Songstress Joan Osborne Wows Music Box With Her Dylan Tribute

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May 16th, 2019

Chanteuse Joan Osborne, perhaps best known for her 1995 smash single "One Of Us," played to an enthusiastic house last night at The Music Box Supper Club.  As part of a litany of '90s singer/songwriters that became huge and then kinda sorta slowly disappeared from the popular oeuvre,  Osborne, along with Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole and Lisa Loeb, helped to define the mid 1990s and its popular music.

 

Well, if pure talent would be the only measure of success, than Osborne would be a certifiable superstar. This lady is a well font of vocal talent. Sadly, "One Of Us," is a rather straightforward song to perform; there are no vocal restraints or difficult bridges to master. Which is a shame.  During last night's show, showcasing a fully-unrestrained bluesy voice, she let us know exactly what those vocal cords are capable of producing. 

Primarily a tribute show to Bob Dylan (and in support of her 2017 release Songs of Bob Dylan), she and her two-piece backup musicians (Keith Cotton on piano and keys and Jack Petruzzelli on guitar, both acted as co-producers on the album) offered some interesting takes on some of Dylan's most well-known tunes, from such a fertile catalog spanning more than a half century.  Calling him a "poet" and "genius," she had nothing but praise for the Minnesota-bred Nobel winner.  The highlight of the evening was, in my opinion, their cover of "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," otherwise known as "Everybody Must Get Stoned."  Taking the famous tune and reimagining it as a 1920s jook joint ditty was fantastic.  As Osborne said, a listener is "Either going to love it or hate it.  There doesn't seem to be a middle ground."  The arrangement, a simple piano and guitar-backed vocal, was sublime.  Even Osborne's dress, a simple, billowed affair, would be at home in a humid, Prohibition-era, back woods gin-soaked joint.

Even time-worn songs like "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Tangled Up In Blue" had a fresh coat of paint on them; Osborne's fluid movement around these forty-plus year tunes is a refreshing bit of Spring air.

 

Of course, after an hour of Dylan covers, she knew the crowd wouldn't be satisfied without some of the hits from her own discography.  She offered up "Spider Web," from her 1995 debut album, Relish.  She closed put the evening with "One Of Us," while offering a pronoun change at the end. As opposed to "'Cept for the Pope Maybe in Rome," she gave us a female pope, to which the crowd erupted in acceptance.

 

Osborne may not have been a pop charts queen, but she's actively worked since that 1995 debut.  Her voice is incredible; she has undeniable stage presence and her concerts showcase a talent that keeps getting better with age. Not sure if God had a hand in any of that, but I have to say that last night's show was, well, kinda heavenly.

Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley
 

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