Monday, September 25, 2023

Americana In The Park, 9-24-23

Steve Postell
The fourth and final Sunday concert in this year’s Americana In The Park series featured the double bill of Dan Navarro and Steve Postell’s Night Train Music Club. This has been a really nice series, put on by the city of Santa Monica in partnership with McCabe’s. Because of the participation of McCabe’s, I was fairly certain it would be an enjoyable series of concerts from the start. By day McCabe’s is a guitar shop, but at night it becomes one of the best concert venues in Los Angeles County. Not only do those folks tend to book excellent artists, but they draw the right type of audience as well, people who know music, people who pay attention, who are engaged. In short, it’s a great listening room. And it seemed that a lot of the people who like to see shows at that venue also came out for these concerts in Gandara Park. In addition to the music and the food, a raffle was held at each of these concerts, the winner walking away with a bag of goodies from McCabe’s. No, not a guitar, but last night the bag of goodies did include a kalimba. Very cool.

Dan Navarro
There has been good weather for these shows, and it was another beautiful sunny day in Santa Monica yesterday. At this point, we would expect nothing less. Just after 4 p.m., Dan Navarro was introduced. Well, that is after the food trucks were introduced, of course. Each of these shows has featured different food trucks for anyone who would like a snack or a meal before or during the concert. Dan Navarro had performed a lot of concerts online during the pandemic, several times joining Ellis Paul on his shows as well, and it was great to see him in person again after so long. Dan Navarro was joined by Steve Postell on electric guitar and backing vocals for his entire set. Dan joked, “For those who don’t know my music, you’re about to hear forty-five minutes of the most depressing music you’ve ever heard.” He opened the set with “All Is Quiet,” a song from the Lowen & Navarro album Broken Moon, and followed it with another Lowen & Navarro song, “Compass Point,” that one from All The Time In The World. Then he played a more recent song, “Circling The Drain,” which is from last year’s Horizon Line and was co-written by Deborah Holland. It’s a beautiful song. “We’ve got this time on Earth/Why not live it for all it’s worth/And be a little more forgiving.” He followed that with a song from his previous album, “Bulletproof Heart,” which featured some excellent work by Steve Postell on guitar. He then delivered another track from his newest album, “Rose In The Window,” which was co-written by Preston Sturges. Dan’s guitar part for this song was catchy, and his vocal performance had a raw passion that was great.

Dan mentioned that the first Lowen & Navarro album was released in 1990. I had thought it was actually earlier than that. I remember hearing them at that time, and it seemed that they were already well-established. And I suppose they were, but as a songwriting team, not as a performing duo. I just remember them drawing a crowd in the early 1990s, and assuming they’d been around for quite a while already. Anyway, from that first album, Dan played the title track, “Walking On A Wire,” which was also the duo’s first single. He then switched guitars for “Tar Pit,” another song from his latest album, and Steve Postell got another chance to shine on electric guitar. Dan wrapped up the set with the new album’s title track, “Horizon Line.” His set ended at 4:56 p.m.

"Long Time Gone"
But Dan Navarro was not done. As Steve Postell played on his set, Dan then was part of the band for Steve’s set, playing acoustic guitar and providing some vocal work. Night Train Music Club features a rotating group of musicians, and yesterday included Tariqh Akoni on guitar, Jon Button on bass, Herman Mathews on drums, Peter Adams on keyboards, and Lara Johnston on vocals. They started their set at 5:15 p.m., opening with “Long Time Gone,” the Crosby, Stills & Nash song. Steve Postell had played with David Crosby, and the two were putting a band together when Crosby died early this year. Steve delivered an excellent rendition of the song, a nice jam to start the set. The group followed that with a cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” with Dan Navarro taking over lead vocal duties and doing a phenomenal job with it. The set was nearly all covers, and “Ain’t No Sunshine” was followed by “Beast Of Burden,” the first of two Rolling Stones they played yesterday. “They’re still at it, those boys,” Steve said afterward. “Beast Of Burden” featured some really nice work on keys. Lara Johnston then sang lead on a cover of “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” the Steely Dan song. And Tariqh Akoni sang lead on “Rocky Mountain Way,” the band jamming a bit on this one too. Steve mentioned that he got to play that song with Joe Walsh.

I’ve noticed several of the same people at these Americana In The Park concerts, including one kid who wears ear protection and likes to sit himself on one of the speakers in front of the stage. Of course, the performers can’t help but notice him too, and yesterday Steve said to him, “You’re going to hear a lot longer than we will, because you’re taking care of your ears.” The band then went into a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me,” with Dan Navarro singing lead, and the band rocking. Lara Johnston sang lead on “Dr. Feelgood,” and this is where she really got a chance to show her talent. Not that she didn’t do a good job with “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” but that song has just never really interested me. On “Dr. Feelgood,” she delivered a soulful and exciting performance, making it one of the set’s highlights. That was followed by another highlight, “We Belong,” a song that was a hit for Pat Benatar, but was written by Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro. Dan sang lead on this one, and it was so good to hear him do it.

The one original song of the set was “3:45 Coming Through,” a song that Steve Postell wrote and which he performs with The Immediate Family. The song was included on that band’s Can’t Stop Progress. The song had a great groove, and there was a wonderful moment when Steve and Tariqh traded guitar licks. Tariqh then sang lead on a seriously strong rendition of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns And Money,” a song from Zevon’s fantastic 1978 record Excitable Boy. The band then delivered two songs by The Cars, “Drive” and “Just What I Needed.” I’m always happy to hear Cars songs. Those were followed by the second Rolling Stones song of the set, “Wild Horses.” Lara then sang lead on “When Will I Be Loved,” and the band wrapped up the set with “The Weight,” always a great choice for the closing number. Steve, Dan and Lara each sang lead on different verses. The show ended at 6:47 p.m., as it was starting to get dark. It was an excellent day of music. I’m looking forward to seeing what the lineup will be next year, but in the meantime there are several great shows coming up at McCabe’s, including Dan Bern, Jim Kweskin, Tom Paxton and Ellis Paul.

Dan Navarro Set List

  1. All Is Quiet
  2. Compass Point
  3. Circling The Drain
  4. Bulletproof Heart
  5. Rose In The Window
  6. Walking On A Wire
  7. Tar Pit
  8. Horizon Line

Steve Postell’s Night Train Music Club Set List

  1. Long Time Gone
  2. Ain’t No Sunshine
  3. Beast Of Burden
  4. Rikki Don’t Lose That Number
  5. Rocky Mountain Way
  6. You Wreck Me
  7. Dr. Feelgood
  8. We Belong
  9. 3:45 Coming Through
  10. Lawyers, Guns And Money
  11. Drive
  12. Just What I Needed
  13. Wild Horses
  14. When Will I Be Loved
  15. The Weight

Here are some photos from the show:

"Compass Point"

"Bulletproof Heart"
"Tar Pit"

"Long Time Gone"

"Ain't No Sunshine" 

"Rikki Don't Lose That Number"

"Rikki Don't Lose That Number"

"Rocky Mountain Way"

"You Wrecked Me"

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