A Songwriter’s Songwriter, Live in Cambridge
I recently saw Richard Shindell for the first time (I know, I’m as surprised as you are). His three sold-out shows at Club Passim, just before Thanksgiving, were a testament to his talent.
Shindell is a songwriter’s songwriter. Both he and his songs are intelligent and relevant. One of the numbers he played was “The Last Fare of the Day,” which he wrote in response to the 9/11 attacks. It opens with a stirring image:
I saw them standing in the rain
Out on 7th Avenue
He held her tight, like she might fall
If he let go
I was lucky enough to sit with a long-time fan of Shindell’s music. As soon as the first notes came from Shindell’s guitar, my new friend told me titles as well as whether it was one of his favorite songs — among them were “Transit,” “The Deer on the Parkway,” and “Careless.”
How many songwriters have written about Middlemarch? My guess is none, but Shindell has, with a new song called “Ephemera.”
After one song, someone thanked him in Gaelic. His witty response? “Thank you. I only have English.”
He played a few covers, which surprised me considering this size of his catalog, but those songs were all winners: “I Lived on a Battlefield” by Nick Lowe, one by Dar Williams whose title he didn’t share, and the traditional “I Know You Rider.” All the while, he played both acoustic and electric guitars (the latter being something he has recently started playing) and had Joe Bonadio, a fabulous percussionist, sitting in. They complemented each other perfectly. I was fascinated watching Bonadio go, and hope I get the chance to see him again.
I believe Shindell’s songs separate him from the crowded singer-songwriter arena, but hope readers will not misinterpret that as my saying his voice or guitar-playing are inferior, because they are not. He has a lovely voice and his playing is fabulous. I wish I had known his music prior to this show because I would have enjoyed it more than I did. Next time he performs in the area, that will be remedied.
At the beginning of the show, there was a request that we stay off devices for the duration, including refraining from using real cameras. The photographer in me was initially frustrated, but realized that I was free to enjoy the show unencumbered … though I did sneak in a few shots at the end.