Landmark on Main Street kicked off its Fabulous Folk series on Friday, Nov. 16, with an impressive, sold-out, double bill of Steve Forbert and Karla Bonoff.
Steve Forbert opened the show. Armed with just a single guitar and an array of harmonicas, the musician launched into a set that spanned songs from his very early albums in the late 1970s to his latest release, “Over With You,” released in September.
Forbert has a distinctive raspy and strained singing voice, and an energetic performing style. Though he rarely moved from his spot on stage, he was in constant motion: vigorously stomping his foot and wildly strumming his guitar. His songs have clever lyrics, such as “She’s a fool for loving me, but she’s in love and love’s a funny state of mind” from the song “Goin’ Down to Laurel” from Forbert’s very first album. He also took audience requests – and the audience had plenty. Highlights of Forbert’s set included the audience sing along “Autumn This Year,” the 1979 pop hit “Romeo’s Tune,” and the very beautiful “Over With You,” title track of his latest CD.
After a brief intermission, Karla Bonoff took to the stage, with backing guitarist Nina Gerber. Bonoff, a superb performer in her own right is well known for providing backing vocals for almost anyone you can think of (Warren Zevon, Linda Ronstadt, JD Souther, Michael McDonald, and more), and for writing songs that became hits for other performers, most notably Linda Ronstadt. Bonoff has a beautiful voice, clear, clean and strong, that is reminiscent of Ronstadt and KD Lang. She played both piano and guitar during the course of a set that included “All My Life” made famous by Ronstadt and Aaron Neville, and “Home,” which was recorded by Bonnie Raitt.
Bonoff is a consummate professional, and it showed in her performance. Her set spanned her career and included her early 1980s singles “Personally” and “Please Be the One,” as well as a beautiful cover of “The Water is Wide.”
Without a doubt, Bonoff is fabulous, but her performance would not have had the same fullness without the absolutely exquisite guitar playing of Nina Gerber. Rarely ever have I heard a backup guitarist as good as Gerber. She was reminiscent of another outstanding backup performer who appeared at Landmark several times (with both Suzanne Vega and Duncan Sheik), Gerry Leonard. Guitarists like these are few and far between. Gerber’s guitar sounded at times like a violin, a cello, or some otherworldly instrument, and her playing was always beautifully tasteful, blending with Bonoff’s melody line or meandering off in a complementary harmony. Perhaps their most extraordinary few moments came during the song “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me” with Bonoff on Landmark’s Steinway and Gerber adding the perfect guitar line.
Bonoff and Gerber were joined by Forbert for the encore. Next in Landmark’s Folk series is Lucy Kaplansky on Feb. 9. Learn more about ticket information.