Thursday, June 2, 2011

June 01, 2011 Jeff LeBlanc and Mike Krum

Jeff LeBlanc and Mike Krum both headlined at Acoustic Long Island on the first concert of the summer series. Jeff LeBlanc singing style can best be compared to the talented Chris Ayers and Tim Blane. And while his songs were well crafted, they never reached the highs that characterized those two artists. Instead, LeBlanc’s songs can best be described as pretty, the kind of songs that you could snuggle up to with someone you love while sitting by the a fire and want to complete the mood. His songs never reached deep into your soul or lifted you off your seat. For the first half of his set he was accompanied on the duel keyboard by his talented philosophy professor from Sacred Heart University, a man who made you want to go back and reread Socrates, Aristotle and maybe Henri Bergson. For the second half LeBlanc went solo incorporating a music loop machine into his performance. While it was amazing to watch his pyrotechnic footwork as he looped riffs and rhythms and voiceovers, he slowly drifted off into a solipsistic world, where like an onion when you peel back the layers, the core seemed empty and lonely. These machines must be addicting to musicians, much like gazing into two mirrors toward infinity. Unfortunately they produce endlessly layered repetition which contradicts what real music is all about where musicians, not machines, play off each other. This isn’t to say that Jeff LeBlanc doesn’t have some wonderfully rendered songs. Until We Get It Right has a nice vocal reach and emotional pull. His song Believe in a Chris Ayers style is a simple lyrical ballad. He ended the night with the return of his college professor to the stage and their rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark, a sing-along that the audience loved and sang enthusiastically. The keyboardist was driving and inventive, and they played off each without the raw passion of Springsteen, but with a much needed, rousingly closing to the set. More of that please.

Mike Krum was a complete surprise. His singing style evoked Vance Gilbert with all of Vance’s soulfulness and sincerity; there were even shades of Kenny Rankin hidden deep within. There was something real about Krum’s songs that made you want to sit up and listen. On stage, he was often playful and even silly, sometimes self-deprecating and somewhat scattered. However, when he sang, he was transformed into a true artist with something to say about things that mattered: his girl friend, his friends, the breakup of a musical friendship and his generation. That generational theme he captured honestly and reverentially in his song Slacker, certainly something he is not. It would have been nice if he had brought his own guitar instead of playing an instrument that he picked up out of the Acoustic Long Island grab bag closet because the guitar was barely audible. Fortunately, he was accompanied by a wonderfully inventive electric guitarist who filled in all of the gaps, always lingering in the background, augmenting Krum’s voicing and his reach. Mike Krum ended his set with a beautifully soulful song sung in the Vance Gilbert tradition, No More, which is destined to be a classic in its own right.

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