Saturday, July 3, 2010

Kathy Mattea in Concert

I attended a Kathy Mattea concert two weekends ago. It was pretty good. The lady certainly has pipes and, for my money, sounds better today than she did on some of her early albums.

The concert was at Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall, so it was acoustic, accompanied by a guitarist, a guy on mandolin and violin, and a guy on stand-up bass. You don't see a stand-up bass in pop music very often. Kathy herself played guitar on many tunes and is quite the accomplished player herself.

The set went just over two hours, excluding intermission. I was sitting in the front row, off to the right, about 10 feet from a speaker, so I heard everything perfectly, if not too loudly. My view of the musicians was almost in profile, so Kathy and the mandolin/violin player were backlit by a yellow key light that made it look like she was going gray.

As a group, they played extremely well and the accoustic arrangements suited her catalog very well. I enjoyed the music very much.

OK, now for the quibbles.

Orchestra Hall is a pit. Not an orchestra pit, but an old, decripit hovel. I was expecting seats similar to what I might find at a movie theater, but the seats were actually small, non-reclining, wooden framed, and uncomfortable. Think airline seats but not as nice. If I hadn't been in the front row, I would have had no leg-room at all. They also served alcohol in the lobby, so there were a bunch of tipsy people smelling of booze all around me. The whole place was dingy and dank.

I also had a fundamental disagreement with Orchestra Hall over the ticket price. There were originally two Kathy Mattea shows scheduled last November but one was cancelled, the other postponed. I thought I should get a refund for the cancelled show and a ticket to the postponed show but they thought it would be fair to give me two tickets to the single postponed show. I'm one guy - it's difficult to be in two seats at once. A ticket agent for the Orchestra tried to tell me how fair their refund policy was but when I asked for cash back for one of the tickets, she said they never return money. Fair for them, I guess. My front row seat, off to the side and too close to the speakers cost me a cool $130.

Kathy Mattea has an unhealthy obsession with coal. She released an album in 2008 compiled of folk songs about coal miners, coal towns, and mine disasters, so it was understandable that she'd hit songs from that album pretty heavily, but think about this: coal mining is a dirty business and mine disasters are, by their very nature, not pleasant events, so the songs are rather depressing. I would have preferred that she play more of the old hits. I will name three songs that I consider mandatory for a Kathy Mattea concert set that weren't included: Lonesome Standard Time, Love Travels and what would have to be a crowd-pleasing BFD. I would also have loved to hear her sing Quarter Moon live. Its arrangement is already mostly accoustic, so it should have been easy to play.

My final quibble. For her encore, a concept I have issues with in general, the band played an instrumental song. It was a fine song but not what I was looking for from a Grammy-award winning singer.

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