American musician Johnette Napolitano (official site, MySpace and Wikipedia) gave an energetic and moving performance at the Corner hotel in Richmond on Thursday 8 October. I was amazed at the size of the crowd and the number of people who knew the words to all the songs she played from throughout her career, from early Concrete Blonde to more recent solo work.
She began solo on acoustic guitar, which is what I was expecting from reading recent reviews from US shows, and the highlight was a slow raw version of ‘Joey’ from Concrete Blonde’s 1990 album Bloodletting.
I was not expecting a band and when, after three songs solo, she brought on a drummer I was surprised but pleased as the energy of the show increased.
I was slightly disappointed not to hear songs from the last Concrete Blonde album Mojave (2004) except for the cover of ‘Ghost riders in the sky’ but the variety of songs was otherwise brilliant.
As I’m not a Coldplay fan I did not recognise her cover of ‘The scientist’ until she named it after performing it. The final song of the main set was a rap I don’t know, done with only drums for accompaniment, which was fantastic.
When she returned for an encore at the insistence of the thrilled crowd it was with her electric bass and a local guitarist and singer.
The guitarist did a good job of performing Concrete Blonde’s James Mankey’s aggressive guitar on ‘Bloodletting’ (the vampire song).
Napolitano introduced the second encore song simply by saying ‘this song is rad’. She then started playing an instantly recognisable bass line that, being completely out of context, took some time to mentally connect to a song, which was a messy but spirited cover of Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds are burning’.
The third and final song in the encore set was an a capella version of ‘Tomorrow Wendy’ from Bloodletting. I saw Napolitano perform that song with its composer Andy Prieboy in 1990 when he toured Australia as the support act for Concrete Blonde, and it remains enormously moving. It was an intense finale to a great show.