do you fall asleep dreaming?

A guest review of Cataldo, The Old Believers, and Laura Veirs at Madison, WI’s The Frequency on February 28, 2010 by Drew Mosley:

Cataldo opened the show with a really low-key stage presence while maintaining an intriguing lyrical style and physical connection to the songs. Alone on stage, Eric Anderson’s sound was engineered to elicit the auditory illusion of one man sitting in an empty auditorium amidst the reverberations of his songs. Self-accompanied and using minimalist rhythms, he played clipped melodies left to echo while he voiced the Pacific Northwest sound – a sweet amalgam of Ben Gibbard’s hollow tenor with the vocal tics of Colin Meloy.

Nelson Kempf, frontman of The Old Believers, opened unannounced and a capella, with the audience eager to keep a hand-clapped beat. An outwardly self-conscious stage presence and apparent lack of confidence did undermine some of the sweeter moments in his set, though what he was lacking in charisma he compensated with earnestness. On full-band recordings, The Old Believers vacillate sounds, at times portraying an unproduced She & Him while at other times sounding more like the poppy Ingrid Michaelson or Fiest. Kempf’s “Granny’s Song” addressed the audience as a love note to Mason Jennings in vocal style, delivery, and highlighted the similarities in song structure.

Possibly owing to the small amount of finished songs capable of performance without his partner, Keeley Boyle, Kempf brought merch-man Dhani on stage for a strange three-song set of mimicky slow jams likely pulled from the dumpster outside the studios of Lonely Island.  While the pre-programmed synth beats were appropriately syrupy and the lyrics were actually delightfully hokey, the delivery lacked the fake band’s straightfaced sincerity. Briefly turning from the audience in apparent overwhelming emotion, Dhani frequently smiled as if astonished the crowd had not yet begun throwing tomatoes.

Collecting the two opening acts on stage, Laura Veirs took to her catalog, adding Alex Guy on viola. The audience was enlisted as background singers during “To the Country”, and her inter-song banter engaged the crowd, fervent admirers of her most recent release, July Flame. Veirs’s best playing came when she picked up her banjo and purposefully cackled the Appalachian fiddle tune “Cluck Old Hen”. Her voice and technique easily lend to loose, raucous folk songs, a style she doesn’t aim for with the majority of work. Unfortunately, Veirs instead performed a set heavily weighted towards a mellow ease not well-suited to a bitter cold Midwestern February. The lowest moment of the set was a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back Again”. Veirs’s guitar playing slowed during the lead-in to each verse and it made me wonder why an accomplished artist would include a song she had not mastered in her setlist.

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