Joan Osborne gets wild in Somerville

A review of Joan Osborne at the Somerville Theatre on October 24

, Contributing Writer

Appearing at the Somerville Theater on tour to support her latest album Little Wild One, Kentucky-born singer and songwriter Joan Osborne let the audience in on her love song to New York City, a city in which she has spent the last twenty-five years of her life.&

Opening the show with country inspired but definitely rock influenced “Rodeo” got the crowd chair dancing from the first notes. Osborne displayed a strong vocal and an unexpected swagger from the moment she took the stage. Backed by a talented band featuring drums, bass, guitar, and a keyboard player who occasionally played guitar as well, Osborne fit right in with her rich vocals. She also displayed some nice tambourine and harmonica work, and also picked up a guitar herself later in the set. Concerns that a cold would affect her voice were quickly diminished as she segued into “St. Teresa”, a song with a bit more edge than “Rodeo”.

Speaking to the audience Osborne thanked everyone for coming and then introduced her next song saying, “I did this song the first night I ever played in Boston at Johnny D’s and we’re gonna do it again,” as she began a bluesy rendition of “You Gotta Help Me” that garnered loud cheers from the audience throughout. Next was a Grateful Dead cover off of her Pretty Little Stranger album. “Brokedown Palace” was a song she always wanted to sing when she was touring with members of the Dead, but since she never had the chance she decided just to put it on her own album so she could sing it whenever she wanted.

Osborne then showcased a few songs from the new album beginning with “Little Wild One” which was much better live than on the album. After listening to the album in preparation for the show, I wasn’t too excited about attending this performance. The album was good, but at times felt a little reserved and some songs felt void of emotion. Osborne’s vocal is much better live, and her songs become more engaging and soulful.

After “Little Wild One” came “Sweeter Than The Rest” highlighting Osborne’s vocal range and getting the loudest applause from the audience thus far. Starting with a rock infused, jazz style intro from the band “Baby Is A Butterfly” followed before Osborne took a moment to thank the crowd for “putting down your hard earned money for tickets tonight.” Continuing to highlight the new album Osborne began “To The One I Love” throughout which the audience sang along. Following was the vocal highlight of the night “Hallelujah In The City” which seemed to convince the Boston audience to fall in love with New York City for a few minutes, as the song ended with an uproarious cheer from the crowd.

Bringing opening act Matt Morris back on stage, Osborne began “Cathedrals” which was written by the band Jump, Little Children and is featured on Little Wild One. Osborne took the vocal lead, but was well complimented by the tone of Morris and they performed the chorus as a duet. Stepping off to the side of the stage Osborne let her band bring the tempo back up with another rock introduction that inspired audience clapping and several women to jump out of their chairs where they’d remain for all of “Ladder”.& Osborne even picked up a guitar during a fast paced instrumental solo that had the crowd on the edge of their seats.&

The band once again took center stage as they slowed things down a bit for “One Of Us” which was frankly a surprise to hear. I had wondered if this song still made it into the live show rotation, and thought that with a new album to support it wouldn’t make the set list. However I will say that the song has aged well throughout the years. Osborne is able to invoke the same feelings you likely had when you heard that song in 1995, but now the song has been stripped of its pop feel and has more depth than on the Relish album. Closing out the set was an amped up “Only You Know and I Know” which let her show off her southern roots as the audience danced along.

Coming back on stage a few minutes later, as the crowd remained on their feet, Osborne announced that it was a member of the band’s birthday (I think it was the sound technician) and the band kicked off The Beatles’ “Birthday”. Taking things down a bit, Osborne began “Kiss And Say Goodbye” off of her Breakfast In Bed album. She then took a moment to thank the audience again and introduced the final song of the night as “one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard” before she began Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” which settled the crowd into awed silence. Waking from the musical reverie the audience jumped to their feet as Osborne and company left the stage.

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