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Wednesday, March 16

I decided I would try to catch some honky-tonk music on my opening night of the official showcases. Brent Amaker And The Rodeo have been making fine music for at least five years that I have known about and their live show was one of the best I'd seen in a long time. I reckon it never really hurts to have a little blonde cowgirl stripping down Burlesque style while you play, either. The country that Amaker delivers is pure classic twang with a deep-voiced punk attitude not unlike Mojo Nixon. The band is made up of seemingly pretty young dudes, dressed all in black, some wearing Lone Ranger-style masks and purveying a tight spaghetti-Western/Southwest sound. Amaker preaches "In the end, we're all doomed" and then his band drops into a twangy, countrified version of Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator"… it doesn't get a whole lot better than that, folks.

Rachel Sermanni is a tiny Scottish lass with a giant voice and a brilliantly original and ultra-dynamic guitar playing style. Her songs are delicate and laced with poetry and her voice is beautiful with the perfect hinted amount of breathiness. Her songs are mostly softly sung fables with an inherent, raw power that run a gamut of feelings, all the while doing so with an incredible sense of storytelling and intensity. At first listen, her songs seem drawn from a similar well that KT Tunstall drew her first record from, albeit one with less instrumentation and less obvious power. Even if the songs weren't amazing, lyrically powerful and heart-wrenching, Rachel's guitar playing alone would be worth catching… but the fact that the little lass is doubtless an angel among us, sweet and wonderful to behold, makes it all the more precious.

It's no secret that Nathaniel Rateliff put out one of my favorite records of 2010, and so I was anxious to see what he would have for the audience during an acoustic-only singer/songwriter set. There is something to be said for seeing him perform with a band, but when it comes right down to Nathaniel and his voice and his songs, the beauty and power is undeniable. He opened his set with three brand new songs and followed up with the newer songs he's been playing for the last 6 or 8 months along with the album tracks from In Memory Of Loss. The newer songs seem a bit quieter, but I'm wondering how they'll grow and change with his new backing band. They certainly have plenty of room for dynamics and other instruments to help carry the tunes to their hopeful-recorded ends. While I love to hear Nathaniel front a band of musicians, it is a wonderful experience to see him perform solo, the lack of other instruments providing a clear picture that emphasizes the power of his songs and the wonderful texture of his vocal delivery.

I picked up and went over to stand in line at Stubb's to wrap up the evening in time to catch Raphael Saadiq play his set. I'd never heard his music, but had been exposed to a lot fo the hype surrounding him. I was suitably impressed with his performance. Saadiq is a really nice, classic R'n'B showman, and his band is very talented and super tight, slipping easily from R'n'B to old school blues and back again and even throwing in some moments of rock and roll. He seems to me to combine some of the best parts of Booker T. with James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Smokey Robinson, and The Temptations into one neat, tasty package. I dig the implications of a Tamla/Motown revivalist movement that he's a part of, along with bands like Fitz And The Tantrums. I believe it's been a long time coming and I'm hoping to see it continue.

The night closed with the triumphant return to the stage of Duran Duran. The original members, sans Roger Taylor on guitar, were at ease on stage as one would expect and turned in a fantastic performance filled with songs spanning their catalog. They played quite a few songs from their forthcoming album, not wasting time relying on their 1980's hits. Despite a few hilarious amateurish moments - like starting and stopping a song 3 times before getting it right - the band was in top form, and this being the opening show of the tour, I really believe they are going to have a fantastic time of the trip. The downside to playing some of those newer songs is of course that we didn't get to hear some songs that I was really hoping for… "New Moon On Monday" would have been a welcome treat. They were in good form and were a great way to get the week off to a wonderful start.

-David DeVoe


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