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  CROOKED FINGERS w/ Azure Ray  
  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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I like Azure Ray's album -- it's probably close to the best new recording I've heard thus far in 2001. But it does not rock - it's music to relax to. So it wasn't too surprising when Azure Ray's stage show was more or less non-existent, consisting of the two members of Azure Ray strumming guitars while another woman played keyboards and samples. However, the music and the voices of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor were so strong and entrancing that the majority of the audience didn't even notice the lack of bells and whistles. Furthermore, they sustained their intensity throughout the set, despite a few of The Echo Lounge's now ubiquitous sound problems and the minor background noise of people who'd come to the show to talk and not listen. By the time they finished their set (consisting of the better songs off of their debut album), I was very impressed with Azure Ray. It's clear that the album was no product of overdubs and retakes, but rather a real reflection of their talent. They are definitely a band I'd like to see again in the future.

Following a somewhat overlong interlude filled with too loud filler music, Crooked Fingers took the stage and proceeded to tune. Now in the past few years, I've seen this band (in various incarnations) several times. But this evening took a surprising turn when Eric Bachmann (the singer and songwriting force behind the band) finished tuning, then turned to the audience and announced, "We'd like to do a few songs out in the audience, so turn the PA off."

And then he and the band (all two of 'em) hopped off the stage and walked to the bar, where he promptly began to belt out New Drink For The Old Drunk, backed by banjo and stand up bass. I had no response to this - that's one of my favorite Crooked Fingers' songs and this acoustic version was breath-taking. As that song finished, Bachmann continued on with a similar acoustic rendition of Prince's When U Were Mine (again, another favorite) before finishing this mini-set with another song off the first album.

Afterwards, they went back to the stage and plugged in. Over the course of the set, Crooked Fingers focused mainly on material from the first album. It sounded good, but that's not surprising considering I've heard Bachmann et al play this stuff for over 2 years now. Still the stand-out songs of this performance were the covers: Under Pressure, Fortunate Son, and Sunday Morning Coming Down. Although he didn't write any of these songs, Bachmann has the uncanny ability to take someone else's work and make it entirely his own. While part of this is due to Bachmann's unique voice, it seems like there's something more going on. It's like Bachmann and his band are acting as troubadours -- reading and, more importantly, giving emotion to, other people's words. This isn't to suggest that Crooked Fingers is unoriginal or should change totally to a cover-band. However, it's clear that this ability is special and should be encouraged.

After the concert, as we walked back to the car, I reflected on the evening. It was a good night at The Echo Lounge: the sound issues were kept to a minimum, the bands performed exceedingly well, and the music was energetic as well as entertaining. After a few disappointing evenings out, it was really nice to go to a good show, if only to remind me of why I like concerts so much.

Related Links:

Album Review: Azure Ray by Azure Ray
Album Review: Bring On The Snakes by Crooked Fingers


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