Review by Richard Brody
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
It was April Fool’s Day on Sunday, but there were no fools in the sold-out Swyer Theater at The Egg in Albany. Everyone there had come for a party, and as Joan Osborne moved onto the stage with every part of her body in sensual motion and dug into “I’m Qualified,” there was absolute certainty that they were in the right place.
Ms. Osborne was in FINE voice, and the 90-minute set was heavy with songs from her very recently released CD “Bring It On Home.” This is a tactic that might not work for many performers, but Ms. Osborne’s fans were up for anything she wanted to do, and with the help of her superb band, she received the first of several standing ovations early in the set for her rendering of Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips.” The song featured “Barbecue” Bob Pomeroy who delivered several scorching harmonica solos that soared over the fat bottom supplied by drummer Aaron Comess and bassist Richard Hammond.
Joan belted out the feminist lyrics of “Game of Love” while Keith Cotton added some funk on keyboards, and Andrew Carillo slipped in a tasty slide guitar solo.
The evening was not all “juke joint jumpin’.” The slow dancers in the crowd got a passionate take on Mississippi John Hurt’s “Boys, You’re Welcome” and a wistful reading of Otis Redding’s “Champagne and Wine.”
In addition to the music from her new album, we were also treated to “This Is Where We Start” and “Work On Me,” works-in-progress from a multimedia song cycle “Love and Hate” that’s still in its formative stage. On these numbers, Ms. Osborne was joined only by her stellar keyboard player, Keith Cotton. The arrangement of both songs suggests a slightly more jazzy direction, and it will be interesting to hear and see the finished product.
Ms. Osborne did not let her long-time fans down, either, performing three songs, from her 1995 album “Relish” that catapulted her career. “St. Teresa” allowed the band to stretch out with an almost jam band feel before slowing to a near a cappella ending. Perhaps this arrangement was a little tribute to her time as a member of the Dead. Mr. Carillo provided some funky wah-wah guitar on “Spider Web,” her heartfelt homage to one of her heroes, Ray Charles.
And the evening ended with her biggest hit “One of Us.” Accompanied only by Mr. Cotton on piano, she delivered a more compelling and introspective reading than the original.
This was a great show. If you wanted some powerhouse soul and r&b with occasional rock flourishes and some ballads, then you were, like me, in musical heaven. I am quite sure that given the attention and reception that she received from the audience, Ms. Osborne will put The Egg on her future touring map.
British singer-songwriter James Maddock opened the evening with a solid 30-minute set that was very well received by the audience and was highlighted by a new song, “My Old Neighborhood.” While Mr. Maddock provided enough rhythmic variety on his acoustic guitar to hold your attention, it was his voice that ranged from a whisper to a Rod Stewart-like throaty rasp that supplied emotional resonance to his lyrics.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Sunday night at the Egg’s sold-out Swyer Theater, she dipped further deeply into the her well of blues — some raw, some sultry, and every one delivered directly and powerfully. This was a long way from her radio play. Twenty minutes into the show, she sang ‘Shake Your Hips,’ a dark boogie-woogie that her band built to a crescendo, with Osborne pushing them vocally. This song they’ve no doubt played countless times together, yet they still kicked hard with earnest, individually and collectively, raising the energy of the night instantly. The crowd jumped to its feet, a special feat in the well-behaved Swyer Theater. Osborne slowed things down with Otis Redding’s ‘Champagne and Wine.’ All these songs were from her latest release, ‘Bring it on Home,’ a collection of traditional blues with remakes of tunes from Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Bill Withers and more. The band with her is the same group on the album, so these are the guys who have dissected and rehearsed every nook and cranny of the setlist. As a result, the arrangements were well-polished and predictable, but still had the punch that kept energy high and mostly real.”
JOAN OSBORNE SET LIST
I Don’t Need No Doctor (Ray Charles)
I Want to Be Loved (Muddy Waters)
Shake Your Hips (Slim Harpo)
The Same Love That Made Me Laugh (Bill Withers)
Champagne and Wine (Otis Redding)
This Is Where We Start (unreleased)
Work On Me (unreleased)
Tupelo Honey (Van Morrison)
Boys, You’re Welcome (Mississippi John Hurt)
Game of Love (Ike & Tine Turner)
Roll Like a Big Wheel (Olive Brown)
One of Us
JAMES MADDOCK SET LIST
Living a Lie
My Old Neighborhood
When the Sun’s Out