Joseph Arthur

Joseph Arthur City Winery NYC 1-1-17

ja2Happy New Year friends, can you believe it? 2017! I say this with a big sigh. I’m not sure if this is a sigh of relief or a sigh of trepidation. I guess only time will tell. Sometimes when I feel like this I take certain precautions like self-care steps, and these precautions that keep/restore my sanity always lie in music, art, and adventure. I got all three yesterday 1-1-17.(Hey, that’s the first time I wrote the date and it looks weird and makes me feel old.)

My New Year’s Day adventure sent me to the City Winery in NYC to see Joseph Arthur—  yes again! To see the full photo set from the show click here. I’ve been fortunate enough since November ’16 to catch him three times live. This is my remedy, you know for my sanity like I said: art, music and adventure. As my break quickly wraps up and the real world is catching up to me I can say I ended it with some lightness, some fun, creativity and photography.

So, Sunday’s show was sort of like a wedding with something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. I went online and found the set list, it’s floating out there, but I’ll save you the trouble and you can just link here. You can see which fall into the categories, old, new, borrowed, and blue (which was the color of his shirt) .

The borrowed portion of the show was a cover of George Michael’s Freedom take a listen here  (just now creating this hyperlink for George made me sad again. RIP George Michael). The track was laid down on his phone but he didn’t say which app he uses  (getting hip like the kids nonetheless). I had a very visceral reaction to the Freedom cover, I’m sure others did too. I was a child product of the 80’s and I loved Wham and GM but I don’t think at my age  back then when Freedom was released that I actually grasped its poignancy. When Joseph sang it last night I listened, every lyric and to every bit of the intention in his delivery just absorbing it. Not to mention I think this cover officially gave him the #badass.  I think in its original form as a pop song (and my age) I missed the depth, and to hear it like this I finally got it. It hit me. And I’m being careful not to talk too much about the new president-elect, but I worry about things as simple as the title of the song, the things that should be simple for us all like Freedom.  Fair to say last night was strangely emotional for me kinda like a hybrid of feelings that come up the way church used to be when I was young or how my yoga mat is for me now as an adult. Just a deep feeling of contemplation and emotional space you can get once in a while.  And it wasn’t just this moment during the show but there were others too.ja3

I’ve mentioned it before, but me and the other half of Sis Diss, my sister Shan are Northeast Ohio byproducts and listening to Joe play songs from The Family feel so much like home, so much like the rust belt we grew up in, all the good and the bad all rolled up in a ball of yarn you can’t quite find the beginning or end to. It feels all so familiar and sitting with these songs as he plays them from the piano on stage just after holiday brought me even deeper into the head space I was in.

I think my conclusion from last night was that it’s not about resolutions, it’s not about getting better or being better it’s just about being. It’s enough. I think jokingly he even mentioned on stage the quote about something being the journey and not the destination. That may have been about his  Leonard Cohen cover of Everybody Knows.

One of my dear friends said to me the other day, “it’s not about knowing what’s next it’s just about asking the question of what is next”. I think the New Year’s Day show for me was about revelations and not resolutions and just thinking about what is next for me in many ways.

Not every show I step into will make me feel this way. I think for me it is when a show is done in the moment, and JA does this well with the feel of being free of ego, or as free of ego as you can get. He’s pretty much an open book up there, this is the part of his showmanship that the audience can connect with. I have some mad respect for a man who can just be in the Flow which takes skills to do. (For those interested in what the Flow is there’s actually some scientific evidence for the idea of the “Flow” you can read about here on your own. (I won’t get into it here in this post since it’s too similar to my work-work, but it is fascinating). My best example of this was midway through painting on his canvas with bubble gum pink paints, Joe just stops glances down and decides in that moment to paint a perfect pink heart on his tee-shirt. It was like this uninterrupted flow of feeling, thought, idea and action that just all came out at once. There wasn’t this process of “hey I want to paint a heart, should I paint a heart?, would a heart be cool?, will the heart be a good idea?, does the audience want to see me paint a heart?…”… That’s flow folks. And modern research says in order to be our happiest we need this trait and I admire him for having it, it’s what keeps me coming back and buying my tickets.

So for 2017 can we all just paint some metaphorical pink hearts. Don’t stop and think too much, get into the flow of the good things life has to offer us. We’ve got some negative forces opposing us for the time being. I’m not quite sure 2017 will make America great again, but I do believe in the power of jaollove, art, music and kindness. I think that is where I will put my focus this year.

Happy 2017 Joe. Thank you for sharing pieces of your musical and creative world with us.

Peace and pink hearts

~Ady

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Joseph Arthur from Philly 11-19-16 to Akron 11-23-16

Joseph Arthur played the Tin Angel on 11-19-16 and it was timely for me. I haven’t been to a show in awhile and the in the midst of this post election crisis/haze/mess I really had no idea how badly I needed to get out. And doubly, how badly I needed it to be one of his shows.

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Photo Credit: Shan

For the 11 days after the election I kept to myself, limiting my time in public mainly for not knowing where to find my people. I knew that going to the show would be good for me so I grabbed a ticket and made a plan to do something I knew I would enjoy. Being there was cathartic and it was necessary because it somewhat got me out of the post-election slump. (See why…check out The Campaign Song live from Tin Angel here.)

The Tin Angel show was the first show on his tour that I had been able to see since the June 3rd release of The Family. And by the way, the album is phenomenal if you haven’t heard it yet. You can find the info here. Several of the tracks have quickly taken to my favorites list like You Keep Hanging on, which has been running in my head on and off for days.

These two shows: Philly and Akron were both a beautiful combination of musical genius, showmanship and edginess that somehow he pulls off with a comedic twist. His personality can’t help but shine through whenever/wherever he plays. I know I’ve said it before, but I suspect this is because he so genuinely speaks his truth which is something I respect.

So, we fast forward a few days to my trip home for Thanksgiving. Home…Ohio… for both Joe and Sis Diss. For four consecutive years now Shan and I made it to the Thanksgiving Eve show at The Tangier in Akron, Ohio (click here to find some of our previous posts). Of course the show was every bit entertaining as the one I had gone to just days before. It does feel different to see a home show than it does to see a Philly show or a NYC show. And trust me when I say I’ve seen him play in all these places so many times I’ve lost my count! But, I think being “home” brings out different qualities in us all, and I don’t think there is an exception to this rule even for rock stars. So it is always fun to be able to share in the hometown experience.

I wondered what it would be like seeing him play shows a few days apart. Would it be the same? Would the set list vary?  How would it be different? But of course his chameleon-like ability to change up any song arrangement making you feel like it’s the first time you’ve ever heard it made the two shows feel like completely separate spaces in time for me.

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Photo Credit: Shan

As a side note can I just say that when I was searching for the Philly set list I came across a youtube video from a Milwaukee show in September where he covers Prince’s When Doves Cry. I would have loved to have seen that one live for myself-wow. His vocal range has always been perplexing to me. Just when you think he can’t get any higher he can, or any lower he does, and with pitch perfect accuracy. Truly a gift. Add his live painting on stage to his musical talent and he never ceases to blow my mind. I can sincerely say that each time I leave one of his shows I always walk out with a sense of admiration.

But can I just share a quick regret coupled with an apology for the iPhone photos (in spite of the missing camera somehow Shan managed to finesse an iPhone camera in ways I can’t-thank you for that Shan). I didn’t have my “real” camera with me at either show this past month sigh. Maybe January 1 in NYC I’ll get to fix that at the City Winery show. I just might be there with my camera and some hope for 2017.

~Ady O

{click the links here and here and here if you want to go on a past JA show photo treasure hunt}

Joseph Arthur live at The Tangier (Akron, OH 11/26/2014)

Photos by Ady
Words by Shan

Thanksgiving tradition is now my sis and I cozied up in one of the slinky booths of the Tangier to be part of Joseph Arthur’s evening there. He plays host to the town . . . one man and his guitar and red pork pie hat, Akron body back in his homeland just as we are taken back to a piece of ours.  Market Street falls dark and cold but inside is festive lights and warmth. It’s been a long journey but we have returned to our bunker, the cradle of the big booth we’d been yearning for, and fall in love with the golden voice all over again. Song comes out of every pore of Arthur’s body, arms, legs, mind, heart. He towers above and yet climbs even higher to stomp on box and pummel us in the face. A glass of wine and The Devil’s Broom. Lou Reed is there in spirit, too. People packed in like sardines to be in his presence. Octaves spill from his lungs. Joe’s lungs. They must be massive. He loops and he runs circles around our minds. He is his own wall of fame.