By Michael Lello
Photos by Jesse Faatz
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Just a day after the release of her ninth album, “Love and Hate,” musical chameleon Joan Osborne continued the FM Kirby Center’s “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” series with a remarkable set that spanned blues, folk, pop and everything in between.
Performing in a trio format with Keith Cotton (piano) and Jack Petrucelli (guitar), Osborne took the stage after a brief instrumental introduction, sliding comfortably into Muddy Waters’ “I Want To Be Loved.” Osborne’s delivery was suitably sultry and slinky – not unlike Peggy Lee’s famous take on “Fever” – as she snapped her fingers during a Petrucelli guitar solo.
By contrast, “Where We Start,” from the new album, was a bright and airy ballad, simple in its arrangement, and like much of Osborne’s material, very direct and very effective. The musical colors shifted again, as programmed drum beats, Cotton’s funky synthesizer and Petrucelli’s electric guitar built a steady rock beat for another “Love and Hate” selection. Another new one was delivered with elegiac reverence and building intensity, not unlike the late-show Jerry Garcia ballads that became emotional peaks of latter Grateful Dead shows (more on that band later). “Thirsty For My Tears” continued the parade of “Love and Hate” tunes and featured some clever lovelorn lyrics, like “save my secrets for your ammunition.” It was upbeat and catchy.
Osborne then mentioned her association with the members of the Grateful Dead (she performed in the post-Garcia outfits The Dead and Phil Lesh & Friends), calling it a “master class” in learning great songs. She then delivered an arresting version of the Grateful Dead tearjerker “Brokedown Palace,” giving the “American Beauty” classic the reverence it deserves but with some of her own twists. It was a heartfelt and warm rendition.
“Work On Me,” with some Spanish-flavored guitar by Petrucelli, was another nicely performed new song, leading up to “St. Teresa,” a dark standout from Osborne’s 1995 smash debut album “Relish.” Osborne strummed some acoustic guitar while belting out the familiar tune, a dynamic trip from minor-key doom in the verses to cathartic choruses.
After a few more songs, including the “Love and Hate” title track, Osborne predictably ended her set with her signature track, “One Of Us,” the “Relish” song that put her on the map – and all over MTV and VH1. The stripped-down trio version of the song, which imagines God as a regular, glamour-free guy who deals with the same everyday issues as us “slobs,” was even more impactful than in its iconic recorded take.
Having earlier covered an Ike Turner song, as well as the aforementioned Muddy Waters and Grateful Dead tracks, Osborne used the encore portion of the concert to revisit another classic artists, Bob Dylan. Her take on “Make You Feel My Love,” from Dylan’s 1997 record “Time Out Of Mind,” was emotionally direct and musically simple – and remarkably moving. In other words, the type of song that is perfectly suited for Osborne, who at the Kirby Center last week gave a show that was short on flash and long on substance, the type of show that reminds one of the power of songwriting and live performance.