I Did Enjoy The Ride: God Street Wine Returns To The Gramercy Theater – Photos & Review
Images by: Adam McCullough
Words by: Scott Bernstein
God Street Wine :: 8.12.17
Gramercy Theater :: New York City
Gramercy Theater :: New York City
Check out Adam’s gallery after the review.
On July 9, 2010 God Street Wine was brought back by popular demand, ending a nine-year drought from the New York City band’s last show (when the original lineup reunited for a special performance to honor the closing of The Wetlands) and over ten years from their 1999 breakup. GSW kicked off their reunion with two sold-out concerts at the Gramercy Theater in New York City and has performed sporadically since. The latest batch of shows was a three-night run that began in Boston on Thursday, continued on Friday with a set at the Peach Music Festival and concluded on Saturday back where the reunion started, the Gramercy.
The original lineup of guitarists Lo Faber and Aaron Maxwell, bassist Dan Pifer, keyboardist Jon Bevo and drummer Tom “Tomo” Osander each have lives away from the band that makes regular touring out of the question. So these infrequent runs are all GSW fans have, but are so much better than the other option of no shows at all. A big difference for this run is that God Street Wine unveiled a series of studio recordings featuring new songs ahead of the concerts with the promise of more to come.
While GSW was pegged as a jam band and came up through the same scene as Phish, Percy Hill, Blues Traveler, moe. and the like, there isn’t much full-band improvisation at a God Street Wine show. The five-piece is a group more focused on songwriting than many of their peers and it wasn’t until the encore that the band’s devoted legion of “Winos” got a hearty dose of jamming. While said Winos are devoted, the scene around GSW is small enough that many of those at the Gramercy knew each other and it was a family reunion of sorts. Count an American Idol finalist and a member of the Grateful Dead’s manager among “Winos” that attended Saturday’s show.
Despite how infrequent GSW shows are, the band didn’t just play their most beloved songs in New York City. In fact, only a handful of the tunes performed at the Gramercy would be considered “hits” which in this scene means heavy rotation favorites. Instead, the quintet dug deep into their old repertoire and worked in a few of the new songs released recently. The tone was set immediately with the “Oh Wonderful One” opener, a Bevo-penned composition unveiled in January of 2016.
As the first set progressed, a surprising aspect was how tight the band was. They tore through “The Ballroom” and “Stone House” with ease and someone unfamiliar would never guess this was a band playing just their fourth show in the past 18+ months. Another surprise was the appearance of “God Street,” an early original that became extremely rare during the band’s mid ’90s heyday. “God Street” gave way to the brilliant “Epiphany,” which featured an exuberant Faber belting out the lyrics.
Many of GSW’s peers attempt reggae in a fashion that doesn’t come off well. God Street Wine’s “When She Go” has some of the heart and soul found in the best songs of the genre thanks in big part to Tomo’s drumming. “When She Go” was a highlight of the opening stanza and was followed by one of the brand new songs, “St. Lucy’s Day.” Lo headed over to Bevo’s world to sing and provide double keys for the recently debuted original. Wine ended the first set with yet another rarity from the early days, the fun and goofy “Peanut Butter Jar.”
Saturday’s second set started off with two key classics that show the best of what God Street Wine is all about, “Epilog” and “Nightingale.” Both songs are incredibly catchy and had the crowd dancing and singing along. The forgettable “When The Melody Plays” came next along with a 2013 debut and one of the better songs of the 2010 – 2017 era, “Buttons & Leslie.” From there, God Street Wine lit into “Wendy” and the audience went absolutely wild. The track from 1994’s $1.99 Romances was played with passion and precision. Faber noted he’d continue a string of songs about coming from Jersey to see GSW with “Fortress Of Solitude.” The blues-rocker “Get On The Train” followed and displayed just how tight the band is at this point in their career as they weaved in “Turn On Your Lovelight” teases.
The last three songs of Saturday’s closing stanza were very laid back and provided a noticeable lull in the crowd as the talkers chatted away. Opening the encore with “Diana,” it appeared the show would end with more of the same. However, GSW attacked the “Diana” jam with an infusion of energy and some of the most creative improvisation of the evening. The trend continued with the “Imogene” that came next. Maxwell shined throughout and showed he hasn’t lost a step. God Street Wine extended the encore beyond the half-hour mark with a wild “Hellfire”/”Borderline” mashup/medley that scored strong marks for creativity and execution. The show left many wanting more which is always a good sign. For now, the band has no future concerts on the books. Yet with a new batch of originals it likely won’t be long until GSW returns once again.
Set One: Oh Wonderful One, The Ballroom > Stone House, God Street > Epiphany, Better Than You > When She Go, St. Lucy’s Day, Peanut Butter Jar
Set Two: Epilog > Nightingale, When The Melody Plays > Buttons & Leslie > Wendy, Fortress Of Solitude > Get On The Train, When The White Sun Turns To Red, Wall, After The Show
Encore: Diana -> Imogene -> Hellfire -> Borderline -> Hellfire[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”602″ gal_title=”20170812 God Street Wine NYC McCullough”]