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Harper Simon at the Media Club

Harper Simon concert photo

Harper Simon with Lily Chapin at the Media Club, Vancouver, Dec 12 2009. Emmanuelle Prompt photo

Harper Simon with the Chapin Sisters at the Media Club, Dec 12 2009

– review by Shawn Conner/photos by Emmanuelle Prompt

For a guy fronting a band with some of the hottest talent around, Harper Simon put on an extraordinarily unassuming show.

Relaxed and feeling no pain, Simon led a six-, sometimes eight-piece (when openers the Chapin Sisters joined in on harmonies) band that includes the Blues Explosion’s Russell Simins, Beastie Boys keyboardist Money Mark, and Rilo Kiley guitarist Mike Bloom, through gentle, affecting originals like “Shooting Star” and “Wishes and Stars” that sounded like the softer, ballad-y side of Wilco. Letting his musicians have free reign on the tunes, Simon held his own while at the same time fully aware that this band was not to be messed with.

“Brand New Cadillac” was a welcome mid-set treat, but where the band really took off was the first song – a mesmerizing version of the Television track “See No Evil” that took the song right back to its Velvet Underground roots. And with Lily and Abigail Chapin chiming in for three-part harmonies on the “evil” part of the chorus – well, any fan of Television’s classic Marquee Moon album will understand what I’m talking about: it was chillingly good.

The Chapin Sisters were, to quote a colleague of mine, gossamers of loveliness in their floor-length hippie gowns, and their set ranged from traditional to poppy folk, with not very nice things to say about ex-lovers, one of the hazards of living in L.A. I guess. Abigail, the taller one, was also the more talkative, mentioning the chilly weather and sharing an elevator in her hotel with a bunch of hockey fans.

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