Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shannon Hurley at The Hotel Cafe 8-31-11 Concert Review

Shannon Hurley did a special rare full-band show at The Hotel Cafe last night to celebrate the release of her excellent new album, California. Her set consisted of nine of the disc's eleven songs. Everyone in the audience received a copy of the disc on the way in (very cool).

Shannon opened with the first track from California, "Slow Down." Shannon has always reminded me a bit of Aimee Mann, in her voice and song structure, and "Slow Down" is one of the tracks that definitely brings Aimee Mann to mind. It's a wonderful song. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "You never pause for a second/To listen to the truth/Slow down/You're gonna get there soon/Slow down."

"Signs Of Life" is positive pop, something Shannon does particularly well. She is adept at creating well written tunes that make you feel good and optimistic, without being sappy. This song has a great positive vibe with lines like, "I don't want to waste another day/I'm done with this/I've got plans to make/There's no time to lose/I've got to look for signs of life." Luis Muñoz, the guitarist, was all smiles during this tune (and throughout the set) - his enthusiasm was infectious.

In introducing the pretty "Looking For Sunshine," Shannon said she wrote it after a death in the family when she was trying to get back to a place where she was happy. "Music always helps," Shannon said. "This song was good therapy for me." And certainly this is a song that will have the same effect for anyone who listens to it. The audience at The Hotel Cafe was completely quiet and attentive especially during this song. Shannon sings, "I'm going crazy/Looking for sunshine/Was it in my mind/Maybe you'll come back."

Shannon brought things up again with "Stay," which featured a good steady driving rhythm on bass by Ben Eisen.

Before "In Your Shoes," Shannon mentioned that this whole album was actually sparked by their move to Nashville. Nothing like a little change in perspective to allow one to write songs about a particular place. And the next few songs in the set were directly related to Los Angeles. The first, "Hollywood + Vine," has a slow intro, and then kicks in with a glorious pop verve. The chorus is "Hollywood and Vine/She'll leave the past behind/Who knows what she'll find/At Hollywood and Vine." This song had even more energy in this live performance than on the album.

The second was the CD's title track, "California." It begins, "I pack my bags with a heavy heart/He waits for me outside/I close the door to these memories/To start a different life/I have my doubts, but it's time to move/It's all about trying something new/Though I know I still belong to you/I say goodbye to California."

Before she played it, she asked the audience if they knew this song. Some folks shouted out "woo" (which means "yes" in audience language), so she told those people to sing the chorus with her. And a large part of the audience did sing along; they sounded good singing, "California/It's good to know you/Now the summer sun goes down in California/Still I wonder what I'd ever be without you/California, you will always be my home."

She followed "California" with "How Long," another tune about Los Angeles. Its opening lines are "Winding down Mulholland Drive/Darkness looming on the hillside." And this song features lines like "Sometimes this city feels so cold" and "I think I'm starting to find out what it means to sacrifice the world for just one dream." These are sentiments that residents of L.A. can easily understand and relate to.

Shannon Hurley ended her set with "Beg Steal Borrow," one of my favorites from the CD. Her voice is one of her key strengths, and her vocal performance in this song is excellent. A great way to end the concert.

Set List
  1. Slow Down
  2. Signs Of Life
  3. Looking For Sunshine
  4. Stay
  5. In Your Shoes
  6. Hollywood + Vine
  7. California
  8. How Long
  9. Beg Steal Borrow

The band at this show was Shannon Hurley on vocals and keyboard, Ben Eisen on bass and backing vocals, Luis Muñoz on guitar, and Darren "Rocko" Augustus on drums.

Those who arrived early got to see Shannon Hurley sing backing vocals during Libbie Schrader's set. She sang on approximately half of the songs in that set, which was also to celebrate a new CD release - Magdalene.

The Hotel Cafe is located at 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Los Angeles.

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