Livingston Taylor Touched, Tickled Flagpole Café Crowd
By John Voket
Livingston Taylor may not pack huge arenas like his equally talented brother James, but he certainly made an impression on the sold-out audience who came to hear his unique brand of originals and covers on March 24 at the Edmond Town Hall Theatre as part of the latest Flagpole Radio Café showcase.
The house band, Flagpole Radio Café Orchestra — featuring Jim Allyn, Rob Bonaccorso, Rick Brodsky, Howie Bujese, Dick Neal and Francine Wheeler — opened the show with a couple of well received tunes, and returned again and again throughout the 90-minute gig, including providing some accompaniment to several of Taylor’s songs. Late in the show they even pulled off a respectful tribute to late Monkees frontman Davy Jones, getting toes tapping to a folk-flavored rendition of “Last Train to Clarksville.”
Host and troupe director Martin Blanco was in rare form, donning a headband and exhibiting some fancy footwork during a parody promoting “Housatonic Riverdance.” He also offered a decent impression of Senator and failed Presidential candidate John Kerry, in a skit where he instructed current GOP candidate Mitt Romney, played by fellow Shakespeare Repertory Theatre member David Wheeler — on how to appeal to “regular Americans.”
Radio Café players Barbara Gaines and Kate Katcher elicited knowing laughter and had a lot of audience members nodding in empathy during their skit about an increasingly frustrated mom trying to get her son into the school band and several other classes, as a bureaucratic guidance counselor pushed for the student to pursue classes that would help him get higher grades on a government-mandated achievement test.
Taylor’s 25-minute set, like in previous shows, was the midpoint break for the local actors. The singer-songwriter, who is also a popular professor at Berklee College of Music, mixed his own material including opener “I Must Be Doing Something Right,” with some of his favorite covers including Jerome Kearn’s “Pick Yourself Up,” and a double-shot tribute to Harold Arlen.
Arlen, who penned music for The Wizard of Oz, had his upbeat number “The Merry Old Land of Oz,” turned into a plaintive folk number by Taylor, before the Flagpole audience was enlisted to whisper sing along to a touching “Over the Rainbow.”
Taylor also tickled the crowd with a spoken piece where he imagined himself as a competitor in the very first Olympic guitar playing competition, before performing “Railroad Bill,” where the songwriter interacts with his fictional subject throughout the duration of the song, with hilarious result.
Flagpole Radio Café will wrap up its 2011-12 season on Saturday, May 19, with a show featuring Elisabeth von Trapp, granddaughter of the legendary Maria and Baron von Trapp, whose story inspired The Sound of Music.