Concert Review: Sam Phillips – Sept. 12, 2008

Sam Phillips
Club Café – Pittsburgh, PA
Sept. 12, 2008

And now, 150 words on Sam Phillips’ first performance in Pittsburgh in 15 years:

Spellbinding. Opening song on electric guitar, solitary at first, distortion filtered through a cloud of gauze. An evening of shuffling acoustics and plaintive ballads, odes to sadness, tear it all down. Later, a cappella alongside piano from a warbling tape recorder.

Songs from Fan Dance and A Boot and A Shoe brilliantly accompanied by grungy guitars, Stroh violin, keys, squeezebox, parade drum, slapdash kit. One song dissolves into a perfectly timed cacophony of junk percussion, Phillips abandoning her guitar for wood-on-metal.

Opening from Shay, a local artist, but closing with pre-announced encore, appeal to an intimate audience, “One Day Late.” Thunderous applause.

Mesmerizing takes on familiar standards; the entire set sways with rain and wind outside, songs about heartbreak, fame, nostalgia. Delivery of the words sensual, like ribbons of smoke floating in mid-air, suspended. The breaks between songs peppered with jokes, dead-pan, a conversation ended too soon.

Captivating. Brilliant.

Special thanks to Bonnie Pfister and Rege Behe.

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