Friday, April 20, 2012

Ripley Rocks the Metropolitan Room

My friend Ken (the pilot) and I went to see Ripley (the band) earlier this week at the Metropolitan Room, my second time seeing the Tony-award-winning Alice Ripley live in concert. Last time around, the guitar-wielding actress/songstress was accompanied by just keyboardist and friend of the (212) Christopher Schelling, but on Monday the stage was at near-capacity, with Christopher, bassist Steve Millhouse, drummer Shannon Ford, plus (adorable) special guest percussionist Nick Cearley. (Only special guest cellist Lauren Molina was missing from the party -- her bail revoked, perhaps?)

After promising Ken, a true child of the '70s, a potpourri of covers by his favorite artists of the decade -- Alice is a sucker for Carole King, Cat Stevens, Jackson Browne, the Eagles and did songs by all of them when I saw her in January at the Laurie Beechman Theater -- Alice threw me curve both physically (what a bod!) and musically, playing mostly songs from her extensive theater repertoire -- "The Who's Tommy," "Side Show" and "The Rocky Horror Show" (but not, unless I'm mistaken, "Next to Normal") -- and originals recorded as a solo artist, and with Ripley (the band).

Opening with "Science Fiction/Double Feature" from "Rocky Horror" -- a show that I, for some reason, find intolerable -- was a pleasant surprise, as it allowed me to fully appreciate the music away from the spectacle. "Who Will Love Me as I Am?" (from "Side Show") was next, which I later learned was a last-minute addition to the set list, after Alice discovered its lyricist, Bill Russell, was in attendance. (No one was complaining.) A nice cover of Elvis Costello's "Beyond Belief" (the opening track on "Imperial Bedroom") was her one nod to the world of classic pop music, which was followed by the evening's strongest moment, their "Tommy" medley. (Her "Pinball Wizard" is two for two in giving me goose bumps.)

My favorite originals of the night are both from the band's "Outtasite" album: "Miss America" and "When I'm Olde," an ode to a former flame with whimsical lyrics that reminds me a bit of Maria McKee. (Alice says she threw the "e" in for fun, but warns that anything with an extra one added to the end is just a ruse to jack up the price!) Despite the abundance of actual showtunes being performed, the stage got even more dramatic during the band's new single, "Beautiful Eyes" (info HERE), which Liza Minnelli would be foolish not to cover herself.

Afterward, Christopher invited us to come "backstage" to meet the evening's star, who was exhausted from giving a great performance, yet couldn't have been more lovely. We thanked her for a wonderful show -- Ken absolutely adored every second of it -- then were joined by Bill Russell and Christopher's boyfriend, Augusten Burroughs, who was also in the house. Alice returns to the Metropolitan Room on Sunday, May 27 at 7 p.m. For ticket information, click HERE.

Ripley set list

(Metropolitan Room, April 16, 2012)

Science Fiction/Double Feature Who Will Love Me As I Am Beyond Belief Tommy Medley Sky Romeo Beautiful Eyes When I'm Olde She Keeps Her Love Away Miss America For Your Art Violet Tree Humiliating Circumstances Outtasite

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