Last night at the M Bar ...
Band lineup was Adam, Eric, Jordan, Ken, Gelinda Palmer on accordion and keyboards and a gentleman named Ethan Phillips (no, not the "Star Trek: Voyager" actor) on bass.
Jordan played the banjo for the soundcheck.
First up was "Indie Rockin'," which Adam introduced: "This is a song that was stolen from us last month. We're stealing it back." This was a reference to the beat-box "enhanced" recording of the song made by Mark Evan Jackson, which had been played on the p.a. system during the April set. This rendition was mostly the stripped-down, Adam/Eric version, but Jordan added a delicate harmony line on the banjo, which was very charming. After the whole "big finish," Eric ended on a little "plink!" guitar chord.
Very enjoyable rendition of "Union Maid," with Jordan on trumpet, Adam on harmonica, Ken on the cojone, Gelinda on accordion, Ethan on bass (Eric is always on guitar, so just take that as a given
). There was a great horn/harmonica duet on the outtro.
Mark Evan Jackson came on during the intro of "How to Lose," resulting in a long interlude of deadpan comedy. I completely get what this is doing here in this venue -- the comedy is very much in line with the "Thrilling Hour" humor that has preceded it, and a lot of people are in the venue primarily to see "Thrilling Hour" and are staying to hear Common Rotation for perhaps the first time (the shows are invariably sold out) -- and it is funny -- Adam and Eric are very good at this and Adam comes up with some excellent one-liners, and MEJ of course has his character down -- but it does seem to cut into the amount of time there is to play the set.
"How to Lose" had Jordan on banjo, Gelinda on piano. Eric got a very steely sound from his acoustic guitar, Ken delivered a very hard backbeat and the vocal harmonies between Eric and Adam were sustained and strong.
MEJ was back for a schtick about being somewhat on his way to getting Common Rotation (or "Constant Explosion") to being a big band with the addition of a tuba player he'd found, "Reggie Wilson." For those familiar with Adam's acting career, or those who'd just seen the preceding "Thrilling" show, "Reggie"
was immediately identifiable as Tom Lenk (he'd played a hand-eating, energy-sucking Peter Pan in a segment of "Thrilling" earlier in the evening). Tom is actually a singer and musician in addition to being an actor, and in fact can play that gargantuan tuba he played on stage. Moreover, the tuba indeed fit the song, which was a cover of "You Always Hurt the One You Love." This began with Eric solo on vocal and guitar for the first verse, Adam taking lead vocals on the second verse and Jordan coming in on banjo and Eric and Adam joining vocals as the song progressed, with the tuba, Gelinda on piano and Ken on cojone and shakers all coming in to create a sound that sounded kind of like very creditable '30s swing.
A very powerful "My Kingdom" was up next -- Eric on guitar, Jordan on banjo, Adam on autoharp, Gelinda on accordion, Ethan on bass, Ken on shakers and cojone. The combination of guitar and autoharp with the accordion creates a really beautiful, deep, expansive sound, especially on the bridge, and the vocals were beautiful.
Adam announced that Common Rotation had just been in the studio with the Dustbowl Cavaliers to record a new joint album (that's an album that combines the two bands, not an album about marijuana and/or prisons -- so far as I know; as I don't know the set list, I won't rule anything out just yet
), entitled "No Love at All."
Adam then said he'd never been able to give a serious introduction to "Trumpet" at the M Bar. Mark Evan Jackson and John Di Maggio (also of "Thrilling") came up on stage to offer "help." They wound up on the sidelines, but still "helping" with their interpretation of the song's hidden meaning, very nearly causing Adam to break up on stage. (The overall effect was pretty funny.) Jordan played banjo, Gelinda played accordion and Adam sang with great intensity.
Mark Evan Jackson then introduced something else off his "new album," which turned out to be a sampling of "Color Guard" with a beat box added. This was exactly what you would imagine it would be like -- weird beyond words.
Next up was a cover of T-Bone Burnett's "No Love at All" (I thought this was an original CR song until it was explained to me afterwards that this was a cover). Jordan on banjo, Ken on shakers, Gelinda on accordion, Ethan on bass, Adam and Eric trading lead vocals on the verses, then coming together on the bridge. The sound was '60s folk/rock -- I'd never heard this song before, but the arrangement reminded me a little of a recording I have of Joan Baez singing "Four Strong Winds" (the arrangement, not the guys' vocals, I hasten to add). Very pretty and melancholy.
Paget Brewster, a "Thrilling" regular (also a regular on "Criminal Minds"), came up on stage to do lead vocals on a cover of "Diamonds Are Forever." This had Adam on sax, Jordan on trumpet, Ken on cohone, Ethan on bass, Britney Westover on electronic keyboard and Eric on soundtrack guitar. Now, James Bond soundtrack covers are not exactly something I'd normally associate with Common Rotation, but Shirley Bassey and John Barry couldn't have made it sound better. It was something completely different, but it sounded great. Jordan and Adam did a particularly good job on the horns.
Back to something more in line with what one would expect was "Bitter Honey." Jordan on banjo, Ethan on bass, Adam on harmonica, Ken on shakers and cojone. Eric really went all out vocally by the last verse -- sounded great.
The off-mike number was "Given Signs," with Jordan on banjo and Adam on harmonica. As this is a rather delicate, quiet number, in some venues, this would get drowned as an off-mike song, but fortunately, the M Bar audience is an *audience*, mostly silent, attentive and appreciative. It was a lovely rendition.
And that's the set report.