music review: Johnette Napolitano at Johnny D’s

photo by Ellen Stone Photography

photo by Ellen Stone Photography

Curiosity brought me to the show. I like female singers. I like bands fronted by female singers. The show featured Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano and local favorite [although she’s now a self-proclaimed farmer in Montana] Laurie Sargent. Admittedly I don’t know that much about Concrete Blonde. I think I had Recollection in my CD collection at one point. Didn’t see them back in their heyday in the 80s and 90s. Particularly popular is the album Bloodletting from 1990 which includes the hit “Joey.” It’s always great to see an acoustic, intimate performance by a veteran. The majority middle-aged crowd savored the show and often shouted out to Napolitano when she told her stories, some that she read out of a notebook.

It was a wonderful performance because Johnette Napolitano is tough and cool and chatty. She sings with distinctive raspy brash vocals. The set featured stripped down, mellow, splendid versions of some Concrete Blonde songs, some originals and some covers. The set was anything but somnolent however with Napolitano sharing stories from her days on the road with Concrete Blonde, personal experiences and opinions. She loudly declares at one point “I’m a fucking rock star!” but then won’t go so far as claiming feminism. She said: “I love men. I don’t like this feminist thing we don’t like men. I like men too much.” She lost me after that comment unfortunately. When will women understand that feminists don’t hate men? Feminists want equality with men. That’s all that feminism means. Equality on social, political and economic levels.

Napolitano began her 75 minute set with a duet on “Joey” with opening act Laurie Sargent. She sang a slow and sweetly pretty “Sun” which she introduced by saying that she grew up in Beverly Hills and is a city girl but now lives out in the desert near Joshua Tree. She declared: “All that’s out there is animal energy and moon and sun.” She performed a beautiful rendition of the Johnny Cash tune “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and a fantastic cover of Steve Vai’s “It’s All About Eve.” She sang a subdued and lovely song she wrote about Billie Holiday called “Billy.” She sang a slow and melodic “Rosalie.” Napolitano introduced the potent “Walking in London” by saying that it was a popular song with the military and played in tanks. With lyrics like “I’m either going insane or I’m a human wire receiving a signal desire” it makes sense. She left out some popular Concrete Blonde songs like “Everybody Knows” or “Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man” likely to the crowd’s dismay.

Laurie Sargent played an energetic, charming opening set.

Johnette Napolitano
with Laurie Sargent
Johnny D’s
Somerville, Mass.
April 16, 2015

purchase: Bloodletting (20th Anniversary Edition)

purchase: Recollection: Best of Concrete Blonde

purchase: Heads & Tales

, , , ,

%d bloggers like this: