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Concert Review – Roma Di Luna & Chastity Brown at the Cedar (12/23/08)

7 Jan

3134721344_e3972e0809A couple days before Christmas, Minneapolis packed the Cedar Cultural Center to the brim, standing room only, people pulling chairs this way and that, scurrying around trying to find the best possible view. As Chastity Brown took the stage, I suddenly imagined myself as John Cusak in that scene in High Fidelity where Marie De Salle takes the stage – it’s that moment when a really good singer-songwriter first opens his or her mouth and the first word sort of rolls across the audience and everyone perceivably locks into focus – the kind of moment that makes you wish you were John Cusak in some movie falling in love (however momentarily) with some blow-you-away folk singer up there on the stage. Chastity Brown scores high marks in all the Marie De Salle categories. She’s a little mysterious, a touch aloof, she’s got great hair, she plays guitar well, she plays saxophone even better, and despite nursing a sore throat on the night in question, her voice wraps you up and doesn’t let you go. Her set bounced around between your fairly straight-forward singer-songwriter fare and some jazzy bluesy full-band numbers without much effort, and while I enjoyed the slower and mid-range numbers (her voice carries you through the whole experience), I thought that her set closer really revealed her full potential – a jangly, bluegrass number that lifted the stakes for the remainder of the evening.

And then came Roma Di Luna, appearing for the first time post birth of Alexei & Channy Moon Casselle’s first child, who was said to be in attendance (although not onstage.)

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Whether child-related or not, the set was fantastic. Playing with a full band seems to suit Roma Di Luna well – As a duo, they represent a kind of fragile bond from which amazingly stark and simple music issues forth, but as a full band they are able to really ratchet up the stakes and transform the room. With Channy’s indescribably perfect voice and Alexei’s strong guitar work and presence as the groundwork, the band fell perfectly around them and the music turned everything warm and fuzzy and nostalgic. Complete with Christmas carols, banjo solos (one of which received a rousing ovation mid-song), the quiet vulnerability and closeness of lyrics both personal and universal, and a rollicking rendition of “Stand by Me” to close, the show succeeded on all fronts.

You can see Chastity Brown next tonight (January 7th) at The Red Stag at 10 pm, or at Barbette on January 19th at 10 pm.

Roma Di Luna will be appearing at the Cedar Cultural Center as a duo on February 27thth (9 pm) as part of the “Songs of Hope, Despair, and Ecomium” series, and with their full band at the Turf Club on March 6.

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