Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Live Shows: Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Brighton Music Hall, Allston, MA 12/13/15

Photo by Ken Sears
Mid-December is a weird time to see a show. Most people are in full on holidays mode and don't have the time (or money), to head out. Plus, Allston is truly a college neighborhood and most college kids are fully into finals preparation or have already headed home for break. Maybe it was that, or maybe it's because this is the third time they've played Boston this year, but Sunday's show at Brighton Music Hall was fairly poorly attended.

Photo by Ken Sears
Not that you'd know it from the band's performance. Or the audience's reaction. Anyone who didn't make it to the show truly missed out. The mother and son pair started off as a duo with the very low key "Down in Mississippi." It's a great choice since it shows off both of their vocals equally. Neither of them have the type of voices you typically hear in the current neo-folk scene, but it gives their music this heartfelt and gritty feel, even when the songs are truly beautiful. They were soon joined by a drummer and bass player (who stayed for the majority of the set) for the more upbeat "Whole Lotta Problems," which was much more raucous live than on the album. This year's phenomenal Skeleton Crew has a more laid back feel, almost like you're just listening to them playing out on a front porch or living room. Seeing them live has more energy to it. Either way, the songs and performances are fantastic.

Photo by Ken Sears
They played virtually all of Skeleton Crew plus a pair of covers: Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" and Ben E. King's timeless "Stand By Me." For most people the highlight seemed to be the semi-single 'Silent Movies," which was brilliant in person. My favorite was the set closer, an extended version of "Yellow Taxi." Extended folk jams can be a tricky and usually boring proposition. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear can pull it off. The 100 or so people that wandered out of their homes on a Sunday night in December left happy, and maybe wishing they could have a little more.

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