Concert Review: Peter Mulvey at Club Passim

Craig, Susan and I caught the first performance of Peter Mulvey at Club Passim in Cambridge on Thursday night. Peter Mulvey is a great singer/songwriter folk musician from Wisconsin who also has ties with Boston where he used to perform in the MBTA stations. Susan & I were fortunate enough to catch him recording his cover songs album Ten Thousand Mornings at Davis Square Station but the songs we saw recorded didn’t make it to the album. We’ve also seen him perform at various venues around Boston usually with his friend David Goodrich as well as in the trio Redbird with Kris Delmhorst and Jeffrey Foucalt.

Mulvey is an excellent introspective songwriter and a talented guitarist. This may be the first time we’ve seen him perform all alone, and despite it being just him and his acoustic guitar, it sounded like an entire band was playing. This was especially true in the number he opened with “Wings of the Ragman” where if I couldn’t see it with my own eyes I would swear there were at least two guitars playing.

In addition to an excellent performance, Peter Mulvey is a great storyteller. Last month he toured Wisconsin on bicycle towing his guitar on a trailer behind him. One day on his journey he came upon a very defensive redwing blackbird who flew straight at him and bounced off his helmet. He also told a story about finding something in his basement that ended with this brilliant quote: “Disorder in my basement, that’s not misery, that’s America!” (NOTE: both Craig and Susan heard “water” not “disorder” but I like my version better).

Here is the complete setlist (songs 6,7,8, 11 & 12 are new songs or older songs I’m not familiar so I’m not sure if the titles are correct):

  1. Wings of the Ragman
  2. Me & Albert
  3. The Trouble With Poets (he improvised some new, clever lyrics about Sylvia Plath into this song)
  4. Abilene (The Eisenhower Waltz)
  5. The Knuckleball Suite
  6. Dynamite Bill (apparenty based on a true story of someone Peter Mulvey’s dad knew. He shared a poetic email from his father about Dynamite Bill)
  7. The Kids in the Square
  8. Mailman
  9. Girl in the Hi-Tops
  10. You and Me and the 10,000 Things
  11. Gasoline (Smell the Future, per Jonathan below)
  12. Instrumental piece (Black Rabbit, per Jonathan below)
  13. Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies
  14. Charlie
  15. The Dreams
  16. 29-Cent Head
  17. Words Too Small To Say
  18. Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad and Far Away From Home
  19. Encore: Our Love Is Here to Stay

I’m only disappointed that he didn’t play “Marty & Lou” because these days, these days I tell you, these days it’s all about the monkeys.