Charlie Mars made a return to City Winery NYC, to celebrate the release of his latest LP, Blackberry Light. It was a seated, intimate affair at the classy winery and restaurant/venue, but not too classy for some old-fashioned heckling. It was apparent that the majority of the patrons in the large, decently packed place were not only there more for Charlie than just the wine and tuna tartare; but were also familiar with material of his so old that some of the requests shouted out were songs Charlie hadn’t played in so long, he confessed he didn’t even remember how to. With six albums now under his belt, no one was about to fault him for not having every single one ready to go on a dime; and it’s not like he didn’t perform over an hour and a half of old songs, new songs, and one unreleased song, plus clever between song banter and backstories all throughout that really fostered the connection between the artist and seated, attentive audience.
Charlie began by jumping right on the piano bench to play “Pacific Oceans,” one of the many tracks off Blackberry Light on the setlist. During the songs, the audience was completely silent, so only the acoustics of the flowing minimal folk melodies resonated through the space. Between songs is when there was this light repartee between artists and audience, with Charlie telling stories with his wry sense of humor and quick tongue in response to whatever the audience yelled out. When he plugged in his acoustic guitar and no sound came out at first, he joked, “Maybe I’m in the wrong input…I’ve said that before!” to hearty laughter from the crowd. He elicited a call and response on some songs, like “Meet Me By The Back Door,” when the ladies echoed the sentiment of a back door rendevous in the chorus, and Charlie remarked, “We got some bad girls in here,” which really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise with how he delivers cleverly suggestive lyrics.
Mars also manages to get funky all the while maintaining an impeccably smooth and folky vocal, like on “How I Roll,” a song about not being ashamed of the darker aspects of oneself. If it’s part of you, don’t try too hard to hide it or apologize for it, just recognize it and roll with it. This dark side is actually one of the more intriguing aspects of Mars’ music, in part because he still maintains this laid-back, cool collectiveness. If he’s feeling wild inside, he’s mastered the art of controlling the output of those feelings into what comes across as well-honed songwriting. Nothing overly complicated, just genuine outpouring of rhythmic folk with soul. He brought opener Amy Cook back out on stage to lend some vocals before delivering the popular track off his last album, “Listen to the Darkside,” and then ended on his newest single, “Let the Meter Run,” to the audience clapping into the outro.
Continuing on in support of his recent record release, Charlie Mars has show dates all the way into October. View all dates and details on his tour page, stalk him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.
Photos (c) Kelly Knapp