The Kennedys

No, I’m not talking about John, Bobby and Ted (or Caroline, either). With Obama in the White House, my ire isn’t as high as it was during the Bush dark ages. (Which is not to say there is nothing to be angry at: see here.) So, I’m going to start writing more about movies, music, TV, books or what have you.

Today I am writing about the husband and wife duo, The Kennedys. Amy and I saw The Kennedys perform at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs on Friday. Located on charming Phila Street and next door to a great southern-food restaurant called Hattie’s (where we had dinner before the show), Caffe Lena is a great venue. It seats around 75 people, so every seat is no more than 20 feet from the stage. Reputedly the oldest coffee house in the world, Caffe Lena has hosted the likes of Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Odetta, Don McLean — well, a veritable Who’s Who of folk musicians. I’ve attended several shows there, often with my good friend Holley. This was the second time I came for a Kennedys show, because the first one was so great.

Pete and Maura Kennedy claim their first date was visiting the grave of Buddy Holly. I don’t know if this is true or just part of the legend they like to spin, but the spirit of the story seems totally authentic. Everything this duo does appears devoted to music. They write wonderfully catchy pop tunes, but they also perform a wide range of covers, from — not surprising — Buddy Holly to George Gershwin. Their genuine reverence for all this material is a large part of what makes their performances so enjoyable. Their joy is infectious.

Of course, all the enthusiasm in the world doesn’t make up for lack of skill. That’s not a problem with The Kennedys, who are both accomplished musicians. Pete, especially, is a guitar virtuoso and I mean that literally. He does things on the guitar I have not seen or heard before. It is a privilege to watch his fingers fly over the strings, whether its his acoustic guitar or the ukulele. (I’ve also seen Pete on the electric sitar, but he didn’t bring it to this show.) And Maura, who handles most of the vocals, has a sweet soprano voice and plays a pretty mean rhythm guitar.

This show featured a lot of Buddy Holly covers (see the set list below), as they seem to be on a Holly kick. Pete and Maura also each did a mini solo set — three songs each. Maura, especially, seems to be making an effort to do some solo work — as you’ll see when you visit their web site. Her new song “Shadows of the Lonely” is a haunting ballad insipired by Patsy Cline.

Pete’s set included his ukulele rendition of “Rhapsody in Blue,” which you might think was done tongue-in-cheek, a la Tiny Tim, but you’d be wrong. Oh, there’s humor and wimsy, for sure, but also genuine respect for this classic American piece — and that is precisely what makes The Kennedys so unique.

So, if you ever have the opportunity, I urge you to seek out and listen to The Kennedys in concert. You will not be disappointed.

Set one:

  • The Speed of Soul
  • I Found a Road
  • Ninth Street Billy
  • Breathe
  • Everyday

Pete Solo –

  • Cool Breeze
  • Alabama Rain
  • Rhapsody in Blue (on the yuke)

Pete & Maura-

  • Maddy Groves (?)

 

Set two:

  • Wall of Death
  • Season of the Witch
  • Midnight Ghost

Maura Solo-

  • Shadows with the Lonely (her Patsy Cline style song)
  • Road Workers Day (to her grand father)
  • Make It Last (her Peggy Sue rip off)

Pete & Maura-

  • True Love Ways
  • Words of Love
  • Rave On
  • Stand

Encore:

  • Life is Large 
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