One of the finest female pop vocalists of her generation, Joan Osborne concluded an August Thursday night residency at City Winery last week with a stripped down set of hits mixed with unreleased, and in some cases, unrecorded material.
Backed only by terrific keyboardist Keith Cotton, Osborne, who played acoustic guitar, tambourine and a makeshift percussion stick to which she taped a percussion egg to get two distinct sounds when banging on her mic stand, reconfigured her songs in seeking their essence. As with everything she’s done in her remarkably varied recording career, it worked beautifully.
The hits, of course, included her signature “One Of Us” and “St. Teresa.” New songs came from a pair of forthcoming albums due next year: Opener “This Is Where We Start” is a sophisticated ballad from the second album, Love And Hate. Also from that set was “Work On Me,” for which she used a “phonebox”–a $3.99 iPhone rhythm track app that “you can download yourself and have your own residency at City Winery,” she joked.
She performed Otis Redding’s “Champagne And Wine,” from what will be Love And Hate‘s preceding Bring It On Home album of soul and blues covers. In this vein she also performed Jimmy Ruffin’s classic “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted,” her version being a high point of the 2002 documentary Standing In The Shadows Of Motown.
But she reached further back with Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey,” first noting that she used to sing it at Wetlands and other long gone Manhattan clubs, and Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child”–the first song, the Kentucky native said, that she sang when she came to New York. She also sang the Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace,” which she never sang when she performed with the band but recorded on her 2006 Nashville album Pretty Little Stranger, and The Dead’s “Stella Blue”–one of many audience requests.
Speaking of audience requests, even at an Osborne show, there’s always one obnoxious idiot–a woman this time–who yells out “Free Bird.” Osborne graciously responded with a lovely first verse of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic before quickly moving on to more appropriate material.
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