Jan 22, 2012

Sam Amidon @ Famous Spiegeltent


Another night at the Sydney Festival, another enjoyable and rewarding evening. Sam Amidon was compelling, unique and slightly odd, but in a good way. In fact his generous and strange personality was something I will long remember from the night, even more than the music. Which was pretty damn great anyway. Spiegeltent experiences are always great and this was no different. January in Sydney makes you feel good to be alive.

You know I should read liner notes more often. I have the last two Sam Amidon albums and have enjoyed them immensely, but yesterday I was looking at the CDs more closely and noticed that basically all of the material were renditions of traditional folk songs. From Europe and America. I had originally believed that Sam was just tapping into ancient traditions, but he was actually bringing old tunes to life, giving them air and in turn airing them to modern audiences. He does it with immense care and craft. The man is uniquely talented. He was joined on stage by the equally talented and fellow Vermonter Chris Vatalaro who skilfully played guitar, drums and piano. But it was Sam who demanded our full attention. He started with the delightful banjo on “How Come The Blood”, his voice a tender vessel, occupying the middle ranges it was quite unique and effective in its deadpan way. Sam would also ply the acoustic guitar as he wended his way through the treasure trove of traditional folk. I particularly loved “I See The Sign” and "O Death". The only slight quibble is that being fairly simple arrangements the melodies don’t tend to stand out and can blend into one after another. But the best remedy was to close your eyes, immersing yourself in the music, pretending you are sitting on a back porch somewhere in the 1950s. Gorgeous. But as said it was Sam’s quixotic personality that shone through. I noticed early on that sometimes he would burst into a small, shy grin during a song. Sometimes if he missed a note, he would change the song and roar with a robust thrust. As if bored with what he was playing. In between songs he would break into banter that was both humorous and odd. Whether it about Kirsten Dunst and her face, or secret writing societies in Connecticut he kept us entertained. It certainly wasn’t the usual “Sydney’s a nice place to be in” chit chat. He even busted out a few push ups at the end of one song. So after a very entertaining hour he departed briefly before returning for more surprises. Firstly he brought out his violin and gave us a great rendering of “He Woke Up Maggie” and then we joined in singing with him the R. Kelly cover in “Relief”. I don’t even believe this was ironic appreciation, although perhaps it was hard to tell. A fun and surprising night, in more ways than one.

Set List
How Come That Blood
The Streets Of Derry
I See The Sign
Rain And Snow
?
?
O Death
Little Satchel
Saro
Wedding Dress
Pretty Fair Damsel

O Where Is My Little Darlin
Climbing High Mountains/Relief

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