Marah – Theatre Of The Living Arts (Philadelphia, PA)
Back from an exhausting few days of industry schmoozing in Austin at the South by Southwest Festival, Marah returned to the city of the Mummers for their “official” Kids in Philly CD release party.
Marah seemed as if they were going to blare into Springsteen’s “E Street Shuffle”. Over the years, Marah’s main attraction has been their “let’s just rock” attitude — sometimes appearing a little too drunk, other times looking worn, but always as passionate as youthful rock ‘n’ roll is meant to be.
Taking the stage with the crowd buzzing and a full horn section in tow, the brothers Bielanko — plus a solid new rhythm section — were a little more polished than usual. Not that they lacked the spunk and heart that is the cornerstone of their music, but they seemed a little less like kids, and more like a maturing band.
Blasting through two sets, Marah handed out a gritty entree of tunes from Kids In Philly. From the footstomping beat of “Faraway You” to the sprawling, Stonesy “History of Where Someone Has Been Killed” to the local flavor of “Christian Street”, the new songs were performed with guts and soul. They even pleased the die-hards with a rare showing of the Phillies baseball-inspired “Rain Delay” from their debut disc, as well as the timeless classic “Formula, Cola, Dollar Draft” that had all the locals singing along.
Could there be anything more? It had only begun. A couple members of the Jayhawks watched in the wings, but Steve Earle — whose label, E-Squared, released Kids In Philly — took the stage to join the band for a couple tunes. They delivered a haunting yet rocking take on Springsteen’s “State Trooper”; the title track from Earle’s forthcoming release “Transcendental Blues”; and another Earle number, “West Nashville Boogie”. After Earle departed, Marah paid tribute to the Replacements by tackling the Pleased To Meet Me album-closer “Can’t Hardly Wait”. A fitting choice, given that these guys exhibit much of the childlike abandon Westerberg and his pals once did.
Prophetic words when Dave and Serge Bielanko wrote “Livin’ On The Road” for the Black Dog Summer Camp collaborative record a couple years ago. The days of camping around in Philly clubs seem to be over; these kids in Philly are ready to grow up.