The Trick Is To Keep Going

Tag: Infinity Music Hall

Robben Ford at the Infinity Music Hall

by on Aug.20, 2012, under Music

Robben Ford Live 6 550

Robben Ford Live 3 330

Robben Ford played at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk Friday night. It was the second time we had seen him in three years at the venue and he was on fire, playing a variety of blues and jazz inflected solos over traditional blues material and some of his own tunes.

From Robert Johnson (Travelin’ Riverside Blues) to Paul Butterfield (Lovin’ Cup) to Elmore James and Jimmy Reed (Please Set A Date/You Don’t Have To Go) as well as some of his own compositions, including two  instrumentals, Indianola, a tribute to B.B. King, and a nod to the Texas Cannonball, Freddie King (Cannonball Express), Ford displayed his creative and eclectic approach on each of the songs in his setlist.

We saw him last in August of 2009. You can view a post on that show here. (continue reading…)

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Leon lights up the Infinity

by on Dec.09, 2010, under Music

I couldn’t resist putting this video of Leon Russell from 1971 on top of a piece that actually is about a recent show Leon played at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut.

This show was taped in Los Angeles with his Shelter People band and a bunch of hippies in attendance dancing, listening and even preparing food, a very relaxed atmosphere. The song is one of the great rock ballads of all time, A Song For You.

His performance is masterful, the song is melodically beautiful and the lyrics poignant and penetrating. One of the great lyric ballads. There is another performance at the end of this piece of more recent vintage, same song. You’ll see Leon hasn’t lost much. To testify to that, he put on a brilliant show at the Infinity of good old Rock ‘n Roll with an excellent band, which included guitar virtuoso Chris Simmons.

This is the third time I’ve seen Leon, the first two in 1971 and 1972. The 1971 show was at the Fillmore East with Elton John opening, a show I’ve touched on a few times and that I need to write about in more detail. The ’72 show was at the Long Beach Arena (Calif.), when Leon was probably at the height of his popularity capable of filling large auditoriums. Later I would learn it was the show used for his classic live album, Leon Live. More on that one later, too.

At the Infinity, which has a relatively small stage, the right-hand side was taken up by Russell’s elaborate, almost montrous keyboard setup. No more grand piano as in the early ’70s. He gets acoustic sound from an electronic grand and it works out just fine. The audience can really only see the back of the keyboard setup, which is built in a large anvil case for traveling. The back is open and has hundreds of wires and connections so completely entwined with one another, you wonder how that actually works without a hitch and if anything went wrong how would a keyboard tech track down the problem. (continue reading…)

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Grace Potter comes out at night

by on Jan.21, 2010, under Music

Grace Potter belts out a lead with bassist Catherine Popper and rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco in the background at the Infinity Music Hall on Jan. 20.

Grace Potter belts out a lead with bassist Catherine Popper and rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco in the background at the Infinity Music Hall on Jan. 20.

In the fall when I purchased tickets for the Grace Potter and the Nocturnals show at the Infinity Music Hall this past Wednesday (Jan. 20), I really didn’t know too much about either Potter or her band.

I was looking for a show so we could go back to one of our favorite venues in Connecticut. The come-on promo at Infinity’s web site is what inticed me, plus the timing was right, the night and so forth.

After getting the tix, I explored the Net a bit and found a number of videos of the band, although I didn’t know at the time the band would be slightly reconfigured when the date came around. I was impressed. I found Potter obviously has a set of prodigious pipes, and although still fairly young, 27, has been playing for a quite a while — the band was formed in 2002 —and evidently has been touring relentlessly.

Her range is striking as she effortlessly hits stratospheric notes and although her voice has its own special quality and character, there are moments when she recalls Janis Joplin in phrasing and inflection, only with a smoother, more proficient delivery and attack than Joplin ever exhibited.

Potter at the B-3.

Potter at the B-3.

The music is blues- and soul-based rock with elements of country, reggae and American roots music at times. The band is strong throughout, but this is definitely a unit whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts, meaning they gel beautifully as a group. And, of course, they have an extraordinary frontwoman/singer, who plays a lot of Hammond B-3 and some guitar throughout the night.

No question Potter is what makes this outfit special. She writes interesting blues-drenched tunes with direct, quirky and glib lyrics. I was basically hearing everything for the first time, but I didn’t note a clinker of a tune in either of the two sets the band played.

The setlist and photos come from fans who are evidently much more familiar with the group than I and there is the feeling from them that this night was one that started cool and finished hot. It appeared from here that the set started hot, cooled in places and then was taken up a level during their return for the second set. Though many of the songs were memorable even at first listen and built on fiery, infectious grooves, I can’t think of one that was better than the opener, I’ve Got The Medicine That Everybody Wants. (Check out the video below from July, 2009). The only tune that felt out of place and curious was the cover of Take My Breath Away from the movie Top Gun, not because Potter didn’t sing it wonderfully, but it’s simply not much of a song. (continue reading…)

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Johnny Cash’s list for Rosanne

by on Oct.20, 2009, under Music

I had a taste of The List when I saw Rosanne Cash in concert this past July at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut.

rosanne-cash-the-list-lpShe performed six selections that night from the album released in September of songs chosen from a list put together by her father Johnny Cash as a musical education for his teen-age daughter in 1973.

The songs on The List are pure country, pure American music as Rosanne puts it, and she brings her special vocal interpretations to them along with wonderful arrangements by her husband John Leventhal, who plays just about all the instruments except for drums.

She also has some special guests in Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy and Rufus Wainwright, who put a harmony to Cash’s lead on one song each. The result is an album that started as an education for Rosanne but is now one for the listening audience.

Miss The Mississippi And You, written by William Heagney, is a surprising opener for the album because it’s so unlike anything else on it. It’s the only song arranged with a swing jazz feel, melancholy but light in comparison with much of the subsequent fare. What it shares with the other selections is Leventhal’s basic, pared-down and meticulous arrangement that sees him interweaving guitars and other instruments, as he does on all the tracks.

The traditional Motherless Children is a smouldering, slow-burning house on fire, using beautiful substitution chords with intricate interplay of guitars, mandolin and Larry Campbell’s fiddle, topped with Cash’s expressive vocal. Leventhal takes the first lead in a traditional country style easily riding the rhythm, then closes with a full-bore, hard-edged guitar tone on the tag. The track is a highlight of the album. (continue reading…)

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From The Vaults: Hidden Treasure No. 5

by on Oct.14, 2009, under Music

I saw guitarist Robben Ford play with Joni Mitchell during the Miles Of Aisles Tour at Woolsey Hall in New Haven in the mid-1970s. I’ve followed his career since, but not until the late ’80s did I start to take a closer look.

robben-ford-blues-band-coverEven then, I wasn’t familiar with everything he released. In the past few years I’ve become more acquainted with his various projects and finally had a chance to see him live at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut, in August.

Still, it wasn’t until relatively recently I found that along with his major label releases he also put out a couple of tributes to one of my favorite musicians, Paul Butterfield, on an independent label in the early 2000s with the Ford Blues Band, which includes two of his brothers, Patrick and Mark.

Ford like many other young players who started playing in the mid-1960s was influenced greatly by seeing the Butterfield Band when they played on the West Coast, including at the Fillmore West. It was the same here in the East with musicians I knew and worked with. Butterfield was one of the major influences on my band Pulse in the late ’60s.

Tributes are sometimes a hit-and-miss proposition. When I finally had a chance to listen to A Tribute To Paul Butterfield (2001), though, I was pleased that Robben and The Ford Blues Band had stayed faithful to the material they had chosen but also brought something new to it that makes it as fresh, vital and relevant as it was in the mid-to-late 1960s. It’s our fifth Hidden Treasure.

One of the things that makes this tribute work so well is the choice of material, which hits all of the various phases and the evolution of the Butterfield Band, with tracks from Butter’s six best albums. (continue reading…)

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Ford updates the blues tradition

by on Aug.17, 2009, under Music

Acclaimed guitarist Robben Ford has an affinity with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band of the mid-1960s that featured the duo guitar lineup of Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield. I can relate to that.

robben-ford-live-1That was one of Ford’s earliest influences and he has kept that foundation of blues and blues-rock alive in his music, combining it with jazz sensibilities to form his own brand of fusion. Throughout his career, he’s played with many diverse, high-caliber musicians from Joni Mitchell to Miles Davis, and Ford’s varied skills have been consistently on display as a solo performer since the late 1980s.

At the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut Sunday night he devoted a large portion of his approximately 80-minute set to his latest album Soul On Ten, released last week. All but three of the album’s 10 tracks were recorded live at The Independent in San Francisco. The rest were recorded live in the studio.

Ford, a multiple Grammy winner in the blues genre, is a virtuoso who has embraced recording his latest offering live with no overdubs because he and his band are fully capable of producing perfectly executed tracks in a single take that capture the spirit and feel of a live performance, something that is so often lacking in layered studio recordings. (continue reading…)

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Rosanne Cash and The List

by on Jul.16, 2009, under Music

It’s not common that a gifted songwriter is also an excellent interpreter of other’s songs. Sure, many of our great songwriters will occasionally record cover versions and quite well, but few do it on a consistently wide-ranging basis and do it with few peers.

rcash-w-guitarRosanne Cash does that, perhaps as well or better than anybody. At the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut Tuesday night, Cash mixed songs from Black Cadillac, an album dedicated to her late father Johnny Cash, and a few requests with songs from her upcoming album The List, which will consist of some of the pillars of the great American country songbook.

As Rosanne tells it they come from a list her father gave her. When she graduated from high school in 1973, she went on tour with Johnny Cash, and when he asked her if she was familiar with a particular country song and she said no, he asked about another. When she couldn’t identify three he named, he said that’s it and made a list of 100 country songs for her to learn as her musical education. (continue reading…)

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John Sebastian’s good time music

by on Jun.29, 2009, under Music

John Sebastian has always been a storyteller, particularly in his live solo shows, which he’s been performing now for about 40 years.

john-sebastian-on-stage-small2Sebastian’s charming and engaging style of entertaining creates an immediate connection with his audience as he mixes interesting anecdotes from his career with a type of humor that is so easy to relate to, especially for his contemporaries as he puts it.

Sebastian was at his best on Friday night at the Infinity Music Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut, threading a narrative throughout his performance that started with his upbringing in Greenwich Village through his formative days with the Lovin’ Spoonful, who enjoyed tremendous success on the singles charts and produced a string of memorable albums in the mid-to-late 1960s.

Before moving on to Sebastian’s set, I have to note the venue, which is quite remarkable in this day and age of mega-stars and large arena rock. Infinity, at one time a supermarket, is on the main street in Norfolk, Route 44. After renovation, it now houses a beautiful bistro at street level with a box office, waiting area and small bar off to the side of the restaurant.

Up a long flight of stairs you find the music hall, which is in a large room with a ceiling perhaps 50 feet high, if not higher, above a small proscenium stage framed in an ornate arch. (continue reading…)

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