Cappella Bonajuto, Catania, Italy
May 3, 2007
I'm sure I've already written elsewhere, I'm always amazed by the fact
that artists like Syd Barrett and Nick Drake get to be highly celebrated
(and rightly so, let's have this one clear, OK?) to the point where they
become objects of empty hype (but, their being "dead and mad",
maybe this comes with the territory?) while Lisa Germano's albums languish
in (relative) obscurity. This is especially strange when one considers
the fact that many of the things that when it comes to her are considered
to be faults - from "too much depression" to "lack of variety" -
elsewhere are seen as positive qualities. Meanwhile, though it's obvious
that there's something quite easy to recognize in her music, I think that
her albums have clearly demonstrated a process of growth - and besides,
when somebody manages to maintain her identity even on an album produced
by Tchad Blake, well, if that's "personality"
we are talking about, that's saying something.
as soon as I got the news of a concert in my town I went and bought my
ticket. Turns out the show will be held in Cappella Bonajuto: an ancient
chapel located below street level that remained miraculously intact even
after the terrible earthquake of... (this part I try not to think too much
about). The Chapel in question holding only about 100, the local promoter
makes the right choice by adding a second show later the same night (both
go immediately sold-out, so one wonders whether, in a bigger hall...).
We get the royal treatment, with luxurious chairs and a P.A. that actually
works - all things which make me forget about the weird acoustics of the
Chapel, and its extreme humidity.
the concert I meet - and briefly chat with - a friendly American guy who
turns out to be a member of Trumans Water. I mistake him for a member of
Lisa Germano's backing band - after all, there's a Fender Telecaster just
waiting to be played - while in fact he's here do the live mix. After the
concert, while going out, I compliment him for a work well done. "It
wasn't easy", he tells me, "this place is really weird, with
lotsa reflections; I usually use something on her voice - like a bit of
delay - but here it just wasn't possible".
stage, I see a Roland RD700 (sampled) piano; the Tele (with more than a
trace of rust on its bridge); a Fender Twin tube amp for guitar; a Peavey
five string bass (turns out to be the one Sebastian
Steinberg will use for the concert), a Gallien & Krueger head and an
enclosure; and a tiny, but functional, Electro Voice P.A.
They come onstage, and they start. They open the concert with Nobody's
Playing, off Lullaby For Liquid Pig, and it's a perfect opener, of course:
solemn, austere, it gets the crowd (well, all 100-plus) in the right mood.
Tonight the bulk of the repertory comes from her most recent albums, with
Nobody's Playing, Paper Doll, Pearls, Dream Glasses Off, and From A Shell
off Lullaby For Liquid Pig (2003); and The Day, Too Much Space, Golden
Cities, In The Land Of Fairies, In The Maybe World, and Red Thread off
In the Maybe World (2006).
Most of the night she stays at the piano, with just a few songs
- for instance, Small Heads, off Excerpts From A Love Circus (1996), which
here works as a "light moment" - on the Tele. We also get Wood
Floors, and Guillotine off Slide (1998); two numbers - If I Think Of Love,
and It's A Rainbow - off Slush (1997), the album she recorded with Giant
Sand under the collective name of OP8; and one "oldie", The Darkest
Night Of All, off Happiness (1994), which she introduces saying something
which sounds like "I composed this piece in a period when... no, I
prefer not to remember".
have to say I'm impressed. Given the strange acoustics (and the lack of
effects) her voice comes out really great... It sounds just like the record!
She always sounds as an artist playing and singing her songs, nor as somebody
who's lost in a dream (sometimes reviewers just try a bit too hard, you
know what I mean?). Those part-folk, part-classical, part-sinister lullaby,
arias appear very clearly in front of us. Her piano playing is of a piece
with her vocals, with the electric bass in a supporting role.
times the tension gets really unbelievable (no easy feat for music that
should really be listened to when one's alone), so thick that even a moment
when she fumbles a passage on the piano goes by unregistered. Of course,
sometimes people don't seem to realize that appreciative silence can be
the best feedback an artist can possibly get, and so at the end of It's
A Rainbow, she says
"The song goes "Alcoholic, alcoholic", and they go
"Yeah!!!"", with a sense of puzzlement, and that's what the
language barrier can do for you. But she's quite in a serene mood, even wondering
at the end of the concert whether "I rushed a bit, knowing that I have
to play another concert in a short while". But no, she didn't.
© Beppe Colli 2007
CloudsandClocks.net | May 8, 2007