>Erin McKeown, 10th anniversary Distillation tour, Passim

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   A couple issues back I featured a readers’ poll asking which album you’d like to hear in entirety. The idea of artists playing their prized albums from start to finish in concert has become quite a trend. Critics claim it’s the musicians trying to capitalize on past glories, while others believe that fans want to relive that thrill of hearing that album as it was created. It is, of course, is both, and done well is a win-win for everyone.

  Last weekend Erin McKeown celebrated the 10th anniversary of her stellar album “Distillation” at Passim in Cambridge. For an added bonus she brought along the album’s producer and multi-instrumentalist Dave Chalfant and even wore the very (non-flattering) dress she was photographed in for the cover! Very brave.
As hoped, Erin rocked her guitar as the “Distillation” songs called for. She played the album in reverse order, starting with the funky rhythmed “Love in 2 Parts” and the beautiful “Dirt Gardener.” Because I love every song on the album, it’s hard to pick out favorites. “How to Open My Heart in 4 Easy Steps” is gorgeous, and she hit every note perfectly; the wink-wink of the cocaine-loving tune “The Little Cowboy” was filled with Chalfant’s brilliant slide playing; “Le Petite Mort” is always great for its chance to let the audience scream “Oh Estelle”; and “Blackbirds” blew me away as always. I was really happy to see Erin really let loose on guitar. At some past shows, I have been left wanting more guitar from her because she is so great.

“If you a viper…”

  After a short break and a change of wardrobe, Erin was back and taking requests. As I remember, I counted three tunes from “Grand” (“Slung Lo,” “Born to Hum,” one other); two from “We Will Become Like Birds” (“We Are More” and “To the Stars”); a couple from “Sing You Sinners,” including an amazing, drawn-out “If You a Viper” that had the crowd in stitches as Erin held her breath then let it out as if she was smoking a joint accompanied by the lyrics “The sky is high and so am I / If you a viper.” And interestingly only one song from her stellar new album, “Hundreds of Lions.”
  A surprising note: Erin asked the crowd during the “Distillation” set how many were familiar with the album and few people raised their hands. Odd for a show that was billed as a celebration of the album. Despite that, the crowd was totally into the show, and when Erin encored solo with “Rhode Island Is Famous for You,” ecstacy was achieved. A fun night indeed.

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