Kevin Morby sold-out Bowery Ballroom this past week. He mentioned on-stage that it had been a goal of his for the last ten years (dating back to his first time performing there with Woods). Within those ten years, Morby thrived with both Woods and The Babies. However, his voice was never as clear to me as it was the first time I heard “Harlem River.” The solo outing seems like the earned conclusion to the hyper-shifting swirl that has been Kevin’s inspiring career. This show introduced the crowd to a great deal of new material. Singing Saw was a Top Ten for me last year and, based on the performance, the upcoming City Music is shaping up to snag a spot on this one’s.
John Andrews & The Yawns opened the show. Andrews played with both Quilt and Woods for a long time before ever focusing on his solo work (which winds up fitting the Morby bill perfectly). Strong melodies mixed with subdued vocal lilts and country licks all spun over the keys. Most songs stuck to a pretty mellowed pacing, but thanks to attention to nuance, I felt ready for a second set when they ended. Highlights were “Drivers” and “Audrey.”
When Kevin Morby took the stage, it was impossible not to notice his attire immediately. He struts out dressed in an all white suite covered in musical notation with the sequined phrase, “City Music,” across the bottom back of his blazer. This let us all know it was going to be a party. He opened the show with a great deal of new music, all of which sounds as though it were written as a companion piece for Singing Saw. The music is still thoughtful and patient as ever, but Kevin didn’t miss a chance to flip out and Meg Duffy (Hand Habits) never missed an opportunity to shred. John Andrews also came back out and joined on singing saw towards the end of the set.
The songs seemed to mean a lot to Morby. The new music exists because he’s affected by the cities he has inhabited. NYC must be heaviest for him. In fact, he tipped his hat to two NYC greats by covering Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” and closing with Velvet Underground’s “Rock N Roll” where another talented NYC musician, Sam Cohen, joined on guitar and backup vocals. The excitement coming through the music was apparent and it made for a show where everyone in the crowd was grinning like madmen and singing along.
Article: Kevin W. Condon