Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Recap: "A Loveletter to New York" Show at City Winery

It was a great night of music Tuesday night at City Winery, with about a dozen acts (and various backing musicians) playing a benefit to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Despite all the talent that took the stage, the event, called "A Loveletter to New York," had the relaxed feel of a coffeehouse concert. Some artists sang and played guitar, while others performed with only one or two additional players, rather than the full band that might otherwise accompany them.

Jesse Malin
Jesse Malin (right) at Tuesday's show.

For me, this was a plus: the low-key, mostly acoustic setting meant that there was no downtime between acts for hauling amps, drums, etc. on and off the stage. So the performers got to spend a maximum amount of time singing and playing.

Each artist did two or three songs, and I got to see performances by acts that I'd heard of for years but had never before seen (Sasha Dobson, Ari Hest, Alberta Cross, and most of all, Nicole Atkins), as well as artists I'd seen before and enjoyed (Joan Osborne, Jesse Malin, and Matisyahu). And there were some performers who were new to me: Kevin Devine, Chris Ayer, Lesley Pike, and Bobby Long.

Matisyahu, one of the Tuesday's crowd favorites.

There were many highlights; among them: Jesse Malin rocking the crowd with "If I Should Fall from Grace with God" and "Burning on the Bowery"; Ari Hest singing "The Wake"; and Matisyahu (backed with guitar and stand-up bass) doing "Crossroads," "Live Like a Warrior," and "Happy Hanukkah."

The last two acts were Nicole Atkins and Joan Osborne, and they lived up to what amounted to headline billing. Accompanying herself on guitar, Atkins sang with a voice full of emotion as she did two of her songs, including "Neptune City" (the ode to her Jersey Shore hometown), and a cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying."

City Winery concert finale
Most of the evening's musicians take the stage for the night's finale.

I had seen Joan Osborne once before, maybe a decade or so ago, and last night her voice sounded as good as it did before. I haven't kept up with her album releases since then other than hearing a tune or two on WFUV, so I was glad that two of the three songs she did were from her first album, "Relish": "St. Teresa" and her ubiquitous hit, "One of Us."

The show ended with most of the musicians returning to the stage to perform "Silent Night" and the Beatles' "In My Life," a beautiful and fitting pair of songs considering both the time of year and the concert's occasion, about seeking peace and recalling the people and places that are special to us. All in all, it was a fine concert featuring a great line-up of experienced artists.

The concert was webcast live, and an emcee at the show said some of the songs would be released on an album (no specifics yet on where or when).
All proceeds from "A Loveletter to New York" were to benefit the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a charity set up in memory of FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, who perished in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

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