Sunday, May 19, 2019

Burning Manilow at Genghis Cohen, 5-18-19 Concert Review

Burning Manilow performing "I Can't Go"
I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but those nights at The Peak Show Compound back in 2003, 2004 were some of the most enjoyable nights of my life. The vibes were right, the people were good, and the music was fantastic. Since then, I’ve tried to keep up with all the projects the members of The Peak Show have been involved in. So far, none of them have steered me wrong. Guitarist Derock Goodwin is now a member of Burning Manilow, which up until last night somehow I had missed seeing perform. But they did a gig at Genghis Cohen, which ended up being a whole lot of fun, and was a serious family celebration. More on that in a moment.

I arrived a bit early (even after stupidly getting off the 101 at Highland and working through the bloody Hollywood Bowl traffic), and when I got there, a talented kid named Garrett Podgorski was playing some classical pieces on guitar, a nice surprise. He chose some gorgeous, famous pieces, and my anxiety over the state of the world was put on hold for the duration. He finished just after 8:15 p.m., and his crowd exited, and a different crowd entered – the Burning Manilow crowd. It had been a while since I’d been at this venue, and I’d forgotten just how tiny a room it is. What I like is that the benches are padded, and there is a little shelf in front of each bench where you can put your drinks (or recording equipment, as the case may be). Lena Embry took the stage at 8:36, and did a really nice set of original material. Her brother joined her on stand-up bass for a song. I mentioned this was a family affair. Well, Lena’s parents are both members of Burning Manilow, as is her brother. Her brother also plays drums with Lila Forde Group, who closed out the night. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Lila Forde joined Lena on harmony vocals for a song, while Lena switched from guitar to keys. By the way, this was Lena’s thirteenth birthday, and everyone sang happy birthday to her. It really was a family celebration. She finished her set at 9 p.m.

No time was wasted, and Burning Manilow was on stage and ready to play less than ten minutes later. They opened the show with “Old Shoes,” a tune with a nice groove, a good vocal performance from Laura Embry, and some wonderful touches on keys by Andrew Hindes. Then toward the end Derock let loose on guitar for a bit. Yeah, it was definitely a good start to the set. After just the slightest of pauses, they began their next song, Niko Embry establishing a good groove on drums to start it off, the crowd shouting out his name in encouragement. Then Darren Embry’s bass line got things pumping. But the main energy of this song came from Laura’s vocals. Afterward she said, “It’s hot in here.” She then added, “We warmed up the room.” Indeed!

One of my favorite tunes of their set was “Don’t Think.” Derock started this one on guitar, holding onto a note and creating a cool atmosphere. I dug the interaction between guitar and keys near the beginning. But it was when the song kicked in for the chorus that things got really good and funky. This one featured some great stuff on drums, as well as some delicious stuff on keys, and became a very cool jam. This was exactly what I went there for. The only shame was the lack of space to dance. Then Lena Embry and Lila Forde joined the group on backing vocals for “The Truth Inside,” a slower, pretty tune with kind of a 1970s vibe. There was even a wonderful section with just vocals and drums, the vocals having a good amount of soul. Afterward, they noticed that a microphone cord had knocked over Laura’s glass, and she sent her daughter out to the bar to replace her drink, which was only a soda anyway.

“Crawl” was a new song, a slow, groovy tune with an excellent, engaging atmosphere. Darren and Derock provided backing vocals. That was followed by another strong and soulful number, “Afraid.” “I don’t want to close my eyes/And I don’t want to be afraid of the truth.” Oh yes, this was one you could really sink your teeth into, and it built wonderfully toward the end. As it ended, Niko started to go directly into “Gimme A Chance” before realizing they had another song before that. The band then went into “I Can’t Go,” another of my personal favorites, a song with a very cool vibe. Darren and Derock again provided backing vocals. They closed out their set with “Gimme A Chance,” another highlight. The saxophonist from Lila Forde Group, Ben Lindenberg, joined them on this fun, funky jam, another tune you want to dance to. It was a perfect ending to their short, but excellent set.

Burning Manilow Set List
  1. Old Shoes
  2. Forever Project
  3. Don’t Think
  4. The Truth Inside
  5. Crawl
  6. Afraid
  7. I Can’t Go
  8. Gimme A Chance
The Lila Forde Group then closed out this family celebration. And what a talented group of young musicians this group turned out to be, delivering an absolutely delicious combination of jazz and funk, powered by Lila Forde’s fantastic voice. Their set was mostly original material, and totally enjoyable.

Here are a few photos from the night:

Lena Embry
"Old Shoes"
"The Truth Inside"
"The Truth Inside"
"The Truth Inside"
"The Truth Inside"
"Gimme A Chance"
Lila Forde Group

Genghis Cohen is located at 740 N. Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles, California.

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