The Sound of Smiling
More often than not, it’s easy enough to get a sense of an artist through their songs, and certainly their live performances. Nowhere is that more true than with the Weepies — the husband/wife folk-pop duo of Steve Tannen and Deb Talan. It was definitely true last night at City Winery Nashville, and the crowd was on their side from the very first notes of “Gotta Have You.” Tannen yielded lead vocal duties to Talan for the first section of songs that included “Hideaway,” “My Little Love,” and “Get on Board” before he stepped to center for the shimmering “Can’t Go Back Now.”
Pulling from across their 12-year musical history, the Weepies reached back for the spunky “Vegas Baby,” the tender “Painting by Chagall,” and the gentle “World Spins Madly On” and leaned forward into new songs from 2015’s Sirens like the lovely “Crooked Smile,” the poignant “Sirens,” the mesmerizing “River from the Sky,” and the heartfelt “Volunteer.”
Showing off his trademark humor, Tannen asked who’d been dragged to the show. After a show of a few hands, he said, “For those of you who don’t know, we’re the Weepies. … About 15 years ago, Deb was a songwriter in Boston and I was a drunk in New York. Now we have a band and three kids.”
Somewhere in all that, “Never Let You Down” proved the most rocking and “No Trouble” brought the deepest groove. To close the set, the Weepies leaned on “Somebody Loved,” one of the sweetest love songs of the ’00s, and were rewarded with a standing ovation for their effort. For the encore, Talan returned without Tannen for a trio rendering of “Stars” to bring the house to their feet once again.
The band included Pete Thomas on drums, Meghan Toohey on guitar, Johnny Flower on bass, and Brad Gordon on keys. While Talan held down most of the acoustic rhythm parts, Toohey and Tannen made room for each other in the electric accent realm. On the whole, the players were so thoughtful in their service of the songs, that they almost went unnoticed, except for Toohey’s nimble step out on “Vegas Baby.”
As songwriters, the Weepies have cracked the code of the three-minute gem that is ever-simple but never simple-minded. A lot of that is the obvious appreciation and respect that Tannen and Talan have for each other as people and artists. Whenever Talan was on lead, Tannen gave her all the support he had to offer. Come his turn, she beamed a huge, bright smile in his direction. And that’s when the Weepies’ undeniable appeal all made sense: Their songs sound like Talan’s smile — pure.