Jimmy Webb said, “If you think I talk too much, I’ll refund your money.”
But I don’t think anybody asked.
Webb is about as old-school as it gets these days and when he performs live it’s as much a conversation with royalty as anything else. It’s not just Webb wearing the crown, mind you. It’s his many meetings on the mountain with other singers, songwriters and stars that make up his shtick. He drops names like flies – Ronstadt, Campbell, Joel, Simon, Jennings, Clooney, Sinatra, Sinatra, Sinatra.
Last Saturday’s visit at The Linda – his third – was remarkably free of Richard Harris stories, and indeed Webb only flirted with “MacArthur Park,” tickling out the introduction in the midst of another story and then floating past it. But all the other ghosts were there, from Johnny Mercer to Johnny Maestro.
Songwise, “Wichita Lineman” was also conspicuous in its absence, and Webb offered no rarities or chestnuts save “Oklahoma Nights,” which he wrote for Arlo Guthrie.
Instead, newbies walked down memory lane with Webb, while veterans waited for punchlines they already knew, still eager to hear them – bon mots dripping in Vegas glitz, Hollywood glamour and Manhattan charm.
What nobody got was much music. In two hours, Webb played nine songs.
His voice is old-school, too, in that Kris Kristofferson way. Neither man was much to begin with in the pipes department, but both could write tunes to stun at fifty paces. Now both have incredible catalogs to reflect upon, but couldn’t hit the far side of a high note for a night with Katy Perry and a bag of fruits and vegetables.
But for any other human, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” or “Didn’t We” would be enough, so no one felt shorted. No one left hungry. And no one asked for their money back, either.
Review by Bokonon
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Early on, he concentrated on the country-pop songs that made his reputation through the hits he wrote for Glen Campbell, but the show ranged beyond that style to survey the many flavors, he called them countries, or traditions, he has brought to audiences over time. He delivered some songs more seriously than others, noting ‘Galveston’ is a war protest song before a fervent rendition that plumbed its depths, and ‘That’s All I Know’ had an aching tenderness. But he acknowledged ‘Up, Up and Away’ is just about balloons. He displayed playful but real umbrage about critics’ dismissing his songs as frivolous while extolling those of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. He monotoned Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ with lyrics begging for a new notes to demonstrate Cohen’s melodic limitations and noted it’s impossible to make out Dylan’s words. Webb’s range, melodic gift and concise lyric grace, in fact, qualify him for the pop pantheon alongside Burt Bacharach. If his talk has grown sharper since his last WAMC appearance (Saturday’s was his third), his singing has grown more wistful.”
JIMMY WEBB SET LIST
Up, Up and Away
By The Time I Get to Phoenix
All I Know
Worst That Could Happen