Review: Sean Rowe at Rockwood Music Hall (9/25 & 9/26/2014)

Back in NYC (for good this time – we finally closed our old office in Massachusetts and opened a new one in Manhattan!) and I’ve seen four concerts in the last five nights. I’m starting to wonder about the sustainability of a 1:1 ratio of blog posts to concerts in a city with this many good shows, but we’ll see how it goes.

Two of the four concerts I saw were Sean Rowe performing on two different stages at Rockwood Music Hall. I was coming in to the shows a bit blind, not having heard his new record, Madman, yet (I pre-ordered it, but didn’t manage to get my hands on it for a few weeks because of reasons I won’t bore you with). I’d been hearing lots of good buzz about it from some of my more music-savvy friends, so I had high expectations.

I’ve seen Rowe perform three times before, always solo, but this time since it was his big record release party, he had a full band with him (please forgive me for not remembering all of their names, I was exhausted and forgot to write anything down). He had an adorably excited-to-be-playing band member named Rex on accordion, percussion, his mom’s roasting pan and a gyill (I had to look up the spelling of that one: it’s a wooden xylophone-type instrument from Africa involving gourds, leather and spiderwebs – really!); a female vocalist; and someone playing bass and flute (but mostly bass). Rowe himself sang and played guitar. The band added a lot of fun and variety to his show, but the main attractions for me are his songs and his voice, so don’t hesitate to catch one of his his solo shows!

I’m not sure if one of the nights was really better than the other, but I was feeling a lot better on Friday so I enjoyed that show a lot more. I also had a nice spot to take some videos of some of the quieter songs he played (the louder/more energetic ones distorted my camera mics too much).

This was (IIRC) the last song he played on Friday night, “Signs” from his second album, “The Salesman and the Shark.” It was a great closer and was a nice way of getting the band back on stage for the finale after he did a few songs solo.

Another highlight of that set was his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “The River.” (Funny story, the show I saw before these two was on Bruce Springsteen’s birthday, and the band mentioned it, only to be taken aback when people in the crowd sounded like they were booing loudly. It took them a few moments to figure out that the fans were yelling “BRUUUUUUUUCE…”)

He also did covers of Leonard Cohen, Richard Thompson, and “Long Black Veil” in addition to lots of his own songs, mostly from his last two albums. I really appreciate a good cover or two thrown into an already-solid set – especially when an artist has a relatively limited number of releases to draw from, it can really help to fill up a longer concert with great music. Rowe has a talent for picking and arranging covers that really suit him.

I just got my autographed copy of “Madman” today, and I’m really looking forward to giving it a listen after hearing some of the tracks live a couple of times. I thought his last album was excellent and I don’t think this followup will disappoint me.

Sean Rowe is touring across the U.S. for the next couple of months, and I highly encourage you to check out one of his shows if he’s coming to your town. Click right here for tour dates!

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6 Responses to Review: Sean Rowe at Rockwood Music Hall (9/25 & 9/26/2014)

  1. Edrie says:

    Love your blog

  2. some guy says:

    great to see you Thursday and Friday! and manythanks for securing seats downthestairs!

  3. Rodney says:

    I’m wondering how the Shovels & Rope Concert was. Will we get a review of that?

    • Sarah V. says:

      Unfortunately I think I’m skipping that review. There were some sound quality issues at the show and it really spoiled their set for me. I did enjoy the opener a lot (John Fullbright) but the headliners were mixed so badly I eventually gave up trying to enjoy it and left early. I could barely understand the vocals, there were parts where I could barely hear some of the instruments at all, etc. etc. It’s not really fair to the band to review a show like that.

  4. REally enjoyed reading about these concerts and especially details about that obscure instrument. Great reviews always. Made me wish I could have gone.

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