Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tally Hall - April Smith and the Great Picture Show - Casey Shea -- Aug 12 2011

Casey Shea - I enjoyed a long chat with Casey Shea before showtime (and an interview write-up will follow some time this week). He mentioned that since he was touring without his band and that the headliners drew a rather rowdy excited audience, he had to up his energy and not just sing his somber songs. Mission accomplished. Shea was funny, had command of his material and easily pulled the audience in with humor and participation. Oh yeah, his songs are really good, too. And they were not all somber, but after drawing laughs and shouts, the audience was very attentive when he did switch gears. It was all seamless and his vocal work was commanding and well worth the listen. He had a little bit of the Devandra Banhart look and (less warbly) voice, but was much more energized and playful. His set flew by and really got the crowd warmed up. Hopefully we will be seeing him again and maybe with a full band. He certainly is worth a look in any form and in any club.

April Smith and the Great Picture Show - April Smith sings and plays guitar. Her Great Picture Show is comprised of drums, stand-up bass, guitar/mandolin, and keyboards. It is a smartly dressed group who play smart music. The singer songwriter material is there, but the rhythm section really has that old time rock'n'roll beat working well often. There are lounge aspects and something I will call refined gypsy? This highly accessible music fits nicely between a lot of styles and is quite comforting with just enough energy. The keyboards had a dream-pop quality at times. The band went over well with this full Friday night crowd. The club was buzzing and having a blast and if they didn't listen carefully, they may have missed the twisted and intense lounge-esque version of "Whole Lotta Love".
Tally Hall - Somehow this band has slipped below my radar (not the first nor the last time for that) over the years, but this Ann Arbor collective has a solid cult following. Their fans were ready tonight and the band delivered a supersmart pop set. I do see pop variations, but these guys were about as pure pop as anybody. They had 1-4 vocalists working at all times with guitars and keyboards laying out classic Britpop, American pop-rock, and a touch of psyche. I was chatting with one fan telling me about the Beatlesque style they employed (with the psyche concept touches on the new album). I clearly heard all that, but the overall songs reminded me of the Rod Argent/Zombies style of writing. But it was a lot more than just style, as the songs were really strong and at a very high level. I think this is a great achievement with such a well-worn style that is a lot more difficult to add something to than you may at first think. And it is always nice to hear a theremin, played by a contest winner from the crowd (marking the second time I have seen a contest winner play a theremin onstage--a few years ago Ian Gillan had someone come up and play it during "Smoke on the Water"!). And after the band debated whether "Free Bird" was literal or a metaphor, they closed out with a few more pop tunes and sent everyone I observed home happy.

Quote of the Night: Casey Shea hit a power chord and went to his knees gazing to heaven, right hand straight up in the air and held it until the crowd couldn't hold back the laughs.  "Hope you all got your pictures for those of you who are a little slow looking for that great action shot".

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