Words by: John Waldman

David Bromberg with Peter Rowan & Tony Rice
01.11.07 :: Palace of Fine Arts :: San Francisco, CA

David Bromberg
David Bromberg returned to San Francisco with an inspiring show featuring world-class musicianship without a hint of phoniness. These ultra-professionals pour their heart and soul into the music with an honesty that is refreshing.

Warming things up on this cool Bay Area night was The Angel Band. The Angels are fronted by three female vocalists - Nancy Josephson (David Bromberg's wife), Jen Schoenwald and Kathleen Weber. Backing them were Bromberg (guitar, fiddle, vox) and his touring band, Jeff Wisor (fiddle), Bobby Tangrea (guitar, mandolin, fiddle) and Bob Taylor (bass). They feature soaring, three-part harmonies and, of course, hot pickin' by the band. They did several gorgeous numbers, their voices blending perfectly. They carried an "angel" theme through the set, including a nice cover of "Angel of the Morning." Bromberg stayed in the background but he and the band were tight.

Peter Rowan & Tony Rice
After a short break it was time for Peter Rowan & Tony Rice with sexy Bryn Davies (formerly Bryn Bright) on standup bass and sultry Sharon Gilchrist on mandolin. They were "on" from the start, with a "Panama Red" opener followed by a fan favorite, "Hobo Song." Rowan was having fun, playing off everyone and directing solos. Gilchrist was intense and Davies was all over the place. But, it's Tony Rice who cuts the most dashing figure on stage. With his trademark ponytail, tailored suit, and taciturn expression, he has to be one of the smoothest guitarists of all time. After a particularly nice guitar solo from Rowan, Rice took over and just played rings around everyone - always in control, never flailing or exaggerating, just smooth as silk with a fleeting hint of a smile. They played a couple of instrumental jams that gave everyone room to step out, and a few songs from their new album Quartet, including the haunting "Dust Bowl Children." The only downside to the set was that it was too short, but with an 11:00 p.m. curfew, things needed to move along so that Bromberg had enough time.

David Bromberg by Mark Silver
The house lights went down and David Bromberg took the stage. He looked great, relaxed and was clearly enjoying himself. The band, including his wife on backing vocals, started hot and stayed that way. Throughout the evening, Bromberg encouraged band members to take two solos where normally they would take one, and a few times three instead of two. This gave everyone plenty of room to show off their stuff. Opening with an old favorite, "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," Bromberg absolutely tore it up. He has such a rich, nuanced voice that conveys various degrees of emotion. He can be boisterous one minute, reserved the next. The set included a gentle "Dark Hollow," a poignant "Summer Wages," and a rowdy "I'll Take You Back" (including the ad lib, "When we find WMDs in Iraq, I'll take you back").

A couple times Bromberg walked to the lip of the stage to sing a song without a mic. It was like having him in our living room for a private performance. At one point, Rice joined the band for an instrumental and again showed that, with all due respect, he was still the best guitarist in the room.

Later, Bromberg played a solo tune, but when he got to the final chorus, suddenly The Angel Band and other singers were spotlighted standing in the audience. Bromberg then introduced the additional singers, who he dubbed the "Cherubs" - Laurie Lewis and Linda Ronstadt. They all took the stage and sang vocals on the last few songs. Ronstadt looked healthy. Her eyes were bright and she had a quick smile. She didn't take any solos but was having a great time singing along with the others. The addition of all the backup singers produced the highlight of the evening, an incredible "Lost My Drivin' Wheel" with everyone belting out the chorus, sending chills through the audience.

David Bromberg Big Band by Carol Ann Barret
It didn't seem possible to top "Lost My Drivin' Wheel," but Bromberg brought the house down with a spellbinding, wrenching, exhilarating and exhausting "Testify" with a full gospel choir. He poured everything out in that song, to the point where he had trouble singing the next song because his voice was spent. A standing ovation followed, and the band returned for a haunting "Kaatskill Serenade" encore.

Bromberg said that these days when he sings, "What has become of my beautiful town?" he is really singing about our country and what has happened to it. He was not expressly partisan but clearly very upset with the attacks on the values and liberties that separate America from so-called "banana republics." He mentioned the loss of habeas corpus and the huge power grab of the Executive Branch. He asked that even if you support the president, do you really trust the next guy (or the guy after that) to have so much power? It was the only intrusion of reality into the evening, but it was done with grace and honor. The crowd gave another standing ovation as the lights came up at exactly 11:00 p.m.

Note: David Bromberg's first studio recording in 17 years, entitled Try Me One More Time will be released on February 26, 2007.

JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 1/29/07]

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bigrivermusic starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/30/2007 01:12PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

It's great to see this article on Jambase! If it turns even one person on to Bromberg (or Rice) it's worth it. Those that will argue he didn't drop any 20-minute space jams and therefore does not belong on this site will once again miss the opportunity to learn about those who have influenced their favorite bands that happen to "jam." Cheers!

EVILFUNK starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/31/2007 12:30PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


any time you got Tony, Pretr and Bryn you are in for a sick show!

I almost made this show....too bad for me!

breadloaf Thu 2/1/2007 07:00AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Glad to see Mr. Bromberg back in circulation. He used to be a real staple on the fest circiut; and what a showman he is- wicked talented on several instruments, funny as hell,great sense of dynamics, and tremendous breadth of knowledge of traditional tunes. Those unfamiliar could start with "The Best of David Bromberg."

deadfan8198 starstarstarstar Thu 2/8/2007 08:42PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Hey, I saw David Bromberg and his big band last week at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside. It's basically the same line-up as when I first saw him a bunch of times in the early eighties (I met my wife at a Bromberg show in Philadelphia in 1986!).

What a show! Do not miss David and his band at this point. What a huge talent, what a band. As I watched and listened last week, I was moved to tears at the beauty a number of times. I've seen David a dozen times or so, but last week was reminiscent of a spring night in 1979 when I watched Garcia play at the Philadelphia Spectrum and thought . . . if this guy's playing, I'll be there. I'm just glad I'm alive to see this amazing and unique performance -- and once it's gone it's gone." (100 or so shows later for me, it was gone - Thanks Jerry).

Anyway - go see Bromberg - no excuses. And you'll thank me.