This program, billed as a reflection of Frisell and company’s interest in film music, quickly escalated into one of the young 2019 season’s most significant musical events. Wielding the subtle powers of implication and the superpowers of Petra Haden’s virtuosic vocals, Frisell’s group (Rudy Royston, drums; Thomas Morgan, bass) spoke to the current cultural climate with a performance that was by turns exploratory and inspirational, and that led to an imaginative final sequence that left the audience in a state of blissful awe.
Opening with the title track of the group’s 2016 album, When You Wish Upon a Star, the concert’s first set adhered more closely to the movie music premise, including as a kind of foreshadowing the James Bond theme “You Only Live Twice.” Upon their return to the stage for the second set, a whole new concept took hold, integrating such film standards as the theme from The Godfather with classic-rock ballads such as Jackson Browne’s “These Days.”
In the final sequence of the second set, Haden took charge, making whistling bird calls with her hands to introduce David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” which she sang with startling clarity and shocking conviction. The band took this powerful number into overdrive by segueing directly from “Oddity” into “Goldfinger.” Haden used her flawless microphone technique and the acoustics of the Lobero to echo and ultimately transcend the dark, lustrous finish of Shirley Bassey’s recording; “Goldfinger” left the room stunned. As an encore, Haden brought the house down with a heartfelt and oh-so-appropriate rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” Singing along never felt so good.