The Linda presented a singer-songwriting program Friday night that included an early evening workshop by the influential British punk rocker Graham Parker and Mike Ghent of the Figgs, followed by a concert by the two of them later in the evening.
The show had Ghent open alone, then Parker alone, then the two together. It was a unique event that marked the richness of music offered in the Capital Region.
Parker opened his set with a few good ones, like “I Discovered America” and “Hard Side of the Rain.” He followed with “Chop Sticks,” but not before explaining the disposable utensils were made from rainforest trees.
Parker talked often through the night. He didn’t have the indignant bad-boy tone of his youth, but he did have the sarcasm. And his songs still cut an edge, though they now cut a much wider, more ambiguous swath, as opposed to his older mincing that took very specific aim.
During “Pollinate” and “Next Phase,” there were no signs of the pompous but affable punk. Instead the room filled with a beautiful love song, and a little of Parker’s hardscrabble British grit.
He didn’t blow his harmonica much, though it stayed around his neck for a good portion of the show. For “Back in Time,” from The Mona Lisa’s Sister, he played his first solo, a melodic series of chords. He strapped his electric guitar for “You Can’t Take Love for Granted.”
After a meandering story about a recent trip to New Jersey, he played “Vanity Press,” from his ’05 release with the Figgs.
And after hearing Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered” playing at a Barack Obama rally, he decided to learn it, Parker told us. Friday night he played a near-reggae version.
Then he sealed and delivered a genuine Parker goodie from ’77, “Stick to Me.”
Parker talked about the two championships he and his indoor soccer team won. And he confessed to singing “We Are the Champions” during the celebrations. Fortunately, he spared us at the show.
Highlights worth noting were “Start a Fire” and “Strong Wind.”
Ghent joined him for a few good songs, including “(Get off your) High Horse,” in the “key of giraffe,” Parker said, “the happiest of all keys.” Parker made silly comments like these all night, and somehow they worked.
Ghent’s solo set was a nice warm-up. His instructive style dissects the song structures, so you feel like he’s demonstrating his music while performing. You don’t have to know his music to get it, and you can leave humming each tune after hearing it only once, such as his originals like “False Alarms,” and “He’s in the Back.”
He covered “Bungalow Bill,” a first for me. Even Beatle cover bands don’t play it. So when Ghent played his brand new song “I’m the Crook,” you heard a smidgen of John Lennon during his White Album days.
Kudos to The Linda for putting together such quality programming.
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