LIVE: Roosevelt Dime @ Empire State Plaza at The Egg, 8/16/17
Review and photographs by Richard Brody
Eben Pariser and Andrew Green, the co-founders of Roosevelt Dime whose NYC busking days may be over, still have the skills they learned out on the street about how to connect with people who had never heard of them, and they were on display from the moment they hit the stage on the Empire State Plaza outside The Egg. Roosevelt combines elements of folk, pop, rock, blues, R&B and bluegrass, but the songs reflect unique combinations of those sounds.
The ups and downs of romantic relationships are a main source of Mr. Pariser and Mr. Green’s songs. “Red Shoes,” the title track of their recent EP, was driven by Tony Montalbano’s drumming with Mr. Green’s banjo giving the song an old-timey feel. Mr. Pariser’s wide ranging vocals and stellar guitar highlighted the lyrics about couples not forgetting that even though there are “1000 reasons we should be staying in tonight you need to put on those red shoes cause we’re going out.” Mr. Green’s song “Flip the Script” took those old-time murder songs and flipped them so that instead of going down to the river with murder in the heart, “I threw the gun in the river, and we made love all night.”
Mr. Green’s “Wealth Addict” spoke of another type of romance: one with money, and the never-ending need for lots of it. The song’s floating-above-it-all melody and “up in my penthouse looking down” lyric conjured up a certain president and his cronies. When they threw in a little of “You Are My Sunshine” substituting “please don’t take my money away” for the original lyric, the deal was sealed.
In addition to their original songs, the band will also include a cover or two during their sets. Most of their previously recorded covers were traditional songs like “Deep Elem Blues,” but on their latest EP they went more current, and at The Egg we were treated to one of those: a spirited version of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” led by great lead vocals and guitar work by Mr. Pariser, excellent chorus harmony by Mr. Green and Mr. Montalbano and the solid rhythm section of Montalbano and bassist Craig Akin. But what lifted the song beyond a mere tribute was Mr. Green’s banjo.
The band saved their most irresistible dance numbers for their two closing selections. “Hey Hey” got lift-off from Mr. Akin’s bass, and the band followed with some old school R&B that had people dancing to Mr. Pariser’s guitar and his vocals that slid seamlessly up and down the register. The band ended their set with a fiery version of “I Want Mo!” that coupled the Saturday night bluesy “dangerous love song” lyrics with a foot stompin’, hand clapping Sunday morning finish led by Mr. Pariser’s falsetto, as we, the congregation, responded. The absence of the horns that give the song a distinct New Orleans feel on the recorded version gave Mr. Montalbano and Mr. Akin room to move, and move they did, giving the audience one last time to sing and dance with the band.
ROOSEVELT DIME SET LIST
Sooner or Later
Take Me Back
Say I Love You
Oh to Be
Flip the Script
What a Shame
I Want Mo!