Saturday, September 24, 2011

John Wesley Harding's Cabinet of Wonders @ City Winery 9.23.2011

The lastest installment of John Wesley Harding's "Cabinet of Wonders" was performed at City Winery on Friday night with an eclectic group of musicians, writers, and comics but noticeably absent was Harding's cohort Eugene Mirman. The event featured: Andrew VanWyngarden (lead singer and guitarist of MGMT), comic Todd Barry, Eleanor Friedberger (lead singer of the Fiery Furnaces), author Jami Attenberg, record producer Tony Visconti, and children's singer Dan Zanes.

The evening was as intriguing and enjoyable as one might expect although the packed house of wine and flatbread customers may not have been as enthusiastic as the attendees in Harding's former location in the village. There were a number of highlights throughout the evening but it was the wonderful variation of performances which always makes the cabinet a pleasure to attend. One of the early high points in the show was producer Tony Visconti's reading from his memoir about producing David Bowie's Young Americans during which he met John Lennon and mentioned his experience with arranging The Wings "Band on the Run" for Paul McCartney and not getting creditied which spurred John to cancel his plans with McCatney for the following day because "Paul is a C*nt".

The comedy portion of the show is always a personal favorite and although he didn't attend Eugene Mirman managed to get the whole crowd laughing with some hilarious films and comic Todd Barry who you might know from Louie or the film The Wrestler had a good time making fun of the snootier side of the audience with Riesling jokes mixed in with some of his regular material. Dan Zanes contribution was also quite memorable and the former Del Fuegos singer had no problem keeping his adult audience amused with a few wonderful songs with backstory that was just as interesting such as his story about his favorite version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" sung by Pete Seeger at an anti war rally (which he also dedicated to singer Joe Pernice who had to drop out of the show due to illness).

But it was clear from the audience's reaction that the performance they had come to see was MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden who began by saying it was the first time he had performed solo. He started off with crowd favorite "Congratulations" and kept the audience delighted with a few covers: The Beach Boys "A Day In The Life Of A Tree", Epic Soundtracks' "House On The Hill", and The Only Ones' "Someone Who Cares". His set was followed by the cast rendition of T.Rex's "Hot Love" in which Tony Visconti played bass and VanWyngarden fit perfectly as his voice seemed to have a similar timbre to Marc Bolan's, finally they closed with a cover of Kevin Ayers "Singing A Song In The Morning" which also featured Dan Zanes on spoons.

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