Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Kevin Morby at the Bowery Ballroom

Kevin Morby learned to play guitar at age 10 and formed his first band, Creepy Aliens, while in his teens in his native Kansas City, Kansas. In the mid-2000s, at age 18, he took a train to New York City, where he supported himself by working bike delivery and café jobs and joined the noise-folk group Woods on bass. While living in Brooklyn, he became close friends and roommates with Cassie Ramone of the punk trio Vivian Girls, and the two formed an indie-rock side project together called The Babies, releasing albums in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, Morby relocated to Los Angeles, California, where he played in the Complete Last Waltz, a tribute group playing the music of the Band. Morby began a solo career in 2013. Morby's  fourth album, City Music, will be released on June 16, 2017.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Kevin Morby recalled when he performed at the venue as an opening act 10 years earlier, vowing to return as a headliner. For this occasion, Morby wore a flashy Nudie-styled white suit emblazoned with large black musical notes and with his initials studded on the lapels and the words City Music studded on the tail of the jacket. Accompanied by guitarist Meg Duffy, bassist Cyrus Gengras, and drummer Nick Kinsey, Morby sang a series of love songs to the city, beginning with "City Music." Together, they tethered sparse arrangements for an enchanting, almost hypnotic indie-folk sound. Opener John Andrews joined on a saw on the song "Singing Saw." Midway through the set, Morby performed a few songs solo, including the non-LP single "Beautiful Strangers," which he dedicated to Manchester, England. The set was soft in tone and poignant in depth, with Morby singing in talky Bob Dylan phrasings and a Lou Reed attitude. It was no wonder that he concluded his set with covers of both artists, the Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll" and Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You." For that last song, coincidentally sung on Dylan's birthday, Morby welcomed Sam Cohen of the Brooklyn band Apollo Sunshine on guitar.

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