Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Greg Laswell live!

| March 18, 2009

Greg Laswell, Jay Nash, Anya Marina
Martyrs’, Chicago
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 


It was a satisfying (if a bit long) evening of acoustic/quasi-acoustic fare Wednesday evening – the perfect kind of night for Martyrs’. A group of West Coast buddies had been on tour for five weeks already, mixing and mellowing the show like a nice, locally grown wine.

Following a warm-up set from promising young local Claire Stahlecker, Laswell’s fellow San Diegoan and “Grey’s Anatomy” soundtracker Anya Marina gave the mostly seated crowd a taste of her less-traditional, oblique songwriting. Jay Nash then swung it back toward the more traditional folk spectrum with a cross-section of songs from several records. Accompanied at times by Laswell on keyboard or guitar and/or Brandon Walters (who played on Laswell’s latest LP) on guitar, bass, or xylophone, Nash’s Springsteen/Dylan-influenced fare peaked with his most uptempo tune, “Hard Lesson,” and ended perfectly with not-too-sentimental heartbreaker “Over You.”
The critics’ ravings are mostly true: Singer-songwriter Laswell knows how to convey a mood or paint with a unique artistic flair that strikes a universal chord. It is likely for this reason that the corporate world is embracing him with mutually advantageous marketing opportunities (Whole Foods, Marriott Hotels). True especially for his latest LP, Three Flights From Alto Nido, which he played nearly all of, along with older tunes that evened the set.

Though he’d be best labeled an acoustic artist, the layers of sounds, though subtle on the record, fill his songs with a kind of helium, lifting them up and out toward the “high nest” (alto nido) he talks about when making it – an effect that is somewhat missed on songs like “That It Moves” and “Sweet Dream.” On the other hand, without the additional instruments and layers heard on the record, pensive songs like “The One I Love” and “Comes And Goes (In Waves)” become haunting in their stripped, live renditions, leaving deep impressions in the quiet space with repeated lyrics “Embrace me . . . ” and “You’re not alone at all.” His doleful version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” was too much of a stretch, and the evening would have left a more satisfying thumbprint if both Nash and Laswell would have indulged a couple songs less apiece. Nonetheless, these artists – both alone and in combination – are some of contemporary songwriting’s best.
Penelope Biver

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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