Sunday, April 18, 2010

Parker Worth More Than a Graham of Your Attention

Concert Review

Graham Parker and the Figgs
w/ The Figgs (opening)
Old Town School of Folk Music
April 17, 2010 - 10pm Show

Among frenetic, hyper-literate British singer/songwriters that emerged in the late-'70s, Graham Parker ranks a clear second.

But to call him a poor man's Elvis Costello--who actually followed Parker to the fore--is to understate the penetrating richness of his writing. For while my familiarity with his 20+ album career is limited primarily to his 1979 masterpiece, Squeezing Out Sparks, in seeing Parker live for the first time last night at Old Town, the quality of his songs was readily apparent even in hearing them largely for the first time.

Even without Parker and his current backing band The Figgs--who also opened the show with a pleasant set sans Graham--playing any tunes off the one album I truly knew and loved (on which The Rumour backed GP), there wasn't any moment in the nearly 2-hour show that wasn't thoroughly enjoyable.

Sure I would have loved to hear Discovering Japan, Passion Is No Ordinary Word or Local Girls (video from a recent show below), the last of which I think was played at Saturday's 7pm set, but everything I heard sounded pretty darn good. I can only name a few songs--Chloroform, Mercury Poisoning, Soul Shoes--and several of the selections came from a new album I didn't even know he had (Imaginary Television, right) but I was more than sufficiently impressed, and quite satisfied in return for my $22 ticket. (It sure is a lot easier to check acts out when they aren't charging $50 and up, plus another 40% in ticketing fees.)

Even on the cusp of 60, Parker's distinctive--albeit still Costelloesque--voice sounded strong and he offered a good bit of good-natured stage banter, aware that he hasn't achieved the popularity nor maintained the stature of some of his contemporaries. But where he was once categorized as an "angry young man," at Old Town--which Parker repeatedly praised along with Chicago in general--he came off more as an insightful yet appreciative artist who still deserves to be heard.

This video is from a recent show with GP & the Figgs; the song is Local Girls, which I didn't hear last night, but is one of many stellar cuts off Squeezing Out Sparks.

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