The only thing with more traffic than the stage at Rockwood 2 last night was the seating area, both were packed to overflowing with people to celebrate or to play with one of New York’s finest singer songwriters, David Bronson. Bronson himself was celebrating the imminent (January 2015) release of his sublime third album Questions, so this was a record release party without a record.
Joining Bronson on stage were his band, keyboard player Rob Clores, new rhythm section bassist Al Carty and drummer Laurato Burgos, and David’s guitarist “since before we could both grow a beard” the superb Robbie Seahag Mangano. Seahag’s solos on “Song Of Life” and “Moves Like Water” were highlights in a show with more than its own fair share of them. A band strong enough to present Bronson’s 70s inspired proggy soulful songwriting in all its glory, indeed a solo acoustic might have been enough on its own, but this was a special night: “Young Americans” singer Robin Clark, her daughter Lea-Loren Alomar and Robin’s husband, legendary guitarist Carlos Alomar joined the band as they did on Questions, and another legend, David’s producer Godfrey Diamond banged a tambourine for the evening’s way too soon closer.
A fleet on its feet eight song dash through David’s ten song Questions (sadly we didnt get “Passing Fiction” -he probably didn’t want to deal with the slide guitar solo), the size of neither the stage nor the band seriously damaged Bronson as he sweet talked the audience through 40 minutes of progressive pop, folk, soul, Gospel inflections and Cat Stevens enjoined 70s soft rock. Bronson is so easy going on stage, he would win you over whatever the music is, he takes to the audience like he takes to people in the real world, he makes you at ease, ready to be part of his family and then he levels you with the intensity of his playing. It is as though he sees no reason why artistry must be self-important. At Rockwood he shared his stage so generously while remaining the focal point.
Which is quite important since he was playing songs nobody had heard before for the most part. Oh, sure, the first time I saw Bronson live, two years ago plus, he had his opening song, “Life Is Long”, and any fan in the audience has heard his last song of the evening, “Push” many times, but for the most part this is new material. “Songbird” was released as a video last month but unless you had an early pressing, you don’t know these songs. But you didn’t really need to. Not only are “Life Is Long”, “Song of Life” and “Songbird” immediately compelling pop strokes, but the back up singing on the prayer like “Move Like Water” are a whole other level.
“Move Like Water” was stolen by Robin and Lea, and has there ever been a finer pair of thieves. They touched every song with power and glory, but by the end of “Water” Robin has taken you elsewhere. She is a very tactile singer, she seems to touch the melody with her voice she feels her way through it as she sings it, caresses it and then carries it over, and her daughter clicks in. At the end of “Day By Day”, Robin unleashed the voice and took it home with a beautiful solo. The duo added a level to the album which even though the songs are strong enough to not need much, they are more than shadings. Somebody should record an album with Robin right now.
But Carlos Alomar, playing a synth guitar, seemed a little underused: the reason is obvious, Bronson has a lead guitarist and an excellent one in Seahag. The other reason is time constraints. If ever a show should have been given 120 minutes this was that -hopefully once Bronson gets it on the road he can stretch it. Alomar didn’t come into his own until a finger picked solo on the penultimate song of the night, “Connect The Dots”.
There were a few problems, they took “Songbird” too fast and the backing singers should have been miked a little lower, time constraints didn’t allow the band to jam out the way they did when I saw them last year, the stage was too small and the sound bled a little. But as Tomas Doncker, there with his lovely wife, noted, these songs work and in the end, the entire band was at the service of a collection of gorgeous songs and the return of one of this decade’s major talents. At the close of the show he introduced the band and when somebody asked who he was, claimed it didn’t matter. His name is David Bronson and last night he proved yet again that he is one of our greats.
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