God Street Wine @ Gramercy Theatre, July 9
Nearly nine years after their last public gig, God Street Wine “was brought back” last night at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City and delivered a tight, dynamic performance that showed exactly why the quintet has been missed by fans who started a Facebook group and blog columns pleading for their return.
[All photos by Adam Kaufman]
This was more than a reunion of band, this was a reunion of a highly loyal fanbase. Winos from around the country assembled in the intimate venue exchanging hugs and high-fives well before the NYC-based group took the stage around 9PM to the strains of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
While most of the seven billion people in the world could care less that God Street Wine was getting back together, the seven hundred people in the Gramercy wouldn’t have wanted to be any other place on this night. For many, the show was almost like returning to high school or college for an evening, getting to re-live a part of our childhood and adolescence without the acne and Zima.
“So come on in, we’re starting over. Put down your money, and be like us”
Filled with lyrics about renewal and fitting in with a community, there really was no other choice for the opener but Borderline, as HT’s Jeff Greenblatt presciently pointed out to me via text message a few days ago. Ticket time was 8PM, so the crowd had an hour to build up energy and the place exploded by the first chorus of Borderline. Guitarists Lo Faber and Aaron Maxwell were both in fine voice, which hardly mattered since the crowd was singing along so loudly.
READ ON for more of Scotty’s thoughts and Adam’s photos…
Pretty early on it became clear what we had all seen in God Street Wine’s music back in the day. These guys combined elements of the Dead, The Beatles, Steely Dan and Frank Zappa in a way that certainly wouldn’t seem original now but was way ahead of its time back in the early ’90s before the jamband craze came and went. Both Faber and Maxwell are multi-faceted axe-slingers that can turn in three or four different solos in the evening each with a completely different tone and style of attack. When the two get together for double leads it was magic and that was as true last night as it was back in the day.
GSW hit on all the different eras of their 10+ year touring career throughout the evening, performing at least one tune from each of their studio albums with the exception of 1995′s Red. Old school fans were well satiated by the gorgeous Home Again, an intense Imogene and a blistering Electrocute. Even the later years got some love courtesy of the beautiful Faber tune Silver from 1997′s self-titled effort. [Ed. Note - Lo informs us that Jon Bevo actually wrote Silver. Our bad]
Each tune was nailed and towards the end of the show I was really hoping the band would trainwreck a segment of one song just so we knew they were human – that didn’t work out so hot for me. Quite honestly, I don’t remember them being this tight at the peak of their tenure as a touring act. A friend said, “do you think they’ve been playing together for fun for the past 11 years?” and it was a fair question, although then we thought back to last year’s memorial shows and those sets were far from as cohesive as the two we got tonight.
Night one of the reunion was about as far as you can get from a God Street Wine “greatest hits” show. The enormity of the band’s repertoire was on display as signature songs Wendy, Goodnight Gretchen, Nightingale, Epilog, Driving West and a whole bunch of others didn’t make the setlist on this evening. Yet, there were plenty of fan favorites including Waiting For The Tide, Princess Henrietta and Thirsty. The reaction of the crowd to the three tunes just mentioned was rambunctious to say the least. Waves of Winos bounced in unison to the peak of Waiting For The Tide and sang the closing refrain loudly as Faber shredded away one of his best solos of the night.
While the song choices for this reunion run are steeped in nostalgia the improvisation most certainly was not. The quintet stuck pretty close to the vest for the first set until a 15+ minute Hellfire that contained a dark and dirty jam which was unlike anything they had played back in the day. Drummer Tom Osander provided a untz-y beat, keyboardist Jon Bevo milked a funky clav sound out of his Nord synth, Maxwell leaned into angular, pitch-shifted riffs while bassist Dan Pifer played a disco-fied bass line that helped keep things moving forward. Overall, the Hellfire jam was the best improvisation of the night, though Electrocute and Come Together deserve honorable mention.
I’m one of those guys who never needs to hear another version of The Beatles’ Come Together ever again, but I changed my tune after GSW delivered their cover of the song as part of a three-song encore. Between Maxwell’s strong vocal delivery, Osander’s whirl-of-motion drum fills and a picy meatball of a jam, God Street made Come Together exciting all over again before a bluesy take on Who Do You Love? brought things to a close.
As I looked around the room and saw the looks of joy everywhere, one smile hit particularly hard. Let’s not forget these reunion gigs are benefits for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which were put together by longtime GSW crew member Michael Weiss. Looking up at the side of the stage during Thirsty to see Weiss beaming with pride was a special moment. He worked hard to make these shows happen and was enjoying the fruits of his labor. As well he should considering all the happiness he brought to the 700 assembled Winos who got to travel back to the band’s glory days for a few hours, let alone the crucial dollars which were raised for a most worthy cause.
There were no complaints to be had except for the extremely high temperature of the venue. It truly felt like Hellfire inside the Gramercy as there was no air circulation whatsoever [UPDATE: The venue's air conditioning unit has been fixed in time for tonight's concert]. That’s a small quibble, especially since there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. God Street Wine returns to the Gramercy Theatre tonight for another sold-out show.
- Audio: 07/09/2010 SBD by Eric Budke
- Videos: Fortress of Solitude, April Rain, Borderline, Imogene, Waiting For The Tide, Run To You, Electrocute, Weird Dream
Set 1: Borderline, Light My Candles, Run To You, Fortress of Solitude -> April Rain -> Weird Dream, Thirsty, Mile By Mile -> Hellfire
Set 2: Electrocute, Imogene, Stupid Hat, Silver -> Utah Blues -> Waiting for the Tide -> Other Shore -> Princess Henrietta
Encore: Home Again
Encore2: Come Together -> Who Do You Love