Review by Steve Nover
Photographs by Jason Spiro
Eric Andersen has released more than two dozen albums in the course of his 45 year-plus musical career, so it’s almost criminal that he’s not better known or that his show at The Linda in Albany last Friday night wasn’t sold-out.
This singer/songwriter has led a fascinating life. His love of the beat generation writers led him to hitch to Frisco where he was “discovered” by Tom Paxton who convinced him to move to NYC. He became a guiding light in the Village music scene and was signed by Vanguard Records. He starred in Andy Warhol’s “Space” with Edie Sedgwick in ’65; met the Beatles in London and was invited to some recording sessions; was supposedly about to be signed by Brian Epstein at the time of his sudden death. He was onboard 1970 the Canadian cross-country train-traveling Festival Express (the documentary was finally released in 2003) along with Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, the Band, Buddy Guy, Flying Burrito Brothers and others.
He lived in the Chelsea Hotel in ’71, where he became friends with Patti Smith, and the following year released his best-selling album “Blue River,” duetting with Joni Mitchell on the title song. In 1975, he performed at the opening of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue at Gerde’s Folk City. In 1990, he teamed up with the Band’s Rick Danko and Norwegian Jonas Fyeld for Danko/Fyeld/Andersen – releasing two albums and performing together for nine years including an Amtrak tour in upstate NY filmed by D.A. Pennebaker but still unreleased. 2000 saw the release of “You Can’t Relive the Past” featuring some songs he co-wrote with Townes Van Zandt.
The list of people have recorded his songs, including Johnny Cash, Blues Project, the Grateful Dead, Fairport Convention, Peter, Paul & Mary, Linda Ronstadt, Pete Seeger and Gillian Welch, to name just a few.
At The Linda, it was hard to believe that he’ll be 70 years old next year. His 6’5″ (or so) height exuded power. His voice is still strong, though the few times he played the piano it was louder and clearer than the guitar mic. Most of the set found him playing the guitar, with his wife Inge Andersen contributing background vocals and a distant cousin Joyce Andersen (a former member of the McKrells) playing some fine violin and a few beautiful solos.
Also belying his age was the fact that he performed for almost two-and-a-half hours. One of his signature songs, “Violets of Dawn,” came early in the set, as gorgeous as when it was released back in 1966. “Dance of Love and Death’ was the only song he sang solo, and Inge Andersen sang two songs from her upcoming album “Fallen Angel,” as well. He did bring out his harp for two songs including another of his signature tunes, “Thirsty Boots.” When he played the piano, it was a good change of pace, like a pallette cleanser.
He actually repeated one song – his ode to Janis Joplin, “Pearl’s Goodtime Blues” – in partly because he knew he could play it better, but more importantly, he was also aware that all of the shows at The Linda are recorded for broadcast, and this one will be on the radio soon. The concert was also a celebration of the 40th anniversary of “Blue River,” and the title song was one of the highlights of the night.
I had never seen Andersen in concert before, and the intimacy of his performance at The Linda was a treat.
Joyce Andersen opened the show with a short solo set, leading off with an Irish instrumental fiddle piece. Her set was a delight, displaying immense stylistic range. With loops and effects pedals, she played her violin like a bass and used her feet to play percussion (bass drum and tambourine, mainly) as well as her pedals.
She sang the rest of the set, highlighted by the 1931 gem “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (made famous for a new generation by Mama Cass in 1968). Playing just over 30 minutes, she was especially impressive with her closing song, “Hey Joe,” the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s first single originally recorded by the Leaves. Joyce rocked out the song with heavy violin distortion and used an octave-splitter to enhance the Q&A format of the lyrics, singing in her normal voice as well as much lower “male” voice, a la Laurie Anderson.
With Eric Andersen and on her own, she was utterly charming. Her album is called “Swerve.” Keep your ears open for her.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Eric Andersen is one of those rare singer-songwriters who seems to only get better with age, as his performance Friday night at The Linda showed. The Greenwich Village folk original has grown into his dusty tales and character studies of regret and sorrow, with his weathered voice adding true depth to these songs. Before a half-full theater, Andersen and his entourage — wife Inge Andersen and violinist Joyce Andersen — covered songs from throughout Eric’s long career in a two-plus hour set, particularly shining on the darker, more melancholy material.”
ERIC ANDERSEN SET LIST
Mary, I Comin’ Back Home
Violets of Dawn
Rain Falls Down in Amsterdam
The Dance of Love and Death
Crying Like a River Full of Blues
Before Everything Changed
Woman, She Was Gentle
Listen to the Rain
Close the Door Lightly When You Go
Betrayal (Inge Andersen)
Wind and Sand
Pearl’s Goodtime Blues
Pearl’s Goodtime Blues
Salt On Your Skin
You Love to See Me Fly (???) (Inge Andersen)
Love With a Feeling
JOYCE ANDERSEN SET LIST
(Celtic fiddle medley) (instr.)
Dream a Little Dream of Me
We Will Shine