If you recall, Joan Osborne is one of my all time favorites (June 21 “Phonics” post). My brother and his husband have been insistent that they wanted to get in on this whole 50 shows thing this year and we needed to choose a good one. When I saw that the Solid Soul Tour featuring Mavis Staples & Joan Osborne was going through New York City, but not Philly, I knew I found the perfect one. That is how I found myself on the train going north on a recent November evening. After an outstanding dinner together, including my sister, who was weirdly in New York and a drive-by by our friend Chad, we made our way over to the 92nd Street Y for the show.
I thought maybe the venue was an old YMCA that now was a theater, but no, it was a working YMCA that also had a beautiful and intimate concert hall. We went inside among the yoga carrying upper east siders. They get some seriously good shows and I can only dream that one day my local Y on N. Broad Street does the same.
Again, as you may recall, I see a lot of Joan Osborne. She just really speaks to me. Whether she is rocking out with her own band or singing names out of the phone book, I would go see her. From all the shows I have seen her, this was unique. First, she did not sing with her band, but was backed up by Mavis’ band, she was the opener and she was very demure. She usually dresses modern hippie, but this evening she was definitely conservatively dressed. She did not do any rocking out and there were all new interpretations of songs I had heard previously. It was absolutely beautiful. She also told more stories about the songs she chose to sing that evening, which was unusual. And, of course, her version of the Dead’s Brokedown Palace was absolutely haunting.
Mavis Staples then came out to do her set. There is a reason she is in the hall of fame, an icon and from blues royalty. While I was so glad to be there to witness her in person, I was a little worried about her health. She seemed to be out of breath more than not and had to rest during songs. As the show progressed, though her voice go stronger. And don’t get me wrong; Mavis Staples singing David Byrne’s “Stop Making Sense” was a real treat in addition to her staples (see what I did there?) of “The Weight” and “I’ll Take You There” is a real treat. And when you have Joan Osborne singing background, well, it does not get much better than that. But, this was not a show about seeing a woman in her hey day. This was a show about paying respect to the women who paved the way for the Joan Osbornes. I will happily do my part of paying respect and giving tribute to the great ones. And on that November night, I did.
21 shows to go, 210 days left…