Friday Morning’s Regret/Howe Gelb
April 21, 2005 – The Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto, Ont
by Leanda Quinquet

Howe Gelb solo shows are few and far between, so I was super excited to find out that he was playing a show here in Toronto on his way to finish recording his new album in Ottawa.

The opening band, Friday Morning’s Regret, is based in Toronto. They feature an acoustic guitar player (who also plays a mean harmonica), a solid bass player and standard drum kit. They started their set with a happy little folk song and the second song was even better. Entitled “Last Train” this song was upbeat, fun, full of sweet hooks and pretty much established the tone for the rest of their set. The vocalist has an interesting voice, rough and sandy at times, then switching to lilting and smooth in all the right places. These guys play folk based pop songs, reminiscent of Neil Young and early Allman Brothers but tastefully mixed with their own modern flare.

The set was good although they really needed to work on their between-song banter; it was painful, awkward and failing in confidence – a big turn off. The songs were simple and lyrics heartfelt, often bringing a smile to faces in the audience. This band is brilliant to listen to, but they really have to work on their stage presence.  I also felt like they played for at least 15 minutes too long.

The openers brought their set to a close and by that time the stuffy old Horseshoe was packed. Everyone waited eagerly for Gelb to dazzle them with his legendary tunes and eccentric, bright character. Howe is the lead singer of Arizona’s Giant Sand. His voice is large and deadly, crisp and sharp, hard and dirty all at once. He started the show with a great rendition of the “Huckleberry Finn” theme tune played on keyboard. Throughout the show he did not use a set list, choosing to play whatever tunes took his, or the audience’s, fancy. He played his own songs, Giant Sand tunes and performed covers brilliantly adding his own eclectic flavor. Within one song he played partial covers of Neil Young and Thelonious Monk tunes, so very smooth and truly amazing.

Throughout the show he played acoustic and electric guitars as well as keyboard, sometimes switching back and forth effortlessly between the two instruments, playing parts that during most other shows would be played by two musicians. He was phenomenal to watch, and hear. Using two mics, one regular, and the other heavily drenched in effects, to recreate the rusty vocals Giant Sand are renowned for, he created a brilliant sound. Each song was armed with screeching, disarming guitars, kept neatly in check by solid, strong vocals. Howe’s lyrics are also a highlight, often humorous but delivered in such a dry way and in his thick southern drawl, that it takes time for the humor to sink in. By the time that it has, he’s hit you with yet another line equally as poignant as the last.

If you get the chance to see this man in action playing solo, do so, you won’t regret it. He’s entertaining, resourceful and brimming with stage presence and showmanship that it incomparable.

For more information on Howe Gelb visit the Giant Sands website at:
www.giantsand.com
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