On Sunday June 23, 2013 at approximately 5:20 p.m., The Cherry Bluestorms took the stage at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub & Import Room in Los Angeles, California. This was a special event to premiere their first live performance of songs from their latest album Bad Penny Opera.
For those not up on their indie artists, The Cherry Bluestorms were founded by singer-songwriter/guitarist Deborah Gee (lead vocals) and ex-Dickies guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Glen Laughlin (guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals). They appeared with their current drummer Mark Francis White, bassist Steve Giles, keyboardist Bobby Victor and narrator Michael McShane.
Bereft of his sexy sidekick sparkling Mary Sparks and armed with only an ice cold emerald can of energy your regularly reclusive writer braved the fearsome freeways of the land of fruits and nuts once more to see this band perform live. Arriving uncharacteristically early despite the best efforts of L.A. taxi drivers and people who precariously park one narrow two-lane one-way streets, your hero hermit quickly inquired with the imbibing establishment’s esteemed doorman regarding parking before making his way through the dark, atmospheric pub in an attempt to locate the stage.
Your inquisitive insider stumbled through a seemingly locked door to find himself face-to-far away face with The Cherry Bluestorms in the midst of a late soundcheck. Soon surprised by Reuben Vigil, lead singer and guitarist for Big Shot Reub and The Reloaders, who graciously bought your rather reclusive writer an apropos beverage with which to enjoy the show.
Now regular readers know that your all too often penned-up penman doesn’t provide a song-by-song analysis because he actually attempts to enjoy the rare live event rather than over-analyze them or document them in detail. (Besides, a discussion of the entire album’s audios can be found in a previously published edition of the “Track-by-track” series.) This, however, was more of a musical performance and not just a normal club gig.
Before the “Bad Penny Overture” to Act I was over, there was a Standing-Room-Only audience of family and friends, hot chicks and old hens, those in jeans and those with means, one and all had gathered around , black and white, yellow and brown. (Lest we forget, the use of a live narrator, McShane, was a nice touch that added a bit of theatre to the performance. It was a Moody Blues moment with a different dialect.)
While the order was different than that on the disc, the playlist was probably arranged in such a way as to more easily accommodate smooth transitions between songs without too much inconsequential chatter. The songs from the CD, such as “By Your Leave”, still seemed to fall into place as the band began their story-song about the perils of Penny. “Critic’s Choice” came next in the familiar form of the duo’s collaborative composition “A Better Place” which was well-received by the attentive audience.
As the band broke into “A True Heart Wears A Thorny Crown” that this was drama and not background music for drunken dancing even if there were moments when those standing in the back felt the urge to groove a bit to the 1960s-influenced material. The tributary “Sunday Driving South” and classic cover of Donovan’s “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” were also included as the act came to a close.
McShane’s narration opened Act II after which Gee reminded observers that she was more than a pretty (albeit mustached) face by picking up a guitar to support her partner on “The Country Man”. The group next went mad with “World Going Mad” which worked just as well without the near Spector-like studio production on the CD. It was followed by energetic presentations of the groovy, upbeat “As Above So Below” and the prerequisite “London Bridge”.
“To Love You Is A Crime” throws in that pre-1967 influence even in concert and Laughlin’s vocals here had a certain je ne sais quoi here that seems absent on the actual album. The show all too soon drew to a close with “Start Again” which highlights the end of our protagonist’s purposeful pilgrimage and “Bad” (which ironically provided this performance piece with a good ending).
Although the team’s tuneful tale had concluded the band did take the stage again to perform an encore which included the song “Daisy Chain” which—complete with Townshend-like windmill work– was more interesting live than on their debut disc Transit of Venus.
Overall, the event—which ended shortly before 7:00 p.m. — was both wonderfully retro and yet new and original. What little may have been absent in terms of studio polish was more than made up for with the honest excitement of both the audience and the band members themselves. The CD fails to reveal Mclaughlin’s Brit-like live presence and cannot translate Gee’s occasional snake-like wiggles exhibited in their (ahem) vested live efforts. Simply put, The Cherry Bluestorms’ live rendition of Bad Penny Opera was all good.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.