It was an interesting concept-three singer/songwriters-not playing on a bill in some kind of descending order, but playing together. Wasn’t totally what I was expecting, but Bleu, Tracy Bonham and Jim Boggia certainly pulled off the round-robin concept when I went to see them at Brighton Music Hall this past weekend.
The three troubadours put together a pretty interesting show. They played the majority of the show as a trio (alternating “featured” performances), although each artist also performed a short solo set. Despite joking about their lack of rehearsal time, Bleu, Bonham and Boggia meshed very well together, and one would never have thought that these performance weren’t meticulously planned out. OK, I lied about that last part. There was definitely a “pickup game” feel to the proceedings, but that actually added to the appeal-made it more like a group of artists playing because they want to play together as opposed to something more obviously polished.
I must admit-the draw for me was Bleu. Having purchased his debut, Redhead, many moons ago, I’d developed a newfound appreciation for him following last year’s Four album. He didn’t disappoint live. The impressively mutton-chopped (seriously, dude, how do you grow those?) artist played guitar and bass, triggered the drum machine (although there was a live drummer for several tracks whose name I don’t remember…bad reviewer!), unleashed a series of cool vocal effects, and basically sang and played his ass off. I guess I’d taken for granted how good a vocalist he is, but hearing Bleu live really reinforced what a talent he is, blessed with a shiver-worthy falsetto and a couple of long-note holding moments that would’ve put both Celine Dion and the guy from Sheriff to shame.
Bonham offered a quirkier take on her songs, and put to rest any preconceived notions anyone in the audience may have had of her as the “Mother Mother” chick (she’s got a much bigger cross to bear than the other two artists, seeing as she might be the only one who’s had a hit single recognizable to the average Top 40 listener). However, the surprise of the show for me was Jim Boggia. I came into the show knowing very little about the Philly-reared artist and left the show with two of his CDs in my hand. Despite admitting to being a little bushed from the trip to Boston, Boggia was the consummate showman, cracking jokes, offering an interesting mix of originals and covers (“Thunder Road”), and above all…the man played it on a ukulele…and added a bit of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to the proceedings. Folks, you can not beat that with a bat.
My favorite moment of the show came when Boggia performed “That’s Not Why I Hate New York”. After introducing the song with a monologue expressing his admiration for Boggia as a songwriter, Bleu (and the aforementioned drummer who I apologize profusely to for not taking notes and remembering his name) sat on the stage Indian style, shoulder-to-shoulder, and sang every word of the song. They looked like two kids who’d just gotten the chance to sit for a private concert with their favorite singer. It was a testament to the power music has over people-no lights, no special effects, just a man and his guitar. Of course, the Boston-based crowd had a particular appreciation for the song simply based on the title. As a New Yorker who now makes his home in Boston, I just tried hard to not bring any attention to myself.
Interesting concept-fantastic musicians. There are a lot worse ways to spend a Friday night. This marked the end of Bonham/Boggia/Bleu’s mini-tour (which only hit four cities), but if we’re lucky, we’ll see them on stage together again soon.
(this clip isn’t from the show I saw, but…close enough. Enjoy!)