Friday, October 17, 2008

Living Large at the Living Room

Last Friday, I headed down to the Living Room with Allan, meeting up with Marie and eventually some friends of hers, to see the jam-packed triple-threat barrel-of-fun that was Raina Rose, John Elliott and Anthony da Costa. There was a very solid but not overwhelming crowd, including family and friends of the three performers.

Raina Rose

Raina Rose from Portland opened up. I knew nothing about her, but she drew me in pretty quickly with her strong voice and energetic guitar strumming. (In general, I think that all three acts were helped by the hot sound at the Living Room -- pushing the volume up on the guitar does a lot for strummers like these three.)

Introducing her first song, Raina said, "I wanted to write a song with a name in it, and men's names just don't work," and so we got "Beautiful Desdemona," a nicely written song with some Dylan-esque twists in it. Other highlights from her set included a strong rendition of Patty Griffin's "Poor Man's House" and her own "Not Not Love" with the chorus

This is not what we'd intended --
Still I'm willing to defend:
This might not not be love.
Radio antenna on the water tower,
The tidal passage of hours:
This might not not be love.

For her final song, Raina brought up Anthony da Costa and said, "I don't want to bring you down, but this is kind of a sad bastard song -- it doesn't matter: you just lost 40 grand in the stock market!" How appropriate for downtown Manhattan.

Anthony da Costa

As Raina walked off the stage, Anthony said, "I love John Elliott, but Raina was my first love." He opened with his song "Love is Love," which includes the great lines, "I think I'm tired of thinking, / So let's just give it a try," and "What's the use of living / If you only do it in songs?" At the end of the song, he proclaimed, "I'm done with standardized testing!" and we all applauded.

"Okemah Sunrise" and "The Devil's Won" (which is oh-so-much-Dylan rolled into one song) followed, and then he moved over to the piano to sing the terrific "Helen Rose" co-authored by Greg Klyma and Jonathan Byrd. A very solid set from Anthony.

John Elliott

John Elliott took the stage and opened up with his song that Anthony had used as his opener at the Postcrypt back in late September, which features the opening blast of "Let's go out tonight like it was last year!" and has a verse that begins "I want to fall in love tonight" and ends up talking about wanting to be a Mormon. I mean, if you need to kick a show off right, this is the one, folks!

Cutting close to home for me, John introduced the next song by saying, "I had a tour this summer with a bluegrass band, which taught me a lot of things. It taught me that I don't really like bluegrass music, for instance." A song for the summertime, he dedicated it to "all the mavericks out there": "Lucky to Live Here." In the middle of the song, John stopped cold and called out to three friends of Raina Rose's sitting in the dead center of the room who had been chatting and laughing throughout the song: "I really need to know what you guys are talking about! Really. I just want to know." After a weak explanation from the girls about how they were discussing their undying love for each other, John said, "Where was I? Oh, yeah... This verse is about a whorehouse in Texas; it's called Beavers..." And so the song went on. The chorus from the song featured a great line about being "born in the North with a Catholic mouth."

"The Ballad of Wallace Green" is an intense song that John wrote about a man he met in Joshua Tree National Park. And then he moved over to the piano to play Wilco's "Ashes of American Flags" with the intense line "I would like to salute the ashes of American flags," which apparently almost led to him getting beat-up in Georgia -- not surprisingly, I think.

John Elliott, Anthony da Costa and Raina Rose

When the three of them took the stage together, there was only one thing that I wanted, and I got it right away: "Feet to the Fire," the song that had left such an impression on me when I saw John Elliott at Banjo Jim's at the beginning of the summer and that Anthony da Costa busted out on Main Stage at Falcon Ridge. The talkative girls got up and danced during the song.

John Elliott described how the three of them had gotten to know each other: "We met at this thing called the Folk Alliance -- have you ever heard of anything more stupid and retarded than a folk alliance? That's one alliance that could easily be defeated!"

Raina led the way on a tune, and then the band brought up Alexa Woodward on banjo, who played "Mary," a long song with a hypnotic chorus. With John Elliott on piano, Anthony da Costa took the lead on an apparently unexpected cover of Bruce Springsteen's "My Hometown." Raina led a song with the lyric -- if I caught it correctly -- "I don't want to be the king; / I want to be the king's flashlight." John Elliott closed out the night with a song entitled "We Just Need to Take It Easy." He announced to the crowd, "For those of us who can drink, we'll be drinking for a while!" and an excellent 90 minutes of music came to an end.

(Note: The Anthony da Costa and John Elliott photos both come from the Me & Thee Coffeehouse (Marblehead, Massachusetts) blog. Anthony is playing there tonight!)

1 comment:

Jess said...

Hey, that's great! Raina is a friend of mine, and it was so great to see her face here when I arrived! I miss her, please send her home.

SOunds like a great show though.

You should read her Myspace blog...