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David Bazemore

Review: Bill Frisell at the Lobero Theatre

Quintet Re-imagines the Music of John Lennon on Friday, May 16


At the end of this remarkably satisfying concert, applause rolled through the Lobero in waves. Bill Frisell’s distinctive gifts as a guitarist and bandleader combined with the compositions of John Lennon with a potency that left no one in the crowd untouched. For example, during a lull in the cheers, an excited woman shouted out her true feelings, yelling to Frisell, “You make me wish I was a guitar!” The group, which included Jenny Scheinman on violin, Tony Scherr on bass, Greg Leisz on dobro and pedal steel, and Kenny Wollesen on drums, played as one entity, their interaction as natural and life-affirming as taking a breath. The opening number was “Across the Universe,” and from there the band explored seemingly every facet of John Lennon’s musical output, teasing out the Japanese influences in “Hold On” and then digging deep into “Hide Your Love Away” and “Come Together.”

Although the approach Frisell uses with this material can sound superficially like the work of a jam band — there’s lots of space and implied beats and notes — the through line of the melody never gets lost, and each song gets a crafty reworking that leaves its emotional center intact. Some classics even benefit from the force released when they are freed of their lyrics, as was the case with “Revolution,” which floored everyone with its raw power and intensity. Kudos to the Lobero for booking this once in a lifetime show.

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