Saturday, May 20, 2006

Peter Tork Unplugged

Tonight my wife and I attended a fund-raiser for Joshua's Trust at newly reopened Knowlton Hall. I had no idea what to expect although I had been hearing very good things from some musically knowledgable friends that Peter had been playing out with some former Shaboo All-Stars and others who sounded very well.

So tonight in walks in Peter, casual as you please and good-naturedly mingling with old friends and locals who support Joshua's Trust. No band or backup - cabaret setting. Hmmm.

The minute Peter took the stage, the warmth of his personality just permeated the room. This guy is flat-out funny, genuine, and comfortable in his own skin. Between songs he joked about fame, age, and experience. The early evening show felt like catching a special performer playing at the Iron Horse Cafe in Northampton, MA. This turned into something very special, a performer performing without a net.

I cannot remember the entire set of songs nor the sequence so I'll simply stick to those that stood out.

Peter's two banjo sets were reminiscent of John Hartford. He performed a Motown tune, Higher and Higher that involved audience participation for the chorus and it played very well. The playful humor of these sets will also remind you of Steve Martin's [minus the balloons] fine banjo sets.

On acoustic guitar, Peter played Neil Diamond, Carol King, Van Morrison, and Boyce and Hart tunes from his earlier career. Like the recently released acoustic version of George Harrison's My Guitar Gently Weeps, the refreshing starkness of Peter's version of Daydream Believer is worthy of consideration of re-release in this stripped down form. His modulation of the chorus gives the song a haunting and warm regret of a lifetime for fading daydream believers.

Dress Sexy for Me and MGBGT are two of Peter's original songs that both were enjoyable reminders of songs that you can enjoy, listen to, and maybe sing along to.

In Peter's passion, the blues, songs like a Robert Johnson cover Come in my Kitchen and Ain't Your Fault, Babe exorcise a suprisingly accomplished inner blues man who serves up some very tasty blues that have the same quality of Robert Cray's delivery.

Most surprising though was the inclusion of an old Mills Brothers tune, 'Til Then. Again, maybe coming home is good for Peter's soul because this song, moreso than many of Springsteen's latest folk set, invokes a powerful emotional dialogue that could well be a conversation between one of our soldiers overseas and his loved one being left behind. Peter's version is a real treasure that complements the same sentiments of Neil Young's Living With War songs by providing a historical context. This one deserves to be offered up in MP3 form by Move On, Truthout, or other progressive venues. It's a find.

I'm sure I failed to mention a half dozen outstanding performances of other songs and I'll apologize - I hadn't planned on writing this.

Peter's new album Saved By the Blues is put out by Beachwood records and I'm happy to say I've bought a copy to play for my family's commuting.

This was a great show. Don't hestitate to attend Peter's show, in life this is known as the good stuff.

Postscript; My wife and I played the CD over dinner - fantastic blues... my wife loves it and wants it for her commute... easy come, easy go. I'll get it on the rebound.


Anonymous said...

I saw Peter perform live, for the first time, a little over five years ago--but have followed his career since early on. I believe that your account of his performance is the most accurate of his career! What you described is what he consistently delivers.
Thank you!
"a lifetime fan"

Frank Krasicki said...

Thank you for the kind words.

I love good music and Peter delivered a most welcome evening of showmanship.

The audience was frisky, asking him to play "Neil Diamond!" and he did. Or a female fan would good-naturedly respond coyly to a quip he made and Peter would playfully exchange wordplay.

The reason I wrote the review and the reason I'm responding is because recently the Washington Post ran a column by a rock critic who lamented the death of spontanaeity in rock acts. He said that what seems spontaneous to the audience is usually a scripted, well-rehearsed, theatrical hook.

So I had this in mind watching Peter's show. I thought he was going to perform with his blues band. So I was surprised he took the stage alone.

And just to give you an idea of who I've been impressed with in settings like this, forgive me if I drop a few names; John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Suzanne Vega(early in her career), Michelle Shocked (early in her career), John Hiatt, and others.

I wouldn't have written anything had Peter stuck up the place. But back to my point, what is so note-worthy about Peter's one-man stand was the utter abandon with which he proceeded to entertain.

And the second thing was the quiet sensitivity of the work. He had no political statements to make yet 'Til Then and The Harder They Come [the harder they fall] really get to you in subliminal ways. These songs affirm who we are as Americans and they hit home very subtlely. I'm impressed.

Should someone send me digital photos I'll post the best of them.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Krasicki,
Thank you for your description of what could only be deemed a sublime evening. I only wish I could have experienced it also.
I had the delightful opportunity to interview Peter by phone for CitiLife Magazine St. Petersburg prior to Shoe Suede Blues' performances in Tampa Bay, followed by meeting him at both local venues. The shows were both quite exuberant, but with separate and unique ambiences. The Osceola Tavern venue had a rollicking, bluesy, roadhouse feel to it, while the Mainsail Arts Festival was an outdoor, waterfront, sunny family venue. Both were great performances, many of the same songs, yet they were completely different feelings. I hope I'll have a chance to also enjoy a one man show someday. Thanks for your enjightening review.
Colleen Smith
CitiLife Magazine

Frank Krasicki said...


I believe Peter intends to do the charity event here again next year - maybe you can convince your paper to send you out.


Frank Krasicki