Monday, April 28, 2008

Paramore, Jimmy Eat World

Jimmy Eat World and Paramore seem like an odd pair for a co-headlining tour: The former has been a steady fixture in the emo scene since the mid-'90s, while the latter is a pop-punk band whose career is just starting to take off, with a Best New Artist Grammy nomination and a handful of hot singles.

When the tour hit town Saturday night at American University's Bender Arena, Paramore took the stage first, but played as if they owned the place. Frontwoman Hayley Williams's tormented vocals and infectious energy were captivating; even the antics that could've trespassed into cliche territory (fist-pumping, headbanging her bright orange hair) seemed genuinely enthusiastic. The singles "Misery Business" and "Crushcrushcrush" were the obvious standouts, but the band even pulled off a mellow ballad. "When It Rains" was the slowest song in Paramore's hour-long set, but Williams's emotive melody projected just as much power as on the rest of their angst-filled songs.

After that display of conviction, Jimmy Eat World could have seemed like has-beens by comparison. Instead, the quartet's set featured hit song after hit song -- and the ones that weren't actual hits sure sounded as though they should've been. The power chords, earnest vocals, harmonies and super-speedy rhythms that made "The Middle" and "Sweetness" such catchy tunes permeated every song, making for a set that was inherently danceable and singalongable, if a bit repetitive.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

Judy Collins

Judy Collins wouldn't give her exact age during her Friday night Birchmere performance, but admitted, "I did take Social Security this year." Because the folk singer's voice sounded as good as it did in her 20s, the only clues to her approximate age were that quip and her recounting of her 40-year career through anecdotes and songs.

Collins's musical autobiography ranged from "John Riley," included on her 1961 debut "Maid of Constant Sorrow," to "Blackbird" and "Norwegian Wood" from her 2007 album of John Lennon and Paul McCartney covers.

Collins, who appeared with Amy Speace, an artist on Collins's Wildflower Records, talked about her beginnings as a pianist and how songs such as "Goodnight Irene" pulled her away from classical music. She recalled playing Gerde's Folk City in New York and seeing a 13-year-old Arlo Guthrie there, as well as Bob Dylan, whom she called "scruffy -- even by '60s standards." She sang Dylan's "Dark Eyes," as well as a bit of "Mr. Tambourine Man," after telling a story about staying at the home of his manager one night and waking up to Dylan singing it.

She talked about meeting Joni Mitchell and singing her songs ("Chelsea Morning," "That Song About the Midway"); meeting Leonard Cohen and singing his songs ("Suzanne"); and finally deciding to start writing some music of her own ("Since You've Asked"). Collins finished with "Send In the Clowns," naturally, but by the end of the show, it was apparent that her enduring, best-known song is just one small piece of her story.

-- Sarah Godfrey


A Destroyer concert, such as Friday's at the Black Cat, is probably a lot like a Destroyer practice. The Vancouver quintet, led by sometimes New Pornographer Dan Bejar, will show just a hint of enthusiasm while playing one of its dramatic, indie-rock epics, then mill around for about a minute to re-tune and decide what to play next. The band members often play with their backs to the audience -- forget about any sort of interaction -- and after about an hour it's all over. It certainly doesn't make for the most traditionally exciting performance, but the band's songs are filled with enough clever wordplay and art-rock bombast to more than make up for any lack of visual sizzle.

The bulk of the set was culled from "Trouble in Dreams," the ninth Destroyer album of sweeping, tastefully overblown songs that cement Bejar's status as one of rock's most reliably great songwriters. Songs like "Dark Leaves From a Thread" and "My Favorite Year" were as idiosyncratic as they were iconoclastic, their pop charms obscured by Bejar's nasal chirp of a voice and mysterious lyrics that leave you wondering if he's brilliant or putting one over on everyone -- "Susan, the truth is, sipping sherry branded by moonlight's just a game people are playing tonight. Seriously, terror advances."

Drummer Fisher Rose helped keep things from getting bogged down in proggy excess as his strong, regimented pounding added some welcome edge throughout. "Hey, Snow White" and "Self Portrait With Thing" were both massive in sound and scope. "Tonight is not your night!" Bejar shrieked on the latter. It was his night on Friday, though. At least as much as it ever is.

-- David Malitz

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra

When the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra paid tribute to Quincy Jones at the Voice of America Auditorium on Saturday night, conductor David Baker took obvious delight in saluting his close friend and former bandleader, annotating the program with a string of amusing anecdotes.

For all the laughter and asides, though, Baker was clearly eager to keep the focus on Jones's musical genius and jazz legacy, a goal supported by the ensemble's consistently enjoyable and often revealing performances. Almost exclusively devoted to pieces composed or arranged by Jones, the program was distinguished by a series of mood-shifting orchestral settings, variously inspired by gorgeous ballads ("Jessica's Day" and "Grace") and an expansive signature theme ("Quintessence"), a classic soul jazz tune ("Moanin' ") and, ultimately, a flag-waving send-off ("Air Mail Special").

The arrangements offered numerous reminders of Jones's subtle and sometimes engagingly light-handed touch -- the twin piccolos on the "Soul Bossa Nova" for example -- as well as his gift for orchestrating romantic rhapsodies and sustaining swing and funk grooves with flair. A trumpeter himself, Jones doubtless would have enjoyed hearing the brass section, featuring gifted soloists Kenny Rittenhouse and Tom Williams, though each division of the ensemble was well represented, with pianist Tony Nalker and reedmen Charlie Young and Lyle Link making particularly impressive contributions.

The concert opened with veteran tenor saxophonist Jacques Johnson leading the Blues Alley Youth Orchestra though a collection of standards that showcased a lot of budding talent, including the very promising vocalist and guitarist Wendy Eisenberg.

-- Mike Joyce

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