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12/2/04 Irving Plaza, New York, NY
Setlist (courtesy donnabase.com)
Way Back When, No Place Like The Right Time, Funkyside, Family Picture, Positive Friction,
Tides of Time, Part-Time Lover, The Call, Mississippi, Dark Hollow,*@ ????,*# Lost Highway,*&
Conscious Evolution, Blue Sky
Encore: Tee Black, Everything Seems to Want to Hurt This Time
*with Del McCoury and his band
@Tara on scrub
#Tara on fiddle
&Tara on accordion
Sharing the stage with a bluegrass legend
Never a big fan of NYC, I still can't help but go see Donna whenever she plays there because I live so close by. Me and Dennis, who wasn't about to let a little thing like having a tooth pulled stop him from enjoying Donna, got into the city and down near Irving Plaza relatively painlessly and even found a spot to park only three block from the venue. We indulged in our usual pre-show ritual of a decent cup of coffee and headed into Irving Plaza right when the doors opened at 8.
John Specker came on at 8:30 and played a 30-min set. Though I wasn't familiar with him I was impressed with both his fiddle playing and how he was able to capture the crowd's attention up there by himself.
Next I was expecting Donna to play a short set before Del, and so was pleasantly surprised when the movie screen rose and the Del McCoury band took the stage a little after 9 for a 70-minute set. I was also pleasantly surpirsed by the acoustics of the room--the sound was excellent from everywhere, and unlike in many other venues, I could clearly hear each musician. I'll be the first to admit that bluegrass is not my genre, but even so, after listening to Del it is easy to understand why he is a living legend. The band consists of phenomenal musicians, and Del's stage presence was commanding.
Long break after Del's set. I was expecting the crowd to filter out somewhat, but Del had mentioned during his set that he'd come back out a
nd play a few songs with Donna, so those who came solely to see Del stayed put.
Donna came on at about 11. For the first time all night, the room filled with the sounds of amplified instruments. The floor was fairly crowded but dancing commenced. Usually the band needs a song to warm up but the Way Back When was solid from the start. The set moved along nicely for the next few songs, and the band seemed to be feeding off that super-hyper NYC crowd energy nicely.
Then Tara picked up her accordion and the night went into overdrive. Her performance on Tides of Time was superb and yet was only a hint of what was to come in the Part-Time Lover that followed. Frankly, I'd heard PT Lover more than enough times over the last year, but this version was blistering--the tension just seemed to build and build and build until finally it was released. The Call was a nice choice, and then it was Dr. Jim's chance to sing on Mississippi, which he and the rest of the band nailed as usual.
Next Del and his band joined Donna for three songs: Dark Hollow, a song I did not know (sorry), and Lost Highway. It was extremely crowded on the stage with 10 musicians, and there did not seem to be a mic for Del--he lifted his acoustic up to his shoulders so it would get picked up by the mic used for his vocals--but all seemed to be having a good time. Each member of Del's band stepped up to the waist-level mic set up for Tara's fiddle to solo. Tara played scrub for Dark Hollow, fiddle for the 2nd tune and accordion for Lost Highway but was low on the mix for all three.
I was wondering if that was going to be it, but in typical fashion Donna just kept on going, and delivered another pair of high-energy songs. When they started into Conscious Evolution, I figured I had some time so I headed up to the relatively empty balcony. The joke was on me, as the this was probably the shortest and least jammed version I'd ever heard. But the Blue Sky that closed the set more than made up for it, and it was apparent this song has officially achieved anthem status.
Tee Black was a fun encore to dance to, as Tara obviously wasn't finished with her accordion quite yet. Everything Seems to Want to Hurt this Time seems to have moved into heavier rotation as late, and while it was a fine version, all versions pale in comparison to the one they opened with at Johnnson City on 11.5.04. The night ended with the NYC following simultaneously well-satisfied and already looking forward to next time.