Concert Highlights–Cindy Lee Berryhill and Al Stewart at City Winery, 6/14/2016

Cindy Lee Berryhill alluded to her difficult recent past at the beginning of her opening set Tuesday night at City Winery when, leading into her forthcoming album The Adventurist’s track “Somebody’s Angel,” she invoked “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” the 1969 hit by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition that was written by Mel Tillis and is about a paralyzed veteran of “that crazy Asian war” who begs his wife not to go out on the town.

“I didn’t understand it when I was a kid,” Berryhill said, quoting the lyric “And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground/Oh, Ruby, don’t take your love to town.”

“Where was she going? The bowling alley? An Al-Anon group? There are any number of things she could have been doing besides having an affair!”

Berryhill has said that The Adventurist “bookends” with her 1994 album Garage Orchestra in that the first album documented the beginning of her relationship with her late husband Paul Williams and the new one its end: Williams, a prominent rock journalist who was a founder of the seminal rock magazine Crawdaddy!, died last year after many years of debilitation from a severe brain injury following a bicycle accident.

Ruby, Berryhill came to realize, was, much like herself, “a caretaker.”

“That’s not an easy way to go,” she said, adding, of caretakers, “It’s not an easy life—they deserve a song.”

Hence, “Somebody’s Angel.” But she noted after that she had “no regrets,” and had started the show with “a downer song” in order to progress to the more hopeful fare included on The Adventurist.

“You have to eat the healthy stuff first,” she explained, “then the Coca-Cola with ice cream.”

She later brought up her longtime friend Lenny Kaye, who produced her 1989 album Naked Movie Star. Kaye played acoustic guitar on The Adventurist’s “American Cinematography” and the Velvet Underground classic “Femme Fatale,” which was written by Lou Reed—Reed being part of Berryhill’s acknowledged “triumvirate” of key influences, the others being Patti Smith (Kaye has forever been Smith’s guitarist/collaborator) and Brian Wilson.

Berryhill was opening for another influence, Al Stewart, who sang his hit “Time Passages” at Kaye’s request. For his part, by the way, Stewart was quite engaging, particularly in stories like the one about playing places like Tokyo and Rome and hearing wives complain to their husbands that they thought they were going to see Rod, not Al Stewart.

Stewart also brought a nifty merchandise item: a poster pattered after the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover and featuring some 200 people and things associated with the lyrics to his songs–historical, if I heard correctly, and being hard of hearing and sitting in the back and Stewart not having a loud voice, I’m not 100 percent sure. He definitely said that only one person had been able to identify all but one of the figures, and he might have said that he himself couldn’t identify at least 30.

Concert Highlights–Tammy Faye Starlite’s ‘Cabaret Marianne,’ 10/15/15

Lenny and Tammy Faye (Photo by James Gavin)

One of my favorite moments in rock ‘n’ roll comes after the first verse of Patti Smith’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger,” when Patti shouts out, “Lenny!” and Lenny Kaye takes over the vocal for the second verse.

Lenny was special guest at Tammy Faye Starlite’s Cabaret Marianne at Pangea last Thursday night—the third of her Thursday in October residency performances of her terrific Marianne Faithfull tribute–and he had plenty more moments chiming in on guitar and vocals on songs made famous by Faithfull and now infamous by Tammy Faye.

Lenny first joined Tammy Faye’s band (Faithfull’s actual collaborator Barry Reynolds on acoustic guitar, violinist Eszter Balint, guitarist Richard Feridun and pianist David Dunton) on Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe,” which Faithfull covered on her 1967 album Love in a Mist. No songwriting slouch himself, Kaye took a verse from Starlite on “Ghost Dance,” which he co-wrote with Smith and sings with her. Gracious as Tammy Faye was to give him the spot, she also, as Faithfull, seemed almost to scold Kaye in extolling Smith, who, she proclaimed repeatedly, “doesn’t take shit!”

But Lenny had to back off further when Tammy Faye, again as Faithfull, knowingly insisted that Kaye was one of any number of men who had sex with Smith—to put it more politely than she did. It should be added that Kaye, of course, denied it—though Tammy Faye would have none of it.

Tammy Faye always stays in character, more often than not scarily so. She was pissed off early on by her scan of Elvis Costello’s newly published memoir and its “slight” by leaving out one of the “l”‘s in Faithfull. She railed angrily at ex-Faithfull love Mick Jagger, lauding his late love L’Wren Scott for successfully getting under his skin by offing herself. She further warped reality with constant bickering with Reynolds, whose “Times Square,” co-written with and sung by Faithfull, provided a high point–and features one of my all-time favorite lyrics:

If alcohol could take me there.
I’d take a shot a minute
And be there by the hour.

But Cabaret Marianne is a Faithfull career retrospective. Tammy Faye/Marianne recalled an early tour of the U.K. with The Hollies and paramour Gene Pitney, whose “penne,” she reported, looking down at someone’s meal at a front table, “was not impressive.” Fast forwarding, she declared that Beautiful, the Broadway hit about Carole King and the Brill Building era, was too conceptually flawed to merit attendance.

“Why would anybody go see somebody pretend to be a singer who’s still alive?” she asked, Reynolds behind her clearly biting his tongue.

Concert Highlights–Lenny Kaye’s ‘Nuggets’ at City Winery, 6/18/14

High points galore at last night’s It’s a Nugget If You Dug It—Nuggets’ 40th + 2 Anniversary, presented by historic Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 compiler Lenny Kaye at City Winery.

Kaye had assembled a stellar band—Symphony for the Devils–featuring his fellow Patti Smith Band members Tony Shanahan (bass and vocals) and Jay Dee Daugherty (drums) along with the Fab Faux’s Jack Petruzelli (guitar and vocals), with guests Joan Osborne, Glen Burtnik (keyboards and vocals), and on guitar and vocals, Marshall Crenshaw, Kevin Kinney and Steve Wynn. But unannounced guest Peppy Castro, vocalist/guitarist for the Blues Magoos, brought the house down with his band’s 1967 garage rock classic “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” and its cover of “Tobacco Road.”

Osborne proved once again that she can sing anything, as she did on a block of four songs including The Standells’ “Dirty Water,” for which she transposed the Boston references to Brooklyn (i.e., “Gowanus Canal” for “river Charles,” and “Oh, Brooklyn, you’re my home”), The Outsiders’ “Time Won’t Let Me,” the Music Explosion’s “Little Bit O’ Soul” and The Strangeloves’ “Night Time.”

Other high points included raw versions of such garage rock Nuggets as Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction,” Music Machine’s “Talk Talk,” Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Just Like Me,” and the closing “Louie, Louie,” for which lyric sheets were necessarily handed out.

But really, the most telling moment came when Kaye spoke on the meaning of his Nuggets project, which he had compiled initially as a two-LP set for Elektra Records release in 1972.

As he told me last week, “The story of Nuggets is my story growing up as a wild animal in New Jersey trying to find a place in the world, learning guitar and driving around constantly in my car and pulling in stations on the radio and trying to find who I can become.”

As such, Kaye’s story resonates with anyone else who grew up mixed up in the ‘60s, for whom the music on the radio was the most constant companion and loyal friend.

Toward the end of It’s a Nugget If You Dug It, Kaye performed his own “nugget,” “Crazy Like a Fox,” which was co-written by his uncle Larry Kusik, who had written “A Time For Us” from Romeo and Juliet and “Speak Softly Love” from The Godfather. Then a teenager, Kaye had recorded it in 1965 under the name Link Cromwell, and earned a “Newcomer Pick” from the music trade magazine Cash Box—for which I would serve as Retail Editor some 17 years later.

For fans of Lenny Kaye, and by extension, fans of rock ‘n’ roll, let alone garage rock, it was truly a triumphant performance by a New York treasure.