Caroline Smith & the Goodnight Sleeps at The Cedar, 1/10/13
For what it's worth, Caroline and the boys really seem to have done their homework on this new sound -- a significant portion of its authenticity can be traced back to Jesse and Arlen's sterling rhythm section work. Peiffer modulated his folksy Levon Helm-esque shuffles to fit the character of the new arrangements admirably, building tension for big vocal moments with the practiced skill of a musician much older than he. Schuster, always the Goodnight Sleeps' true secret weapon, made things undeniably funky with a series of restrained, slinky Motown basslines. Credit really should be given to Hanson and Sundquist as well, who delivered characteristically great supporting work, Hanson's guitar taking on a lilt that fans of the Alabama Shakes would be both familiar and enthralled with.
Still, this was undoubtedly Caroline's moment to shine, and Ms. Smith seemed to relish the opportunity, showcasing an incredible new faculty for dizzying vocal runs and a brassy, thoroughly adult croon. Lauryn Hill definitely seems to have been a major influence on the new record, so much so that the group threw in a cover of The Queen's classic Miseducation cut "Ex Factor" that never once felt like American-Idol-White-Girl-Soul. While Caroline has always managed to imbue even her hokiest material with a sincere emotional connection, she really seems to have poured her heart into these new songs, with a charming blend of vulnerability and spunk.
|Photo by Stacy Schwartz|
Another new standout "Half About Being a Woman" demonstrated the group's tight control of dynamics, letting Caroline's tender verse delivery build into a show-stopping finish, while "Magazine" bounced along on a danceable beat that positively reeks of hit potential. The group showed off another adept bit of interpretation at the end of their first set with a cover of The Beatles "Cry Baby Cry," eking every ounce of blue-eyed soul out of Lennon's composition and finally goosing the crowd into a sing-along.
However, if you were a diehard Goodnight Sleeps Mk. II or Mk. I fan at this show you may have gone home a bit disappointed. Little Wind hits "Tanktop" and "Eagle's Nest" and "Calliope" received awesome new interpretations that highlighted the band's rocking R&B sound, but their earlier singer-songwriter material seemed to be shoved aside ever-so-slightly to make way for Mk. III. "Closing the Door" proved to be thoroughly sweet and gorgeous as always, but her solo take on "Clench My Teeth" for the encore just seemed a bit anticlimactic after the show the full band had just put on. Still, the diehards ate it up and yelled for more, succeeding in convincing the singer and her band to play "Tying My Shoes," another early gem.
Frankly, they'll come around once this record drops and they have a little bit more time to fall in love with the new material. Rarely have I walked away from a show this excited about a record that doesn't even seem to have a release date yet. But I wouldn't be surprised if the Cedar isn't big enough for the next Goodnight Sleeps show, between their hot new tracks and seemingly effortless star power, we might have just witnessed the start of something really big last night.
The One Thing
Half About Being A Woman
Ex Factor (Lauryn Hill)
Closing the Doors
Cry Baby Cry (The Beatles)
Clench My Teeth
Tying My Shoes
|Photo by Stacy Schwartz|
Critic's Bias: I'm much more of a fan of Soul and R&B than singer-songwriter folk pop, and I've been a fan of this group since its debut.
The Crowd: College-aged hipster types and their parents, the card-carrying Current members.
Overheard in the Crowd:Polite silence, with the occasional whoop after a particularly big note.
Random Notebook Dump: Lizzo is now officially the most connected woman in the MN music scene and she's barely been here a year. Stay tuned for her forthcoming collaboration with In Defence and Skoal Kodiak later this month.