CAUGHT LIVE -- Josh Rouse/Maria Taylor @ The Annex, Madison, WI 10/28

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30 Oct 2007, 3:02

Sun 28 Oct – Josh Rouse, Maria Taylor

The weekend before Halloween can bring to mind many opportunities for Joe Public, most of them involving dressing up in costume and makeup and engaging in myriad forms of revelry. Halloween comes but once a year, after all... who can resist a chance to play dress up in public without being chastised? Well, about 75 hardy souls sacrificed costuming and chose to watch Josh Rouse at the Annex in Madison, WI instead.

Of course, Rouse began his career with an album called Dressed Up Like Nebraska, but with his last five or so albums has segued from more spare, country leanings to fuller singer-songwriter material, very reminiscent of 70s acts like Bread, Seals and Croft and Paul Simon, while still evoking post-punk touches of The Smiths and The Replacements. Maybe too many kids were raised on hard rock and heavy metal to appreciate gentle and pleasing pop like this, but those who attended were certainly entertained.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Rouse has a crack band that gives his swoony tunes some jazzy pep. (It bears mentioning that Rouse, rather than performing from center stage, took the area on stage right, allowing the audience an unblocked view of his bandmates; whether this was a statement on the band’s equal stake in the overall sound or simply how the layout best worked for the stage is up for conjecture.) This was my inaugural session of seeing Josh and company under the stage lights. So, as they performed, it brought to mind several things this tiresome music scene needs a lot more of in my opinion, namely:

# A well-dressed, professional look: The band walked in and sport jackets and dress pants, with Rouse and the drummer sporting ties. Definitely a pleasant respite from most bands fashion statement of “whatever t-shirt and jeans are the least wrinkled.”

# The drummer singing harmony: speaks for itself. Hell, I’d have given the drummer full marks even if he hadn’t for his great swing and feeling, but add in high harmonies and I doff my hat.

# Great band camaraderie: why do so many bands act like they don’t like each other? The foursome cracked jokes back and forth and all seemed to be really into the music they were playing, and that spilled over to the audience.

But at the end of the day, it’s the songs that matter the most, and the live setting multiplied the appeal to Josh’s work. The hushed atmosphere to some of Josh’s work, like the opening Saturday and Quiet Town lost no power with amplification. Speedier selections like Hollywood Bass Player and Comeback (Light Therapy) threatened to turn the Annex into an ad hoc facsimile of the American Bandstand stage. The best compliment to pay Josh and crew was that, on a day in the middle of Autumn, they were able to evoke the sleepy cool of winter (Snowy,in which Josh requested the use of the venue’s mirror ball, to splendid effect) as well as the carefree warm vibes of summer (Slaveship)

Opening act Maria Taylor first gained fame in Azure Ray, but now has two solo albums and a touring band. Well, HAD a touring band... their van broke down in Minneapolis and Maria was forced to rent another car and pare down her equipment. This meant Maria could only bring one additional bassist/guitarist to augment her songs. I don’t know how much that affected her material and delivery, but from my vantage point (ie not knowing one note of her music) it sounded pretty good. Maria didn’t seem to let her vehicular mishap effect her attitude, as she gleefully attempted a few new songs and even let a hardcore fan standing in front sing backing vocals on one song. If her last-minute subdued songs sound this good, I may have to check out some of her more full-bodied stuff in the future.

Comentarios

  • heyadamo

    Thanks for the feedback! I would be very surprised if Josh didn't take the band along, esp if he's the headliner. Agreed on the kudos for Nashville, but I think the two LPs afterwards (Subtitulo and this year's City Mouse Country House) have plenty of great moments too. He tended to shy away from the older stuff at my show, dunno if that will hold true in your neck of the woods. But definitely let me know how the show goes for sure.

    2 Nov 2007, 16:43
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