LIVE: “Home Bass: 4 Strings, 4 Hearts for Habitat” @ Club Helsinki, 1/27/13
Review and photographs by Tim Livingston
Additional photograph by Erika Clark
It was the brainchild of Club Helsinki co-owner Marc Schafler: “Home Bass: 4 Strings, 4 Hearts for Habitat,” a one-time-only event bringing together four notable musicians, who all now reside in Hudson and whose main instrument is that of four-strings (three basses, one cello), together on the same stage for the first time, for a cabaret-style benefit concert, for a cause all those involved support – the Columbia County chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
The Helsinki folks opened up the sliding walls between the restaurant and the club in order to welcome the capacity crowd who turned out en-masse to support the cause and witness what truly was a unique, diverse, one-of-a-kind performance.
Melissa Auf der Maur – now a solo artist, but also known for her work with alt-rockers Hole and Smashing Pumpkins – hosted the event. She was joined by Meshell Ndegeocello, Tommy Stinson and Melora Creager, the other three members of what you could call the Hudson Bass Cartel.
A representative of Columbia County chapter of Habitat for Humanity came out first, speaking briefly about their efforts to bring affordable, energy-efficient housing to local families, and then brought out singer-songwriter Cathy “The NYC Subway Girl” Grier to open the evening. Cathy is no stranger to Habitat, having played in support of the organization before. And she’s also known for her activism in spreading the art of street performing – and all that time spent busking has most definitely paid off! Accompanied by a bassist, Cathy delivered a poignant set of blues-based folk played with confidence and a friendly charm, stretching from Talking Heads (“Don’t Worry About the Government”) to traditional gospel (“Amazing Grace”). A great start.
Things moved along quickly as the show played out cabaret-style, sometimes over-lapping musicians and otherwise with quick stage turnover times. Next up, Tommy Stinson and his band!
Known by many as a founding member of seminal ’80s band the Replacements and long-time bass player for Guns ‘N Roses, Tommy has also produced a brilliant catalog of solo material consisting of swaggering rock, sharp power-pop and heart-felt barroom ballads. His latest album, One Man Mutiny, offered all of that while also serving up a hard-nod towards an even rootsier Americana sound. On this night, Tommy seemed to be taking that direction a step further, towards a deeper, old-time country vibe, with the tasty lap steel/slide guitar licks of Chip Roberts and the saw/accordion atmospherics of dust-bowl fairy Ryder Cooley adding vintage flavoring to the proceedings. Tommy on acoustic, led them and a bass/drum rhythm section through a short, but inspired set.
He opened with the brilliant “Without a View” with its event-appropriate lyrics: “Not in my house, not in my room/Not in my home, my home without a view.” On his album Village Gorilla Head, it is a well-produced, pop masterpiece, but hearing it in this stripped-down country format it came across perhaps even more devastatingly beautiful. Next the band slid into their take of “The Green, Green Grass of Home,” a classic country number first made popular by Porter Wagoner and also covered by Tom Jones, Johnny Cash and now… Tommy Stinson. I have to say his graveled, rock & roll-road-traveled-voice lends itself well to the genre. He still maintains all of his Face-style swagger, but also captures the down-home feel of American music. Partway through this one, perhaps the most surreal moment of the night happened as Tommy broke a string, Chip ripped into a lead and then, to the surprise of the audience, a mysterious man in black walked slowly onto the stage, stepped up to the mic and recited the “dead man walking” last verse of song. He then slowly stalked off, as the band played on…
After a guitar change, Tommy went into a killer brand new original (not sure of the title) that was also in the broken-hearted Stones-go-country vein and then another special guest. Hudson resident, the flamboyant Dini Lamot of Human Sexual Response, jumped up for a happening take of Ryan Adams’ “Come Home.” Tommy and band then took it out with the flat-out rockin’ “It’s a Drag” from his latest album. Short and sweet, but Tommy would be back later…
Melissa next introduced Melora Creager and her band Rasputina. Even though I have seen them many times, I am still always blown away by the beauty and energy of this cello-and-percussion goth/rock power-trio. Both visually and sonically stunning, they create visionary soundscapes mixed with pure tribal lust and Melora’s stage banter is hilariously charming.
Their short set was a mix of such originals as “Holocaust of Giants” (a song that proves that giants did exist) and few selections from the “classical” repertoire that influenced them – Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and their storming version of Heart’s “Barracuda” – a rendition that has made me a believer in the song. If you have yet to experience Rasputina, put them on your must-see bucket list.
The sets were short, but the show was rather continuous, morphing from one artist to the next with Melissa coming out to set up the second half of the show, starting with Meshell Ndegeocello. What can I say?!? WOW! No, that doesn’t quite cover it. Amazing! Of course, I knew of her history, her multi-Grammy nominations, and I’ve heard numerous recordings that she has been on, but seeing and hearing her in this
intimate setting was phenomenal.
Accompanied by a guitarist, her voice was simply mesmerizing. Funky and soulful, she moved throughout her set from just vocals, to bass/vocals to piano/vocals. Every note she played and line she sang seemed to fit the theme of this evening so perfectly. Truly magical. Up to this point not only had it been a great concert, but it was also a great party to boot, everyone seemingly having a blast. But right about then – while Meshell was singing a knock-out rendition of Prince’s “Lady Cab Driver” – it became apparent what incredible talent was on that stage that evening. Something really special was happening. I forgot to make mental notes, I forgot to take photos. Just totally lost in the music…
Meshell was joined by Melissa for another artist collaboration, which led into Melissa’s set. Bass-fronted, hard rock with gothic, metal overtones, Auf der Maur struck a rock star stance as her bass boomed and voice soared, backed by her two-man band.
The hostess then started bringing back the featured performers as special guests. First the man of the evening, Tommy Stinson, to do a killer duet with Melissa on the Nancy Sinatra-Lee Hazlewood gem “Summer Wine,” that had Melissa shimmying and Tommy taking the band down-low to emphasize the drama of his deep, Hazlewood drawl. Swinging fun and another major highlight in a night filled with highlights.
Time for “the Three M’s of Hudson” to take the stage, the ladies – Melissa, Melora and Meshell. Melissa spoke about how all three were mothers; that the bass was the “mother” of all instruments, the glue holding it all together; and how there were not a lot of bass-fronted bands, but here was a song by one of the greats… So with Meshell on “crazy machines,” Melora on cello and Melissa on the mother instrument, they launched into Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” They then brought out the rest of the supporting musicians for the finale, an anti-war song, Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” Melissa showing the vocal chops she honed in her Sabbath cover band, Hand of Doom, and Meshell on bass just pumping it up and demonstrating her amazing skill on the mother axe. Totally off the hook. What a great night in the perfect setting.
Really? Black Sabbath? God, I love cabaret!
Review and photographs by Seth Rogovoy at the Rogovoy Report