I stepped outside of my house and crossed the street. Then I turned right and took the sidewalk down the hill. I continued along this sidewalk going up and down the various hills until I reached the railroad tracks. Once I was on the other side of the tracks, I headed across the street and turned left. Then I walked about 50 feet and took a right up that one street I like. I walked along that street for about eight minutes until I got to the square. Once I got there, I took a right, leaned up against a light post for a few seconds to take a photograph…
Yes, I went to the 20th Century Theatre to see Nellie McKay perform a concert. This wasn’t my first time seeing her. Beth and I saw her at Neumos on my very first trip out to Seattle. That show ended up being a disappointment for a number of reasons–inappropriate venue, a crowd full of jerks, and an off night from the singer–but I told myself I’d give Nellie another chance if we ever happened to be in the same town at the same time. So I was happy to see she was coming to a venue within walking distance.
This second concert was better in just about every way (the only exception being my lack of concert-going companion). Nellie McKay is touring behind her latest album, a collection of songs from the 60s called My Weekly Reader. If you ever want to hear Herman’s Hermits and Frank Zappa covered on the same album, then My Weekly Reader is for you. She played most of the songs from this new release, a wide range of other covers, and a selection of her own songs.
Although Nellie really just played a main set and an encore song, her set was divided up into piano songs and ukulele songs. They felt like mini sets to me, so I’ve written out the setlist to reflect the change in instruments. All she really did was leave the piano, pick up the ukulele, and stand over by a different microphone. But anyway, here’s the setlist (with tiny-print notes where appropriate):
First piano set: Sunny Afternoon (the Kinks)/Beneath the Underdog/The Dog Song/Pennies From Heaven (popularized by Bing Crosby)–>piano–>Toto Dies/Hello, Hello (Sopwith Camel)/Poor People–>Justice (Alan Price medley)/Cupcake
First ukulele set: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (popularized by Cab Calloway)/Bold Marauder (Richard & Mimi Fariña)/Quicksilver Girl (Steve Miller Band)/¡Bodega!/Clothes Line Saga (Bob Dylan)
Second piano set: Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine (Country Joe and the Fish)/Compared to What (popularized by Les McCann and Eddie Harris)/Sunny Goodge Street (Donovan)/Did I Remember (popularized by Billie Holiday)
Second ukulele set: Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying (Gerry and the Pacemakers)/Red Rubber Ball (the Cyrkle)/Caribbean Time/One’s on the Way (Loretta Lynn cover written by Shel Silverstein)
Third piano set: I Cover the Waterfront (popularized by Billie Holiday)/Inner Peace/Suitcase Song/Hungry Freaks, Daddy (Frank Zappa)
Ukulele encore: If I Fell (Beatles)
The entire evening was lovely with a polite crowd, good sound (especially for a venue that often has issues), interesting song selection, and a charming, spot-on performance from Nellie McKay. Highlights included songs from My Weekly Reader like “Sunny Afternoon”, “Quicksilver Girl”, and a fantastic version of “Red Rubber Ball”. I also enjoyed some of Nellie’s own songs such as “¡Bodega!”, “Beneath the Underdog”, and “The Dog Song”. What really surprised me, though, is how much I liked the songs I’d never even heard before like “Hello, Hello” (by something called Sopwith Camel) and “Clothes Line Saga” (one of the strangest Bob Dylan songs ever). I usually dislike live performances of songs I’m not already familiar with, but I enjoyed these and left the show with a list of new music I’ll need to track down. Oh, and did I mention the standards? They were all great, but I’d probably choose “Did I Remember” if I had to pick just one.
If it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s probably because I am. I don’t want to be all positive, of course, so I’ll end this post on a negative note. The woman sitting next to me tried to start a mid-song audience clapping-thing. No one joined in and she soon stopped. It bothered me for about 15 seconds. Grrr.