zondag 5 oktober 2014

Maggie Brown live in Café Stiels, Haarlem. 03-10-2014

Photo: Wo.
Maggie Brown released its eponymous album earlier this year. It got praises on this blog from Erwin Zijleman and Wo. Trying to find some more information on the band I ran into the agenda on the band's website. It was scheduled to play in this bar in Haarlem that I'd never heard of. (For more on Café Stiels see: http://www.stiels.nl/. A lot is going on there musically.)

Arriving at the bar we were the only persons present excepting the bartender and two of his friends. It did not get much better unfortunately. In the city it was very busy with people enjoying the probably last terrace evening of 2014, not so within Café Stiels. The people that did arrive unfortunately did not seem to be there for the band. This is often a two way something, which I'll come back to.

'Maggie Brown' is an album that is well crafted, with some outstanding songs on it. The two reviews on this blog speak for themselves. (See Erwin Zijleman and Wo.) There is no need to repeat the praises here. The songs were played as they should. The Caesar sound clearly stood out, in the guitar sound, voice and song structure, while the own input, the hints at Maggie Brown's own sound, shone through. Maggie Brown is more subtle and refined. All these subtle lines in the carefully built up arrangements come back in the live presentation. The dynamics in the songs, from soft spells to loud, almost wild, eruptions. The ukulele comes to the fore in two songs, showing that Maggie Brown is not afraid of silences in its music. As brave as it is dangerous in a live show. Silence in subtle songs asks for attention, even indulgence from an audience.

Photo: Wo.
This is where it gets harder to write more on the show. Half of the time I was irritated by the people talking as loud as they could through the music, which made it hard to concentrate and enjoy.

So now some good advice. Whether Maggie Brown could have done better with this audience is impossible to say. A fact is that if an act between the songs mumbles into the microphone, 100% inaudible, while it stares down at the tuning device, it does not aid the audience in getting caught. Tuning is necessary, so have a story ready. Tell about the next song, the train ride up to the show or whatever. Preferably by the guy not tuning or changing an instrument. A thing like that helps to connect to the audience. The same goes for starting a show with a clear and defining moment: "Hi, here we are. Glad you showed up", and with one of the stronger up-tempo songs. This tends to capture those present. It may work. 'Alaska' is a great song, but instrumental. Not the song to start the show with when you need to grab attention. It is a beautiful song to dream away with halfway the show.

Photo: Wo.
Coming back to the songs. Songs like 'Atlantic', 'Sunset Park', 'Stella' and 'The golden age' are special. The trick is to make them stand out. Don't let yourself be fooled by the above. Maggie Brown has these special kind of songs, so go on and check them out through the link below! The indie sound with some pop influences is perfect and the band is able to recreate this musically on stage in a very convincing way. The harmonies are good and shine live as well. Maggie Brown has a good singer and the voices to harmonise. It is that one step that is missing: interaction or connection, whatever we call it.

With the cd in my coat's pocket I bicycled home. The cd has been doing overtime in the past hours. Musically Maggie Brown has a lot to say, now it's time for the translation to the stage. I have no reason to doubt that this step will not be made by Maggie Brown.

To end, a nice anecdote. After the show I had a chance to talk with keyboard player Friso and found out that we have an unsuspected connection. I live in the apartment building he was born in. That's so special that it is worth mentioning, I think. Now go on and click on the link ↓.


You can listen to and buy 'Maggie Brown here:


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