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Articles by S. Balaji Mani

February 12, 2010
Acclaimed jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, on his penultimate U.S. tour date before heading to Europe, treated Sanders Theater to a solo performance last Friday. The venue’s Steinway filled the space, highlighting notes in the upper registers and allowing lower notes to reverberate appropriately. Mehldau entered minutes after 8 p.m. wearing a brown suit, and promptly began after switching the piano bench onstage with one he’d found backstage. “There was another gig before me,” he informed the audience, eliciting laughs and foreshadowing what would be an intimate night.
January 27, 2010
Sunday night at Somerville Theatre saw an eclectic pairing of the young Clare and the Reasons with the more experienced bossa-jukebox of Nouvelle Vague. In support of their second album <i>Arrow</i>, Clare Manchon, her co-collaborator husband Olivier Manchon and multi-instrumentalist Bob Hart opened the night with a set of mellow numbers. With Ms. Manchon’s voice the primary foundation for most songs, the backing “Reasons” shuffled between xylophones, violin, makeshift drumkits, keyboards, and even a bowed saw to fill in the gaps. Melodies, such as the chorus for “Ooh You Hurt Me So,” are easy to grasp, albeit due to its repetitive nature. While the songs were simplistic, Ms. Manchon’s lyrics are readily candid and conversational. She even sings a few songs in French, her husbands native language. The last three songs comprised what Ms. Manchon dubbed the “scientific portion of the spectacular,” a closing set which kicked off with the tongue-in-cheek “Pluto.” The song begins in French, addressing the late planet and its recent reconsideration-of-planethood as reported by the <i>New York Times</i>. The verse is then repeated, in English, fully clarifying the message of the song for the majority of the audience.
January 27, 2010
Clare Manchon, lead vocalist and songwriter of Clare and The Reasons, answered a few of <i>The Tech</i>’s questions after supporting Nouvelle Vague at Somerville Theatre on Sunday.
October 30, 2009
Afrobeat groove specialists Rubblebucket Orchestra will play a special show tomorrow night at the Middle East Downstairs. The morning after a gig in Hartford, I caught vocalist and saxophonist Kalmia Traver on the phone to discuss Rubblebucket Orchestra’s past, the new record Rubblebucket, and the influence of African music on her band’s style.
October 16, 2009
Built to Spill, just days after the release of their seventh LP There Is No Enemy, stopped by Cambridge for a three night run at The Middle East Downstairs last weekend. After seventeen years and a handful of different lineups, songwriter Doug Martsch is still at the helm, looking aged but adjusted. The “well-groomed” five-piece took the stage on Sunday, warmed up after two nights in the same venue, opening with a powerful version of “You Were Right,” a tune from 1999’s Keep it Like a Secret. The song pulled the audience back and forth through a dynamic maze, always climaxing with Martsch’s accusation, “you were wrong/when you said/everything’s gonna be alright.” The song benefited from the controlled layering of three guitars. Most notably, guitarist Brett Netson’s overdriven leads cut through the mix at times to reveal a deeper counterpoint against Martsch’s riffing.
October 9, 2009
Of the all the bands that came out of Seattle and popularized the grunge movement in the early 90s, Pearl Jam is essentially the only surviving group that has consistently released albums and amassed a following of devoted fans. In the beginning, it was Ten that launched the group onto the map.
October 2, 2009
There are a lot of ways to change a song. Obsessive fans tend to covet rare gems like acoustic strip-downs, jazz renditions, or the occasional remix. For the real collector, though, there’s always another avenue: the string tribute. Often unadorned, and painfully obvious in its recapitulation of a melody, the string tribute does no more for a song than a fancy carrying case does for an iPod — you may think you’re stepping up in class, but you’re right where you began.
August 28, 2009
I can remember, sometime in early spring, reading a blogger’s hilarious indie bulletin: “In other news, Wilco continues to take over the world.” Back then, before Wilco’s latest self-titled effort had even leaked, I reflected on this statement as a clear indicator of the upcoming year. Frontman Jeff Tweedy and his band of inidie-alt-folkers-whatever-you-wanna-call-ems (oh, all the genre dodging Wilco goes through) now sit close to the top of the music world, garnering steady attention ever since the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot debacle that cemented their name as true artists.
April 17, 2009
Whether you’re completely new to MIT or a self-proclaimed lifer, there are always plenty of ways to get involved with the arts at MIT, or in the surrounding community. Here’s a brief guide to what kinds of arts opportunities are available at MIT. If you’re hoping to get off campus for a bit and explore arts in the city, there’s even more out there to satisfy your craving. This article isn’t intended to list every group at MIT nor every concert hall in Boston, but rather to give a small sampling of what you could enjoy here. Exploring on your own is always an encouraged avenue for finding out about art at MIT and in the city!
April 10, 2009
What better way to spend my 21st birthday weekend than with my favorite band, The Bad Plus. The time-shifting, genre-bending trio celebrated songs from their new release, For All I Care, as well as old tunes (and some new, but unreleased ones as well) at Berklee Performance Center on Friday, April 3rd, and at Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Saturday April 4th. The trio, consisting of Reid Anderson (bass), Ethan Iverson (piano), and David King (drums), have been playing the majority of their shows with vocalist Wendy Lewis, who joined the band on For All I Care. On both shows this weekend, they began with a traditional trio set, and then brought Lewis out for the second half.
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