by Michael Caruso
For the third week in a row, the weather played a role in the summer season of concerts in Pastorius Park. The threat of rain, which never materialized, forced the moving of Mutlu’s June 25 concert from the park’s outdoor stage to the lower school auditorium of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. Considering the intimacy of the performer’s vocal artistry and the eloquence of his lyrics, I suspect that this particular change of venue was for the better.
The following week’s concert by the Lawsuits wasn’t moved indoors but was abruptly brought to an early conclusion after only the third song by a torrential downpour. This was a great pity, as those three songs showed a band of immense talent and originality.
The third installment of this “interrupted season” took place July 9 when the Deb Callahan Band’s concert was moved indoors due to another threatened storm that never occurred. The move from outdoors to indoors wasn’t altogether successful. The problem was two-part: volume and balance.
It’s easy to understand how a band unfamiliar with a small auditorium could misjudge the volume of sound needed to fill it when the original plan was to fill an outdoor amphitheater with no natural sounding boards around its perimeter. Everything depends upon producing a lot of sound with the help of amplifiers so that those sitting farthest away can still hear every word and note.
Mutlu’s performance two weeks earlier proved just how little amplification is needed at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s lower school auditorium for an audience to fully appreciate a performer’s artistry. It struck me that Deb Callahan, a Flourtown area resident, and her bandmates had either not been sent the memo that “less is more than enough” or hadn’t read it and made the necessary adjustments. The concert was notable for a steady stream of people moving from the seats of the auditorium, itself to seats in the adjacent cafeteria — out of the direct line of far too much sound.
Volume wasn’t the only problem. Balance was off kilter, as well. The drums and the bass were far too heavily amplified for any reasonable appreciation of Callahan’s fine singing and Allen James’ exemplary guitar playing.
There was one other drawback to the Deb Callahan Band’s performance. The ensemble lists Delta blues, funky New Orleans rhythms, gospel and rock as its influences. No quibbling there because you could hear these particular influences in the music without any of them being synthesized into a coherent and distinctive sound of the band’s own.
When the Beatles burst onto the American music scene in late 1963, music fans were struck by their originality. In fact, however, that originality lay in their ability to synthesize nearly everything in popular music that had gone before them in a uniquely seamless fashion. The influences were all there, but you couldn’t separate them one from the other or from the entire sound because the Beatles had transformed them into their own special sound. It’s that ability to make all things old sound new that the Deb Callahan Band failed to display last week, and that particularly disappointed me.
MOVIES @ the MANN
The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Fairmount Park will present three evenings featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra performing the scores of films as the movies are being shown. The first is set for Friday, July 18, 8 p.m., and will showcase “Gladiator.” Next on the roster is “West Side Story” Wednesday, July 30, and “Star Trek into Darkness” Thursday, July 31. Both events start at 8 p.m.
The Mann’s upgraded physical amenities and the chance to hear some of finest music composed in the last few decades performed by one of the greatest orchestras in the world make these movie-concerts among the most compelling offerings in the region this summer.
For more information, visit www.manncenter.org.