It's weird what people will remember. When I walked into the Backstage, someone immediately pointed to me and said, "That's the person with the web page." He had just read my review of the November Backstage show and was hoping to get me back on stage again this show. It looked pretty unlikely though. For some reason, the Backstage decided to put up chairs and tables on the dance floor. Bad move I thought. Fortunately the people up front let me sit in front of the first row.
The opening band was quite impressive. Despite the fact that they were called Ache, they were a quiet, pretty, not-too-bleak, female folk duo. Some of their harmonies were almost Sarah McLachlan-esque. Their cover of Is That All There Is was worth the price of admission alone.
However, I did not pay the ticket price to see Ache. I went to see Mr Himmelman. I have to confess to be expecting a bit of a let down from his other shows. While the acoustic tape I have and Stage Diving are quite good, I thought his performances with the band were a lot better. Seeing that he would have a drummer eased my fears a bit, but I didn't expect to get the peaks of the past shows.
After a new song, we got the first improvised song of the night; this one was about the opening band. They were called out a song later to sing the backup on Mission of my Soul. This was a pleasant surprise; quite a peak was built. The song ended when, while improvising a verse about the members of Ache, Peter mispronounced the name of a band member. She corrected him and he stopped the song to declare that he would decide how her name was pronounced.
That was the mood of the night. Himmelman was in the mood to rock out and goof off. Some people sitting to the left of the stage were invited to move their table up on stage. A bottle of an Aromatheriputic oil was passed around the crowd. We got to hear the preprogrammed songs on his piano. As one of them played, they were introduced as "B1FF and the Jelly Donuts" as we put our arms around each other and swayed as he cheesed it up. A later improv about Salmon was quite amazing; it had at least 4 verses to it. There even was a comment about asexual Jews which got quite a laugh from me and the Seamonet
The humour, while present in massive doses, was not allowed to overpower the show. How Did It Come To This, Only Innocent, and Closer hit peaks that made me think the entire band was there. (Closer in particular shined when compared with the version on Stage Diving) A new song with the chorus "I still don't know what it is you want from me" was reminiscent of Tangled Up in Blue.
As the show ended with Closer, and I could no longer prevent myself from dancing (My neck was hurting from dancing sitting down so as to not obstruct the view of the people behind me.) I did get invited back up. And why I might have physically exhausted myself from the dancing, the emotional rush is keeping me up at 2 AM the next morning writing this review. :)
You never do know what you will get from a Peter Himmelman show. Some nights it seems that he will use the audience as a foil. Some nights (as he explained after a request for Untitled) he will catch himself thinking about the cost of gas for rental cars. But sometimes, like tonight, he will catch a groove and run with it. He'll suddenly move from a joking song about the people he invited onto the stage, to a Yiddish folk song, to a work like Love of Midnight, and he'll have you going along for the ride the entire time. He'll leave you almost gasping for air, wondering what hit you, and wondering why he is playing the Backstage and not the Tacoma Dome. Peter Himmelman must be the best kept secret among fans of live music. And while I would like to see success for him, for the sake of his fans, let's hope it stays that way... for just a little while.