opposed to Phish being “The Boys” 7 years ago). Bimbos reminds me of the Copa Cabana but on a larger level. Complete with satin(looking) curtains on the wall and the small booths that circumvented the room. And on that night, whether you were with your wife or girlfriend (a Goodfellas reference, stay with me people), you were paying attention to neo-old timey alt-folk champion Matt Ward instead. That’s right, Sufjan Stevens ain’t got nothin’ on this guy.

M. started the show (yeah, in a parallel unverse, Ward invents gadgets for James Bond) with a note for note version of “Duets for Guitars 3" while walking around the stage slapping his black guitar like he was jockeying at the Kentucky Derby. It’s amazing, not only can you distinguish Ward’s voice from any other in the world but his guitar sound screams “I am Matt Ward!” as well.

Ward set the first of his many guitar loops of the night with his unique slide intro to “Oh Lonesome Me” (I song I absolutely adore and want to cover myself but haven’t got around to learning yet) which seemed like a perfect match for M’s raspy yet large vocal range. Midway through the set M. sat down to the baby grand piano to break up the instrumentation a bit. He started with an alternate arrangement to End of Amensia’s “Carolina” (which I do cover, both with Commas and Two Out Rally) before playing the (obviously) George Harrison inspired “Here Comes Sun Again”.

With so many organic sound effects present on Ward’s records it was interesting to see how he would fill the space as a one man show. He used everything from his guitar to the pedal on his piano to set loops and even had two vocal microphones set up. One with the warmth of his studio efforts and one with enough reverb to trump Jim James. There was hardly ever a break in between songs too. He would start a loop, then tune his guitar for the next song and go right into it. The entire time the crowd was hollaring for an encore echoes of “Undertaker” still rang through the P.A. system.

For the encore M brought out his opener, Victoria Williams and her bassist, Greg Jarvis. This was not a wise choice. I missed her opening set but the second she opened her mouth I didn't feel bad about it. I won’t go off on her (because I could, not impressed) but lets just say she didn't know the words, seemed nervous on stage and was less enjoyable to listen to than "a kitten on fire or a baby in a blender” (alright that was harsh, but I think that is a great My Morning Jacket line so I’m usin’ it. For those who care the line continues “...blender, both sound as sweet as a night of surrender”). Ward did his best to accomodate for his guest by playing one of her tunes and some universal cover choices such as “Moon River” and “Stand By Me”. The highlight of the encore was “Big Boat” which was an audience request. In a set list dork's world like my own, this was a nod to the 1,100+ foot cruise liner, Queen Mary, which sailed (well, was pulled by a tug boat) under the Golden Gate bridge earlier that day.

1: Duets for Guitars Number 3, Chinese Translation, Oh Lonesome Me, Eyes On the Prize, Portland Rain?, Color of Water* > Sad Sad Song, Carolina^, Here Comes the Sun Again^, In Dreams**^ > Today’s Undertaking^, Poison Cup, Magic Trick, Fool Says, Right in the Head, Let’s Dance, Undertaker

E: Moon River^^, Victoria Wlliams’ song^^, When Will I Be Loved^^***, Big Boat^^, Stand By Me^^

* guitar intro only, then he went into Sad Sad Song. ** Roy Orbison cover, only played one verse. *** w/ “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding) tease before song ^ played on the piano. ^^ w/ Victoria Williams on backing vocals and Greg Jarvis on bass.