Patricia Barber live at the Regattabar

Caught Patricia for TWO sets at the Regattabar in Cambridge last week. Her imposing height and older look surprised me.
She was visibly happy to see a real Steinway B set up for her in the club, and probably happy with the room EQ, although the piano was pretty hardened in the treble by use of only Shure SM58's for support. The standup bass player's grooves were REALLY great-sounding, as well that ethereal guitar. Her first set was fine, already-tight, and professional. The interplay with her longterm bandmates was impressive, portraying sensitivity, patience, and acute listening. Her cues to them were invisible, and seemingly purely musical. Nice!
The second set found her becoming hunched over the B, her long back arched heavily ala Quosimodo. She began to scat and hoot, and after frequent sips of scotch to gesticulate wildly between facial grimaces reminiscent of Joe Cocker at his best/worst!
Her playing became more insistent, creative, loose, and inspired, her bandmates listening intently so as to build upon her lead for their solos. Songs lengthened, as her composure merged towards a Tourette's Syndrome, all the while reciting a series of verses (hence the latest CD title).
So this evolution toward more eclecticism via her songwriting seemingly veers away from the reinvention of standards approach I had known her for. And it's more than cute literal invention. She's become a half-crazed poet!
Following the set I reminded her that she has a strong following among audiophiles (sorry, guys, just couldn't come up with a better line!). She placidly grunted "Yeah...that helps.)
I found myself with the bass player in the men's room, and related my use of Companion as a system reference. He remembered that that was his first recording with though it was eons ago (1992?).
Musicians as real people...changing...evermore human?
See ya. Ern
I, for one, am sorry to hear that the "Wood is Pleasant Thing" transformation continues.....

So I still think it was all downhill after the magical Gold Star Sardine Bar and Split.
I saw both those shows too - an excellent time, no doubt. Agreed her live playing is interesting, to say the least. I saw her last spring at the same locale, and her style was similar - a lot of non-traditional type stuff going on, using a small hammer on the piano strings (in that previous show, not this time), etc. Her live style is in contrast to the style on the albums - not a bad thing, IMHO. Besides, I listen for the music not her personal affectations...

I remember one interview with her (reprinted somewhere on the web or in her liner notes) where she mentioned that she's not really into live shows. She would rather spend all the time in the studio, or so it sounded from what I had read.

CWlondon - what is the Gold Star Sardine Bar? I know of her album Split but I dont' have it yet.

The Gold Star Sardine Bar was a bar on North Lake Shore Drive (666?) in Chicago which I believe has now been closed for many years. I feel lucky to have visited the bar on a few occasions between 1982 and 1986 when I was in college.

Patrons crammed into the tiny space -- packed in like "sardines" -- to drink cocktails and hear the house band: The Patricia Barber Trio!

I remember wandering in, knowing nothing about her or her music only to be mesmerized by both her playing and her voice on fabulous sets of mostly standards with an unusually jazzey, bluesey twist.

I raved about her for years and have wonderful memories of the atmosphere there and her performances, and was delighted to find a copy of Split in a Chicago based, jazz specialty store.

After that however, she seems to have moved steadily away for her old classic style and gone in some weird, esoteric direction, perhaps best expressed by the unlistenable track: "Wood is a Pleasant Thing".

Maybe I am just old fashioned and sentimental. I used to be her biggest fan. I suppose I just don't get it.