Harper Simon’s Monday residency at the Satellite was ending this week, just on time for the release of his new album ‘Division Street’, and although I went to his first day of residency and reviewed it, I decided to go back. The ‘very special guest’ advertised on the Satellite webpage was certainly already attracting and intriguing, but I had enjoyed his set so much last time, that I thought it was well worth missing a few hours of sleep, one more time… and how I was right!
I was ready to enjoy the show, without having the ‘burden’ to review it for once, and when they played the set of new songs, I recognized most of them he had played the first night, such as ‘99’, ‘Bonnie Brae’, ‘Dixie Cleopatra’. His new album is quite diverse and absolutely rocking live, driven by electric guitars and melodies borrowing from lots of horizons, and the fact he had surrounded himself with an excellent band – among them Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello’s Attractions – made them reach a timeless performance level. Plus, Harper is the kind of guy who introduces his musicians during the show, and that may be a little old-fashioned, but damn nice.
He had organized a lively night, full of surprises, with an amazingly energetic band called Don Juan Y Los Blancos which blasted their retro-surf-garage rock in the venue, Killsonic, a large big-band brass band which brought its part of chaos and noise, and the Los Angeles Ladies’ Choir led by Becky Stark doing a big ensemble over a poem about a ghost read by Mandy Khan. I unfortunately didn’t stay later, but And And And closed the night after midnight…
There were a few photographs hanging around the stage, waiting between the sets, and I was among them, checking my phone, when I saw a hand in front of me and a voice saying ‘Hello I’m Harper’, I was so surprised I must have said something quite stupid like ‘I know’! But I still can't believe he was cool enough to take the time to talk to people shooting pictures!
So who was the surprise guest? Dan Aykroyd, doing his legendary Elwood Blues impression, jumped on stage for the last song, a groovy rendition of the Blues Brothers’ classic ‘Rubber Biscuit’ with the help of almost everyone. At this point, the crowd got even more excited, showing its appreciation,… I must say I didn’t see it coming at all.
I bumped into Harper once again after the show, he told me something I didn’t hear, I replied the show was great with the enthusiasm of a 10 year-old opening a Christmas present, I am pretty sure, but musicians aren’t always that friendly, are they? He even asked me about the name of the blog I was taking pictures for, and told me to tweet the pictures,.. A few minutes later I found the opportunity to ask him about… Elliott Smith! Hey, every time I read an interview he mentions the guy, and his producer is Tom Rothrock who produced ‘Either/Or’, ‘XO’, and ‘Figure 8’!
‘I know you’re a big fan of Elliott Smith’, I said to Harper who replied with a sudden serious and attentive ‘yes’. I wanted to know if he was participating to the concert at Largo on August 6th celebrating the life and art of the dead musician… ‘Nobody invited me!’ he replied, totally surprised. Isn’t he a perfect candidate for this kind of event? Just listen to ‘Just Like St. Teresa’, or even ‘Breathe Out Love’! So I told him about Jon Brion – who took part in the making of ‘Division Street’ – hosting the event, and I may have given him some ideas.
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