Words by: Dianna Hank
Leslie Mendelson :: 02.21.18
City Vineyard @ Pier 26 :: New York City
City Vineyard @ Pier 26 :: New York City
It’s not often that New York City gets a beautiful, sunny, 70-degree day in the middle of February. However, when it does, every New Yorker’s mood seems to lighten a little bit, their defenses relax, and their desire to kick back and have a good time increases. This was the vibe that set the stage for Leslie Mendelson‘s performance at City Vineyard At Pier 26 on Wednesday night.
Kicking off City Vineyard’s cozy singer/songwriter winter concert series, Voices on The Hudson, Mendelson performed in the venue’s intimate main dining room with fellow guitarist and singer Steve McEwan for nearly an hour and a half, much to the audience’s delight. “This is the longest set we’ve ever done!” Mendelson proclaimed. “We’re used to opening up for superstars!”
Feeling bold, Mendelson opened the set by asserting, “We’re going to start out with something completely new!” before jumping into the lovely “Crying Shame.” With herself and McEwan on acoustic guitars and vocals, right from the get go, Mendelson showed off her extremely powerful and unique voice. The impressive harmonies with McEwan displayed in this first tune would luckily continue throughout the entirety of the evening.
For the next song, “Hardest Part,” Mendelson donned a harmonica to add even further complexity to the duo’s sound, exclaiming “Now that’s how you play the harmonica!” at the conclusion of the heartful ballad. In addition to the soothing sounds of their voices paired with the warm tones from the acoustic guitars, Mendelson’s affable onstage demeanor and cheeky banter with the audience made this show a pleasure to take part in.
Moving next to a song off her latest record, Love & Murder, the duo transitioned into the beautifully haunting “Jericho.” Following this newer song, Mendelson reached back into her catalog for a tune called “Speed of Light,” admitting, “I used to do this one every night, but then I retired it. It’s kind of like revisiting an old shirt in the back of your closet. It’s a little different, though, because I play it on guitar.”
After this tune, Mendelson took a break to share with the audience the story of how she and McEwan found themselves at a house party with Jackson Browne and later ended up collaborating on and recording a song with him titled “A Human Touch,” which the duo subsequently performed. Changing gears, the multi-instrumentalist picked up a comically small horn which sounded like a kazoo for the more upbeat “Seemed Like A Good Idea.” Another hauntingly beautiful, slower tune called “Flesh and Bone” preceded her cover of Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” which is featured as a duet with Bob Weir on Love & Murder. Filling in for Weir, McEwan complemented Mendelson vocally on this sweet and delicate song, truly highlighting both of their ranges.
A “party song” came next as Mendelson implored the crowd to “Put your hands up, baby put your hands up!” during the more upbeat “Feeling It.” Borrowing one from the KIMOCK album, Satellite City on which Mendelson sang and played guitar, “Careless Love” delivered a more bluesy, southern sound.
Continuing to lighten the mood set by these somber, melancholic tunes with her cheerful, lighthearted attitude, Mendelson introduced “Love You Tonight” by announcing “This is a song about makeup sex!” McEwan applied his falsetto capabilities to create gorgeous harmonies on “Easy Love” before the duo launched into a cover of the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody.” Finally, to close the set, the band performed “All Come Together,” an upbeat, poppy tune with a catchy hook that had performers & audience alike smiling from start to finish.
Next up for Mendelson are several shows with Roger Daltrey at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, as well as the Bob Hope Theatre in Stockton, California and the Fox Theater in Oakland before joining George Porter Jr. at Washington D.C.’s Gypsy Sally’s and finally opening up for Karla Bonoff at the Spire Center For The Arts in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
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