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June 4, 2010


Concert recap: Duncan Sheik at City Winery, week 1

by Jesse North

Duncan Sheik was definitely enjoying his quirkiness Thursday night at his concert at City Winery. In his first of two June shows at the SoHo restaurant and concert venue (the second is June 10), Sheik performed an album by the late British singer/songwriter Nick Drake—Pink Moon—in its entirety. Sheik repeatedly highlighted the music’s mellow, and sometimes vague, quality, of which the audience seemed unfamiliar with (as was I). Sheik humorously joked with the audience, thanking them for their cooperation with his indulgence throughout the album’s 11 songs.

Despite the album’s obscurity to most of the audience, Drake’s music shares many similar qualities to Sheik’s, overlapping in somberness, soft tones, and introspective lyrics. Accompanying Sheik was Gerry Leonard on lead guitar. In fact, these two shows at City Winery seem to be a split-up version of Sheik’s March concert at New Jersey’s South Orange Performing Arts Center. Leonard assisted Sheik there as well, as did Whisper House’s Holly Brook, who will be joining him at next week’s show. Sheik also added that during next week’s concert, he will be singing covers of songs from the 1980s from artists such as Tears For Fears and Depeche Mode—some of which he played at the SOPAC show.

Set list:
From Nick Drake’s Pink Moon album:
“Pink Moon”
“Place To Be”
“Which Will”
“Things Behind The Sun”
“Free Ride”
“Harvest Breed”
“From The Morning”
Solo work:
“She Runs Away”
“Star-field On Red Lines”
“Half Life”
“The End of Outside”
“Such Reveries”
“Barely Breathing”
“Half A Room” (new song)
“Don’t Do Sadness” (from Spring Awakening, minus “Blue Wind”)

In addition to Leonard on lead guitar, Sheik was joined by three violinists and a cellist during the 90-minute set (which started 20 minutes late). The accompaniment of the strings played beautifully in “Half Life” and “Such Reveries” (which can be seen in the embedded videos). Sheik shook up his playlist, which had recently been growing stagnant, by playing “Star-field On Red Lines” from White Limousine and “The End of Outside” from his self-titled album.

The Tony and Grammy winner was in good spirits, constantly interacting and bantering with the audience in his bashful way. Exceedingly self-aware of the style of his music, he introduced numerous songs by saying, “Continuing with the super-mellow vibe of the evening…” What was peculiar about Sheik’s performance was his tendency to forget song lyrics, which was always noticeable due to a frustrated shake of his head.

Sheik did perform “Barely Breathing,” but once again, brushed aside his biggest solo hit by saying, “Here’s a pop song for you.” Sheik closed his encore with an always powerful rendition of “Don’t Do Sadness” from Spring Awakening, although noticeably missing was its interlacing tune “Blue Wind.” It was refreshing to see Sheik stay clear of his musical theater work, only to remind that he can still stand strongly as a solo recording artist. Expect a return to the theatrical songs, however, when next week he is joined by Whisper House’s Brook. (Check back next week for Stage Rush’s coverage of Sheik’s second concert at City Winery)

City Winery
155 Varick St., New York, NY

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. NothingSpecial
    Jun 5 2010

    There is one song missing from your set list. He performed “River Man” from Drake’s “Five Leaves Left” album (which he covered on his EP “humming along”) after “Pink Moon” was finished. :)

    • Jun 5 2010

      Aha, you’re right! I felt like there was one missing! Thank you!


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