Local recording artists 10,000 Maniacs brought their unique sounds to Pearl Street Grill and Brewery Saturday night.
Pearl Street Grill & Brewery:
There are few bands as fan-friendly as the reconstituted 10,000 Maniacs.
Bag the diva image. Singer/violist Mary Ramsey is as unpretentious as a bouquet of marigolds.
The band guys, John Lombardo, keyboardist Dennis Drew, bassist Steven Gustafson, drummer Jerome Augustyniak and guitarist Robert Buck, provide the musicianship, inspiration and snug assurance that nurture their homegrown folk sound.
The Maniacs' sound stretched across the stage of Pearl Street Grill and Brewery Saturday night like a maternal embrace. It was as comfortable as a living room -- a condition reinforced by the shaded lamps that decorated the stage.
The band's playfulness, a quality not present when Natalie Merchant fronted the band, leapt center stage with the theme from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" introducing the group.
"Big Star" and "Beyond the Blue" laid the groundwork for an evening of "old, new, borrowed and blue" music, a term Ramsey used to introduce the familiar "What's A Matter."
"More Than This," the Roxy Music song from "Love Among the Ruins," was stellar, and the title tune from "Earth Pressed Flat" described touring as seen from the window of an aircraft, "on a plane a billion stars below me lay."
"Candy Everybody Wants," "Because the Night" and "These Are the Days," from the 1992 "Our Time in Eden" CD, were steppingstones to the evening's tasty, musical bill of fare.
Eighteen songs, three encores and Ramsey's audience-friendly banter identified this version of 10,000 Maniacs as a group that has its eye sharply focused on making music on its own terms.
Ramsey has fun on stage, the old material is still zingy, and the new stuff is more hook-oriented, a good quality to have if the band expects to have the occasional hit. Frequently, the words got in the way of the message.
Opening for 10,000 Maniacs, Pittsburgh's pub-pleasing Ploughman's Lunch combined Celtic blues and American pop for a mixed bag of music.
-- Jim Santella