LIVE: Mother Falcon & Ben Sollee @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 10/22/15
Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Video by Tim Reidy
It started out with an unaccompanied accordion introduction by Tamir Kalifa. A handful of other instruments gradually crept in, and then Matt Krolick uncorked a high-flying trumpet fanfare that heralded the proper kick-off of the song “Naked and Alive.” Up front, mandolinist Claire Puckett and bandleader/12-string guitarist Nick Gregg strummed hard and sang the chorus that included the lyric “We do what we want ’cause we look like we should.”
Indeed, the mega-talented indie-orchestral band Mother Falcon can do whatever they want. And the lush dance-pop of “Naked and Alive” – think ’80s bands like ABC or maybe Spandau Ballet, but with real strings rather than synthesizers – summed up only one facet of what they can do.
Making their Local 518 debut at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall before a small but enthusiastic crowd, the sprawling, 14-piece Austin-based collective was a seamless fusion of rock and classical music that defied definition. Terms like “chamber pop” or “symphonic rock” just don’t do them justice. They’re really in a league all their own.
Mother Falcon has teamed up with Kentucky-born singer-songwriter-cellist Ben Sollee for the Fall Migration Tour, pulling selections from both of their catalogs, and their joint Troy concert confounded whatever expectation you may have brought into the hall. There was no opening act, as Sollee the the Falcon folks played together for most of the two-hour performance, although each had their own spotlight numbers.
Opening with a cinematic rendition of Sollee’s “Something, Somewhere, Sometime,” the front-line featured three cellos and two electric guitars, backed by two drummers, three horns, bass, keyboards, pedal steel guitar, violin and viola. And several of those musicians played multiple instruments throughout the night. It was a deliriously delcious evening of music for the crowd, but likely not a dream job for the sound technician.
The band sometimes overpowered the vocals, but the sheer breadth and depth of the music was so intoxicating that it didn’t really matter, and the highlights were many. Sollee’s “How to See the Sunrise” broke it down to a quartet of MF musicians, shifting from slow, moaning blues to a jacked-up roadhouse romp and back again, eventually climaxing in a jazz improv cello duel with tenor saxophonist Sterling Steffen. Mother Falcon’s “Marfa” was a sweeping, wide-screen tribute to the Texas town, underpinned with the oh-so-tasteful pedal steel work of Evan Kaspar. And cellist Diana Burgess slipped up to the mic to sing a marvelously minimalist rendition of Ann Peebles’ soul classic “I Can’t Stand the Rain.”
A band of young twentysomethings, Mother Falcon is touring in support of their brand new album, Good Luck, Have Fun, and it would certainly seen that they have a fruitful and exciting journey ahead of them.
MOTHER FALCON/BEN SOLLEE SET LIST
Something Somewhere Sometime (all)
Whole Lot to Give (all)
Her Radiant Limb (Mother Falcon)
Porcelain (Mother Falcon)
How to See the Sunrise (Ben Sollee w/ quartet)
Prettiest Tree On the Mountain (Ben Sollee w/quartet)
It’s Not Impossible (Ben Sollee w/percussionist)
Letting Go (Ben Sollee w/drummer)
Learn to Listen (Ben Sollee w/drummer)
Marfa (Mother Falcon)
To Mama (all)
I Can’t Stand the Rain (all) (Ann Peebles)
Kid (Mother Falcon)
Naked and Alive (Mother Falcon)
Dirty Summer (all)