BAND TOGETHER 1989
A Tribute to Taylor Swift’s Grammy Nominated Album “1989” and Hit Songs from the Year 1989
City Winery, Nashville, TN
February 5, 2016
Reviewer: Patti McClintic
There’s no arguing that Taylor Swift is one of the most recognizable names in popular music today. Having just wrapped up her wildly successful 1989 World Tour, the country-turned-pop star is on just about everybody’s radar, and Musicians Corner, a program for the Conservancy of Nashville’s Parthenon and Centennial Park, is no exception. The non-profit organization, which supports emerging artists, and provides inclusive arts enrichment and educational programming for adults and youth, created a fundraiser that paid tribute to Taylor Swift’s Grammy Nominated album, “1989” and songs from the year 1989.
The sold out show was held at Nashville’s City Winery, one of the city’s premier venues. Classy, yet comfortable, City Winery is especially perfect, thanks to so many things, most notably its size, and of course, the wine selaection. John Tumminello, Executive Director of Musicians Corner, served as Emcee, and his enthusiasm for both the organization and the show was obvious from the moment he graced the stage. This audience was in for quite a show!
Up first was a relatively new, yet extremely promising, band, The Railers. Recently named One of 10 New Country Artists You Need to Know, by Rolling Stone, this band proved why we need to know them last night. Performing a pulsating cover of Depeche Mode’s 1989 hit, “Personal Jesus”, it was obvious they understand the importance of opening a show on a very high note. Taking a New Wave song and tweaking it just enough with a 1960’s/hippie type vibe was nothing short of brilliant. Band member, Cassandra Lawson, the group’s sole female, showed the audience that almost any object can become a percussive instrument, by playing a large plastic bucket.
Fortunately, The Railers were afforded the opportunity to play another song. A slowed-down, acoustic version of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”. Quiet, comforting harmonies, along with a heavier drumbeat, made this version really interesting.
Alanna Royale came out next, making the quip that she was probably as different from the kind and generous Taylor Swift as anyone could be. In a voice that demands your attention, in the best possible way, Royale sang Swift’s “Style”, helped out by a guitarist, a drummer and a keyboard player.
Zeke Duhon, who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma, took the stage with an electric guitar and nothing else. He continued the 1989 New Wave cover trend by perfoming The Cure’s “Love Song”. This was one of the most uniquely captivating performances of the evening for me. The manner in which the song was presented made me feel as though I was in a writer’s room, watching a new song blossom into a potential hit. There was a subtle passion in every note and I would advise people to keep an eye on this young artist.
“Out of the Woods” another track off Swift’s 1989 album, was covered by Jill Andrews. Andrews has what I would best describe as a modern day folk music voice, and she had me transfixed during her hauntingly soothing rendition of the song. Andrews’s music can be heard on shows like ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Nashville”.
One of the night’s most anticipated songwriters was up next. Matthew Perryman Jones, who began his musical career in Decatur, Georgia in 1997, and has opened for artists such as Ingrid Michaelson, came up with a terrific new spin on the 1989 song “Here Comes Your Man” by The Pixies. Prior to playing his song, Perryman Jones made sure the audience knew that even though he is a child of the 1970’s, he is quite familiar with Taylor Swift’s “1989” album. Having three daughters at home, he’s heard the album “ad nauseum”.
Heather Morgan, a native of Richardson, Texas, with hits like Sara Evans’s “Slow Me Down” and Brett Eldredge’s “Beat of the Music” under her songwriting belt, performed Swift’s “I Wish You Would”. Stumbling on the lyrics a few times, the audience assisted by singing the song along with her. If anyone wondered if there were Taylor Swift fans in the audience, this proved there were.
In one of the most gorgeous performances of the night, Montreal native and son of a pastor, Marc Martel, played keyboard and sang Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting”. The moment the song became familiar to the crowd, the sound of applause rang through the room, but quickly stopped so the beauty of Martel’s musicianship could be heard. Eavesdropping on those around me, it was probably an audience favorite up to that point.
Korby Lenker, not long ago, launched one of the most creative promotions this writer has ever heard of. To promote his book, “Medium Hero”, he offered fans who ordered a copy, something he calls an “Audio Autograph”, a one-of-a-kind, personalized song. His creative gene doesn’t end with writing books or coming up with catchy promotions, he’s also a very good musician. Playing a baritone ukulele, and getting some help from an accordian player and a guitarist, “Bad Blood” from Swift’s “1989” album was covered and sprinkled with exceptionally pleasing harmonies.
Anyone who was alive and old enough to turn on a radio in 1989, will remember Paula Abdul’s smash hit, “Straight Up”. The danceable, upbeat pop song was turned completely on its head by Little Rock, Arkansas native, Elise Davis. Acoustic, soulful and slowed way down, you never would have guessed this song could be arranged this way, let alone, performed like it was. Easily one of the best showings of the evening, Davis proved that any song can be interpreted in a highly different way.
Season Four of NBC’s “The Voice” made winner, Danielle Bradbery a country music star, but another contestant from that same season, Caroline Glaser, is proving that you don’t have to capture the top prize to make your way in the rough and tumble world of music. Hailing from Chesterfield, Missouri, Glaser took Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” and sang in a style reminiscent of Lisa Loeb in the 1990’s.
Matthew Perryman Jones, who performed earlier in the show, will be joined on his 2016 overseas tour, by Angel Snow, who was the next artist to take the stage. Her rendition of Go West’s 1989 song “King of Wishful Thinking” was stunningly pretty. Lyrics that are refreshingly clear and easy to understand, made this stripped down version especially enjoyable. Those able to catch a show on the Perryman Jones/Snow tour would be encouraged to do so.
Young, energetic and quite simply, a barrel of fun, Houston, Texas native, Olivia Lane took the stage and immediately woke up anyone that may have somehow fallen asleep. Bouncing up, front and center with her guitar, she informed the audience that she “Just had a glass of wine, and WOO!” Having opened for artists such as Wynonna and Frankie Ballard, Lane didn’t disappoint with her interpretation of “How You Get The Girl”, another track off the “1989” album.
Even artist tribute shows can have their problems. Little ones, just about inconsequential ones. Crystal Boxersox, a 2010 “American Idol” runner up, freely confessed that she might be the only person who has never heard Taylor Swift’s “1989” in it’s entirety. That’s all well and good, because her cover of “This Love” was exquisite. Performed with Robby Hecht, the harmonies were spot on, and it can’t be said that Boxersox can’t hold a note – not only can she – she does it very, very well.
Jeffrey Austin, a contestant from last season’s “The Voice” and a member of Team Gwen (Stefani), was definitely a viewer favorite. Jordan Smith ultimately won, but Austin, having carved out a tremendous fan base, is quickly navigating his way through the music industry. Having recently moved to Los Angeles, I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from him. In a mesmerizing cover of Swift’s “Clean”, Austin showed Nashville that he has what it takes to become a star.
Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” was released in 1989. One of the most intensely sad songs ever written, one needs to be rather courageous to cover it, and “American Idol” Season Eight winner, Kris Allen, not only covered it well, he captured the highest notes flawlessly. The Jacksonville, Arkansas native handled one of the most familiar songs about unrequited love with ease.
Morgan Myles, a native of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, took on one of the most controversial songs of the year 1989. When the video for Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” was released, critics called for it to be banned. It was called sacrilegious and offensive to people of faith, due to its images of burning crosses and stigmata. Twenty six years have passed and the controversy of the video has settled down, leaving the song to stand on its own. A rousing song that makes one think of gospel churches where uplifting music is as vital as the sermon, Myles’s cover version of “Like a Prayer” turned City Winery into one of those church services. The audience eagerly clapped and sang along. Easily a highlight of the evening.
Myles left the next performer in a difficult spot. How could one follow an act like hers? Maybe we need to ask Springfield, Ohio native, Griffin House, because not only did he follow, he totally nailed that difficult task. Singing Roy Orbison’s “You Got It”, he continued to keep the crowd engaged. Having opened for the likes of John Mellencamp and Mat Kearney, he’s learned a thing or two about grabbing an audience and keeping their attention.
When Louisa Wendorff and Devin Dawson decided to make a YouTube mashup video of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space’ and “Style”, they probably never dreamed it would become viral. They probably also never imagined that it would catch the attention of none other than Taylor Swift herself. After seeing the video, Swift took to Twitter, tweeting her thoughts about it, with one word – “Obsessed”. Obviously the best compliment you could ask for, they must have realized they did it right. So right, in fact, that they didn’t put it away in a closet, they found the perfect opportunity to perform it live last night. To call the mashup version brilliant is probably not saying enough. These two voices are meant to sing together, and the arrangement is stellar. Here’s hoping this isn’t a “one and done” for Wendorff and Dawson. The two finished their slot by singing “Happy Birthday” to several audience members lucky enough to be celebrating their birthdays February 5th.
Whoever said being on a hit TV show was easy, needs to speak with Aubrey Peeples, who plays Layla Grant on ABC’s “Nashville”. Unlike other shows, cast members on “Nashville” really do sing, play and write songs. Peeples, who was on the bill to perform at the fundraiser, was running late, unsure if she’d even make it, thanks to a long filming day that kept getting longer. Her professionalism was apparent as she kept the organizers of the event apprised as to her status on the set, and fortunately, she arrived near the end of the show. Singing Bonnie Raitt’s “Ain’t Gonna Let You Break My Heart Again”, accompanied by the very talented, Daniel Donato on guitar, she did right by her fans. She not only showed up, she showed up and sang beautifully.
John and Jacob, a four piece band, headed up by John Davidson and Jacob Bryant, both natives of Birmingham, Alabama, helped end the evening by performing Swift’s “I Know Places”. Wearing matching blue pants and jackets, these guys are true entertainers.
Joined by Sam Palladio, who plays Gunnar Scott on ABC’s “Nashville” they also played the most incredible cover of the Phil Collins hit “Another Day in Paradise”. Palladio took control of the drum kit and, just like Phil Collins, not only played drums, but sang lead vocals as well.
Finally, any great show needs a really outstanding encore, and the Band Together 1989 show made sure they stuck to that rule. All of the artists that performed came together to sing Taylor Swift’s mega hit, “Shake It Off”. Encouraging the audience to get up and dance and sing along, it was a glorious finish to a very well put together event. Comments heard on the way out solidified that it was a huge success and I’m one person that can’t wait to see what Musicians Corner and Band Together come up with next!