Thursday, December 10, 2009

First Unitarian Church Philly December 8

"I want to be with you."
"You can't"
"You can't. You have to carry the fire"
"I don't know how to"
"Yes you do"
"Is it real? The Fire?"
"yes it is"
"Where is it? I don't know where it is"
"Yes you do. It's inside you. It was always there. I can see it"

-Final conversation between the father and young son in "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

The crowd at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia were likely not unfamiliar to the members of the Duke and the King. Most have
been following singer Simone Felice since he and his critically acclaimed brothers started barnstorming the United States and Europe in 2006. The bond that
Felice formed with those fans was a very strong one, and those bonds have carried over to his new project "the Duke and the King" featuring most notably Robert "Chicken" Burke, as well as
Nowell "the Deacon" Haskins and Simi "the Duchess" Stone. The show wasn't really a group of performers playing their songs for their adoring fans, but rather resembled, more accurately, a family,
a gathering of people related, not by blood, but by purpose, a shared vision of love. This was as much a group hug, as a musical performance. Felice, who is preacher/shaman, of this church of poetry,
love and music, has always understood the true meaning of "concert", a mutual action. One moment that struck me Tuesday night, was when i noticed a female fan, standing at attention
during the songs, moving her lips with each syllable "One More American Song", as she had done with virtually every song all evening, and thinking this isn't mere adoration of her mostly male pop stars.
She was all in. emotionally and spiritually. This was church. She is carrying the fire too.

The show was phenomenal. Quite simply they are the very best live act in this folk/Americana genre. The harmonies were off the hook, and honestly, when they utilize their full arsenal, with Simi and Nowell adding so much, they have no comparison with any current act I can think of. The one thing that sets them apart more than anything, is how they utilize Nowell to accentuate the keys moments in songs. What other folky band can have a guy do that? It's really unique, it's their hook.

Simone was wonderful as always, and put out the best ever version of Union St, in which he stopped at the bridge and just started having a conversation with the audience, about the turmoil that lives around us, or within us. Really cool, but it just built up the tension in the room as he broke into the verse that really hits home, and makes this song not just a fantasy, but a real contemplation of our past and a reason to look forward;
"you were the prettiest girl in town,
But your Ma was a druggie and kicked you around,
Everyone knew the word on the street
Knew she was easy
So easy
Your Ma was easy
So meet me there in the parking lot
And bring those pills you stole from your mom
And we'll be gone
Long gone"

Truly stunning.

Other highlights were the new classic "this place" sung by Nowell and performed full band.
He left the small crowd with their jaws on the floor. Nowell also accentuated "Helpless" with a rendition of "Amazing Grace" in the middle


-If You Ever Get Famous
-Morning I Get To Hell
-Don't wake The Scarecrow (verses sung by Simone, Nowell, and Simi)
-Suzanne (Bobby Bird vocal with interplay with Simi's violin)
-This Place (Nowell), full band arrangement
-Union St/Amazing Grace (Simone and Nowell lead vocals, with Simone mid song rap session about our troubled world and the shelter this music and that church provides us.)
-Waterspider(full band) best ever version I have heard in person, it kinda rocked comparitively to the
Solo acoustic version on record
-Ive Been Bad(Bobby Bird lead vocal)
-Devil is Real
-you're Belly in my Arms(showstopper, I thought I saw a tear roll down someone's face when he sang "I said that cloud is shaped like a burning man......")
-Radio Song (very nice version with funky instrumental breaks for Simi, Deacon, Bird, and guester "fur". )
-Helpless/Amazing Grace (Simone, Nowell with extended singalong by congregation.
-All When We Were Young (vocal no drums, a nice surprise, and a song that has aged very well)
-American Song (requested all night, this has become a classic already, insteading of a goodbye, that it apparently is, this rendition played like a reaffirmation of our bond to one another)

Special night.

also mention that Take This Bread was in Philly and handing out those bagged lunches to folks in Gemantown area and Delaware Avenue area of Philly. Met some really nice folks and had a good time. Also did make a donation of bread over at Philabundance, a local area food bank, on West Berks st. The bag Lunch above is one of the lunches that we gave out.