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Marshall Crenshaw’s “40 Years in Showbiz! (1982-2022)” At City Winery, Monday, September 26th, 2022, Reviewed

Marshall Crenshaw and Paul McCartney have something in common, they write such perfectly formed songs, sturdily constructed to themselves, they don’t lend themselves to improvisation and re-arrangement in a live setting… in any setting at all. Leave these jewels alone, let them speak for themselves, right?

Look at it this way: Marshall Crenshaw is at service to his songs and his songs are not at service to Crenshaw though his backing band is so exceptional they manage to add without subtracting, Fernando Perdomo’s guitar break on “Dime A Dozen Guy” is otherworldly, so is drummer Mark Ortmann and bassist Derrick Anderson add up to the finest MC Band (as opposed to say Bottle Rockets who aren’t his band). The result is just a really cool band, the sound is excellent and the mood is sweet as molasses, a show not without ego, Marshall rightly takes pride in his 40 years as an artist, yet so straightforward everything seems preordained.

You can narrow Crenshaw down to a coupla of movements

1 – Raised in Detroit to the sounds of Mitch Ryder and MC5

2 – A stint in Beatlemania and a hook up with Shake Records

3 – The Warner Brother years

4 – The indie years through 2009 and Jaggedland

5 – The EP years, 2012 – 2017

6 – The 40th anniversary tour and whatever comes next

At the concert there are signposts up ahead, the three covers to start the evening, a telstar-y version of The Ventures take on Richard Rodgers “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue”, a self evident “Crying, Wishing, Hoping” and quite possible the entire evenings highlight, the best version I’ve ever heard of “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” – the original is too clowny (though MC does get the chance to nearly namecheck Tom Wilson), “11 verses my friends,” notes Marshall and wordy words as well but it is the jamming between the verses that blows you away. I wish Crenshaw would drop it as a single.

Then we settle in, which means 2 pre-debut songs, 4 songs from the debut (the 40th Anniversary reissue will be here in November now he has won back the rights to his Warner Brothers releases), stops on everything from Field Day to Miracles Of Science, just one song off the EPs, and the very latest song he wrote, “Will Of The Wind”, which we heard last year on the deluxe #447 -an apocalyptic track for the start of the pandemic.

So in 90 minutes Crenshaw pulled from all corners of his lustrous career and it made me wonder if he should follow Ray Davies and perform an autobiographical solo set though Crenshaw has had one of the least controversial of careers; there are only occasional revelations here and the best of them is that he composed “Someday, Someway” and “Mary Anne” in a 24 hour period and the other is that the always private MC introduced us to his son Dean Crenshaw who tuned his guitar. Wow!!!

But who needs revelations when the music is enough of of a revelation, that, again, Crenshaw has never written a bad song, he is the most consistent songwriter of all time. And despite him working in a 50s-60s style for decades (it changed with the EPs), the songs are not stuck in time, they aren’t oldies at all. This is his artistry. In 2013 I interviewed Marshall and asked him whether he gets frustrated he never broke into superstardom levels of fame and fortune. He replied: “I do feel frustrated sometimes. But on the other hand, show business is tough. I did the best I could, I had some success, I mean you’re talking to me now. I’ve lived a life as an artist and I’m still at it, doing it better than ever I think. At least pretty darn good. I’m still going forward and the road isn’t finished yet. And again it is really hard, there’s only so many slots but it could be worse, I know that. I figure the fact that I’ve made a life as an artist is a victory, is a big victory for me…” Last night was the musical equivalent of how Crenshaw at 67 years of age continues to live life as an artist. He is so great that a victory lap isn’t an oldies set.

Grade: A


  1. Morris Dascal on October 9, 2022 at 1:06 pm

    It was a great show and kick-ass performance. The boys looked like they were having a blast 💥

  2. Vinnie Bellaran on October 9, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    Great review. But I have never been to a bad MC show so not surprised. I hope he gives us 40 more years of rock.

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