Monday, April 21, 1997

Concert Review: Final After Dark concert soars with Rogers

Published in the Mountainview

At the final After Dark Music Series concert of the 1996-1997 season at the Knights of Columbus Hall, a busy crowd, arriving before sunset for the first time, eagerly awaited the opening of the Friday night show.
Mustard's Retreat, a folk duo, opened. David Tamulevich and Michael Hough, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, began with "Leave in Jubilation." By the next song, the audience was singing along with the old ballad "I Owe My Soul to the Company Store." Their voiceslifted in smooth harmony, and the humorous introduction to "All My Incarnations" reminded the audience that "you can't take it with you, but with reincarnation, you can come back and get it."

Tamulevich and Hough, who also performed at a family show on Saturday, then told the story of "Brer Rabbit and Sandy Raccoon," complete with sound effects. It was a different sort of reincarnation story.

Subsequent songs had the audience remembering failed romances, and then congratulating the volunteers who make the After Dark Music Series not only possible but a roaring success. Even the opening act did an encore; everyone sang Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More."

Canadian folk guitarist Garnet Rogers then took the stage. He began with a medley of songs in his deep-throated baritone voice. Rogers is a powerful vocalist and guitarist.

Despite extremely nimble maneuvers on his fingerboard, Rogers' music retained a relaxed quality. The first four songs, all in the same key, covered emotions from loneliness through love, energy, and hope, to despair in the story of a drunken poor man, in "Poor Man's Dream."

His next song was about a woman's self-acceptance. Called "The Beauty Game," it reminded all present of the limitations of the human mind, heart, and form. Rogers's sensitivity is not limited to humans; he sang a ballad about saving an aging racehorse from the dog-meat factory.

He played a rare instrument, a mandoguitar, for which he wrote a song called "The Next Turn of the Wheel." An ethereal instrument, it complemented his baritone voice. The song, about places which hold bittersweet memories, showcased his mastery of the guitar nuances.

After the break, Rogers returned to deliver another guitar-voice counterpoint piece, "As Long as the Years Go By," followed immediately by a cover of Greg Brown's tribute to "the two icons of North America," Jesus and Elvis. Rogers's lively personality was clear from his stories. The first, about trying to find vegetarian food in Laramie, Wyoming, had the audience in peals of laughter. He talked about his career in folk music and likened it to "being in the Witness Protection Program: they know you're out there, but they don't know how to get to you."

He then turned right around and had us humming and singing softly to a lovely rendition of Cyndi Lauper's inspiring "True Colors," played on a six-string with an echo box, lofting the notes to the sky. A wrenching song about domestic violence, "Tommy," illustrated a story about a group of Canadian men who protest male violence against women.

Having explained how he began his folk music career, in the 1970s, trying to compete with the disco craze by playing maritime and traditional folk music in Canadian clubs, Rogers closed with two songs about driving across his native country between gigs. He warned that they were "written in real time." Long though the songs were, they were excellent examples of the magic Rogers can work with a guitar, and with the words of his songs.

The entire audience stayed up very late - near midnight - to hear the whole show. The music was wonderful, a tribute not only to Rogers's talents but also to sound engineers Mark Mulqueen and Richard Ruane, who managed to make the Knights of Columbus Hall sound like a professional concert auditorium.

Rogers's encore was a haunting cover of "Romeo and Juliet," by Dire Straits, one of the United Kingdom's foremost folk and rock bands. As the audience left the hall, tears, smiles, and sighs abounded. Another After Dark season has drawn to a close.