November 2, 2012
Michael Cerveris, Tony Award winning actor for Sondheim’s Assassins and currently appearing on Broadway in Evita, is moonlighting these nights after his performances at 54 Below with his country rock band Loose Cattle in a show entitled Live and Largely Unwashed. Cerveris, whom I first saw doing a rock act between his great performances as Georgio in Sondheim’s Passion in Washington, DC at the Kennedy Center, is an engaging performer no matter what the music genre.. Wearing a slouch hat and casual ware, he announced that his show had no theme. He was just going to sing what he wanted to.
Cerveris surrounded himself with superior musicians: Guitarist Gabriel Caplan, Mandolin, Alex Harvey (who had walked in all the way from Brooklyn,) young Lorenzo Wolff on bass and bass guitar, long haired Gabriel Kaplan on electric guitar, Eddy Zweiback on drums and percussion, amazingly skillful Justin Smith on fiddle/violin, and young Kimberly Kaye on duets and vocal solos. All of their work had the audience, who had braved Tropical Storm Sandy’s transportation and weather woes, cheering and bravo-ing after many of the numbers.
Cerveris’ opening was John Cooley’s “Get Downtown,” a rocker from the group Drive By Truckers, which has a recurring lyric shared with Kaye which states “Just get downtown and see what you can find.” Cerveris and Kaye followed up with a vengeance song, Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Gasoline and Matches.”
Kaye was truly stunning singing Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” pining for someone who was rejecting her for someone richer, but Cerveris countered with Cee Lo and Bruno Mars‘ “F— You,” a cursing song from a wronged lover. The combination was funny and heart-breaking. Other country flavored rock songs were Mark Bileyn of Big Smith‘s “Backwater” on which Cerveris and Harvey switched instruments: Cerveris took Harvey’s mandolin and Harvey took Cerveris’ acoustical guitar, both playing brilliantly on Cerveris’ own “Dog Eared,” from his first album.
One of the most interesting songs was one inspired by the clutter in Cerveris’ apartment. His friend, Paul Sanchez, saw the place and wrote “New Amsterdam” and in his generosity gave Cerveris’ co-writing credit. Cerveris’ next number was a poetic song he wrote inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Evangeline,” about the displacement of the Cajuns from Canada, forcing them down river until they landed in the swamps of Louisiana. Cerveris’ performance was tender and moving, as was Kaye‘s solo on Brandi Carlile‘s “Raise Hell.”
Cerveris paid tribute to the Carter Family singing their arrangement of the traditional “Storms Are On The Ocean.” And yes, Bob Dylan was included when the group exploded with his ghost story “Walking Down the Line” paired with Whisky Town’s “Hard Luck Story” and Old Crow Medicine Show‘s “Wagon Wheel.”
The encore was Cerveris’ own “Electricity” which brought everyone to their feet.
The performance was being recorded live even though there were many instances of spontaneous cursing which will probably be edited later. It is a stunning and exhilarating performance.
Michael Cerveris and Loose Cattle’s Live and Largely Unwashed repeats Saturday, December 3 at 11 PM at 54 Below. Reservations are strongly advised. Call 866 468 7619 or visit www.54Below.com. Use code SANDY10 for $10 off cover.