Day 2, Thursday, April 30th: Surprisingly for a singer-songwriter with a 40-year career, James Taylor chose to start his Sunfest set with two songs not written by him and unfamiliar to most of his fans. But these songs (including The Silhouettes’ “Get A Job” and the spiritual “Wasn’t That A Mighty Storm”) were actually selections from his recent cover releases, entitled, appropriately enough, “Covers” and “Other Covers”.
But after the supportive nod to his latest releases, Taylor immediately plunged into the material the festival audience had come to hear: his impressive catalogue of hits, drawn mostly from his releases in the 1970s. And his versatile eight-person band was more than up to the challenge of supporting him in great renditions of these hits. At the end of “Country Road”, for example, background vocalist Andrea Zonn from Nashville pulled out a violin and transformed the quiet ballad into a bluegrass fiddling jam. Bluesy electric guitar solos by Bob Mann added Claptonesque touches to songs as disparate as “Mexico” and “Steamroller”. And the ballad “Shower The People” was the beneficiary of an passionate improvised vocal coda by Arnold McCuller.
But even without the sterling support, chances are the audience will still have loved this set, simply because of the sheer familiarity of the material performed. Taylor’s version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend” is so beloved, the crowd turned it into a spontaneous singalong. And “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) performed during the first encore, had the entire audience clapping along the lanky guitarist’s rendition. Taylor also engaged in gorgeous versions of signature tunes such as “Sweet Baby James”, “Up On The Roof”, “Every Day”, “Carolina on My Mind” and, of course, his best-known ballad, the autobiographical “Fire and Rain.”
One more encore, featuring the haunting “You Can Close Your Eyes” capped off a concert that was, at various times, surprisingly energetic, undoubtedly inspiring and unbelievably warm. Unquestionably one of the highlights of this year’s festival.
[Typist Notes: Here’s where we jump ahead to the final day of Sunfest in order to showcase some local artists with significant gigs this weekend. First up in the out-of-order sequence, The Pretty Faces from Boca Raton; they open for Boston band Pretty & Nice at Propaganda in Lake Worth, Friday May 8th at 9:00]
Day 5, Sun. May 3rd — The Pretty Faces: The New Wave garage-rockers were the first to perform on this stage that day, which apparently led to their enduring a longer-than-normal set-up/sound-check period, since, despite the advertised 12:30 start time, their set didn’t kick off till 1:00. But whatever nerves band members might have exhibited while hurriedly setting up had evaporated by time frontman Jeph Thorslund stepped forward to the mike to intro the performance. The band immediately launched into tracks from its latest release, Another Sound, including the Costello-esque “Inch By Inch” and “Rib”. The lengthy sound-check period turns out to have worked in the band’s favour, since in at least one instance the live sound actually bettered the recording. Whereas the kick-drum intro for “Right On The Money” was somewhat low-key on the CD, here it was rendered as a thick, meaty thump.
The band also played tracks from its previous release, 2004’s Lipstick Kiss: “Don’t Let Me Down” and what is fast becoming my favourite of the older songs, “English Rose”. Midway through its set, the group played its only cover, “Jessie’s Girl”, Rick Springfield’s best-known hit. This succeeded in drawing in a few more 0f the early-afternoon festival-goers to hear their performance. The band then reverted to their own material by hammering through the explosive “Sweet Sixteen”.
Before proceeding to perform her composition “Elephant”, Hannah Thoslund gave the Type Writer a pleasant suprise by dedicating the song to him. (The Type Writer assumes that his singling out this song during his CD Review might have had something to do with this.) At the moment, Hannah appears to be more confident about her guitar playing than her lead vocals, as a trace of nerves came through on her vocal here, but these will probably disappear over time if the number of requests shouted for this song at the group’s CD release party are any indication.
Overall, the occasion of The Pretty Faces’ large-stage debut did nothing to unnerve the band, as its performance was as tight as ever. The only pity was that the crowd who witnessed it was not larger, but something tells me that won’t be the case the next time the band plays this festival.
This was the only band the Type Writer saw on opening day, but really there didn’t seem to be a crowd for any other band. This reggae/alternative-rock band might very well have been the loudest artist ever to play at Sunfest, as the music could be heard quite clearly some distance away from the stage area where 311 was playing. TW admits to a preference to 311’s reggae material over the alternative rock, so every time the band switched away from hits such as “Amber”, he kind of lost interest. But the band did play most of its hits, with the exception of its reggae version of The Cure’s “Lovesong”.
Day 2, April 30th: Risa Binder
Risa is exactly the kind of country singer Nashville can’t get enough of: pretty, pleasant and with enough pop appeal to cross-over to non-country audiences. The blonde singer took to the stage in a low-key manner, with only a drumstick count-in as an intro, launching into her song “Just Like That”, a mid-tempo song punctuated by a harmonica solo. Other highlights of her set include “Nashville”, an ode to one of the two cities she calls home (the other being New York City), and “That Kind of Day”, a light, jangly guitar number. Overall, though, Risa comes across better in recordings than onstage; as her set, while not unpleasant, was not particularly memorable.
Proof positive that the Wordless Winter is really over: after months of languishing, Type M for Music, our parent webpage, was finally updated, just in time for its second anniversary and for Sunfest, West Palm Beach’s waterfront music and arts festival. Included in this return to publishing is an article on The Pretty Faces, one of the great local bands that appeared at Sunfest this year. (Coming soon to this space: concert reviews for most of the bands mentioned in the current Type M issue). The Pretty Faces’ article isn’t very long, but it’s illustrated with a great rock-star photo, so check it out…