Following my previous post about the Left Banke reunion I am in equal measure envious and privileged to hear a first-hand account of the show. A wonderful guest post by Rob Pollack:
It was Saturday evening, March 5, 2011 and at the sold out show at Joe’s Pub in New York City, anyone who was fortunate enough to be there would swear it was 1967 again. The hopeful and optimistic vibe of our youth was in the air, the sweet music chimed in our ears… and all that magic was the gift we received from NYC’s own The Left Banke.
The show reunited original band members Tom Finn and George Cameron for the first time since 1970 and presented a powerhouse of “Baroque pop” to an audience palpably loving every nostalgic note and nuance of the songs that first came out of our transistor radios so many years ago.
Tom and George were supported by an incredible lead singer Mike Fornatale who at times, seemed to be channeling Robert Plant. The guy had pipes, along with just the right attitude and vocal sophistication to impart the original feeling of hopeless desperation and longing in the The Left Banke’s 1967 smash, (Just) Walk Away Renee and the exuberant, driving hopefulness of that night’s opening number, She May Call You Up Tonight.
The band was tight both vocally and instrumentally. Demonstrating note for note emulation of the original recordings in most cases, it was clear that careful consideration was given to the elements of the band so that inimitable “Left Banke” sound would be recaptured at Joe’s Pub.
Joining forces with Tom, George and Mike were Paul Alves on lead guitar, Mickey Finn and Joe McGinty on keyboards / synths and on drums, Rick Reil who is the drummer for the Grip Weeds. Anyone who knows the work of The Left Banke knows that strings were a part of their studio sound and that was not forgotten at Joe’s Pub. Susan Aquila on violin and Eleanor Norton on cello provided the subtle elegance of the Baroque pop sound and completed the formula for total aural pleasure!
This amazing band played a total of 21 songs without intermission or interruption. The sound system and acoustics at Joe’s Pub are probably the best in New York City right now. Without the Bottom Line around, the only venue in New York which would have had the sense to bring us this show was Joe’s Pub and they are owed our gratitude as well.
The crowd was respectful, perfectly quiet at all times and riveted to the stage from beginning to end. Every song was musical perfection and the audience clearly recognized and appreciated that. At times, the performers actually seemed somewhat surprised that the audience’s reaction was so warm. Maybe Tom and George never truly realized the legacy of The Left Banke but I think after that night, they might finally understand.
The history of The Left Banke is interesting and I highly recommend that readers explore what the web has to offer in this regard, as well as YouTube videos of their performances all those years ago.
However, here, the essence of what I want to impart is this; The Left Banke back then, was not an ordinary band. They were special. Their sound was theirs and theirs alone. Their songs were intelligent creations of beauty, harmony and magic which were the perfect soundtrack of the times.
Luckily, the songs of The Left Banke have never left the airwaves, our hearts or souls and with the flick of an amplifier’s switch, on March 5, 2011 at Joe’s Pub, we were all transported back to when a Pretty Ballerina named Renee was as real to us as she was to Tom and George.
Rob Pollack, New York, 2011
Photo in vivid Creative Commons technicolour by Amy Hope Dermont