Violinist Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul continued to excavate the fields of roots music for hidden pleasures of dance and song.
Here is Ms. Ivers on CBS Sunday Morning in 2007.
A regular concertgoer can be forgiven for becoming slightly jaded over years of listening to artists at the top of their game. At the Landmark’s Jeanne Rimsky Theatre, audience — and reviewer — expectations are consistently high, and one is rarely disappointed. Whether they’re well-known or tour-weary, the venue seems to bring out the best from performers. Nurtured fans buy tickets. Artists tend to arrive with a polished formula crafted to impress and satisfy fan expectations.
For as long as the world’s violin rosin supply holds out, the exuberant Ms. Ivers and Immigrant Soul will be giving Prozac a run for the money. The only side effects are an involuntary tapping of the foot and an irrepressible desire to clap.
After Saturday night’s performance by Ivers and Company, this compliment served only to humble the complimenter.
For it was not possible to know at the time that, almost two years later, another performance would measure up – and exceed – that one.
This is dangerous territory for reviewers. The superlatives from a nearly forgotten evening cannot be reused.
How Ivers and Company Did It
Perhaps it was the variety: the jigs, laments, reels — the prestissimo triplets. Medleys are especially effective for live music because they pack an element of surprise. The Ivers / Immigrant Soul arrangements often featured medleys – of traditional railroad songs, or songs commemorating the “coffin ships” that carried Irish immigrants from the Famine to North America. In addition to unanticipated key and tempo changes, the medleys also featured well-timed appearances by local Irish dance talent – costumed, floor-pounding and glittering with youth.
But Ivers remained the evening’s steadying force. Whether she picked up her wireless fiddle, mandolin or banjo, Ms. Ivers proved she had lost nothing from her last virtuosic performance in the venue.
For instance, after she had started a song with a looper-enhanced solo, while clever and inventive, she had the instinctive sense to bring back the other musicians to contribute before the four-part overlapping riffs could become tiresome.
The night had its emotional twists and turns. When Ivers’ version of an Irish lament began, the lighthearted dances still ringing in the air faded quickly. She let the instrument’s wrenching notes do the work of recalling past tragedies. Bill Whelan and “Riverdance” were likewise part of the evening’s storytelling, but without becoming an homage to celebrity.
Such gestures reflected a mature sensibility about the arc of an evening. She had curated a history lesson, yes, but decorated it with musical ornament beyond a docent’s reach.
When Immigrant Soul returned to the Dougie MacLean(@DougieMaclean) singalong “Feels so Near,” the audience seemed to pick up where they had left off in 2012.
The Other Immigrants
Immigrant Soul included four other capable musicians. Buddy Connolly played a dazzling Paolo Soprani button accordion and a Korg M1 keyboard. Lindsay Horner provided standup and electric bass, Greg Anderson supplied steel string acoustic guitar, and an exuberant Tommy McDonnell delivered percussion and lead vocals.
An unexpected highlight of the evening was a spirited rendition of the 1926 Louis Armstrong offering, “Irish Black Bottom,” which seemed to engage each musician more fully. It was a song that signaled the coming integration of Irish immigrants – an immigrant soul glimpsed by a black jazz musician.
Digging for Roots of Inspiration
It was what Ms. Ivers herself referred to at the end of a performance that would exhaust, not only impress, lesser performers: “roots music.” “Roots” is a metaphor not to be taken lightly. Ivers and Immigrant Soul continue to excavate the fields for secrets – and there are secrets to be had.
Scientists have since found that the tips of plant roots, in addition to sensing gravity, moisture, light, pressure, and hardness, can also sense volume, nitrogen, phosphorus, salt, various toxins, microbes, and chemical signals from neighboring plants. Roots about to encounter an impenetrable obstacle or a toxic substance change course before they make contact with it. Roots can tell whether nearby roots are self or other and, if other, kin or stranger.
But discovery is not enough. Ms. Ivers and Immigrant Soul convert what they find in those fields into a heady potion designed to set a newly light-footed audience soaring.
That was the rarefied atmosphere of events past, meter and melody where Ivers launched her ship Saturday evening.
Perhaps I will see Ivers and this high energy group perform again one day. I am not likely to underestimate an artist so tenaciously seeking out new places music can take us.Follow DarkViolin |