Judging from the photo on his latest album, “Unfamiliar Moon,” it seems that Mr. Gilbert has shorn his wild and wooly dreadlocks in favor of a mean, lean and sophisticated coif. New recording. New look. Perhaps a new audience. Whatever the case, Vance is a must-see act and the Me&Thee is the perfect place for this transforming experience. “Unfamiliar Moon” is one of Vance’s most requested songs in concert, and the CD of that name is a recording that captures some absolutely amazing performances for posterity.
Vance Gilbert burst onto the singer/songwriter scene in the early 90’s when the buzz started spreading in the folk clubs of Boston about an ex-jazz singer who was knocking ’em dead at open mikes. The word of this Philadelphia-area born and raised performer spread to New York. Vance was invited to tour with Shawn Colvin and took audiences across the country by storm (“With the voice of an angel, the wit of a devil, and the guitar playing of a god, it was enough to earn him that rarity: an encore for an opener” wrote the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in its review of a show from that tour). Gilbert’s three albums for the Rounder/Philo label — “Edgewise” (1994), “Fugitives” (1995), and the celebrated, arrestingly sparse “Shaking Off Gravity” (1998) — are all essential additions to the American singer-songwriter collection. These discs were followed by the self-released “Somerville Live” (2000), his live recording celebrated by the Boston Globe as the disc “young songwriters should study the way law students cram for bar exams,” and “One Thru Fourteen” (2002), a stylistically varied tour de force that New York’s Town and Village called “lively, eclectic, electrifying and transcending.” Follow that with “Side of the Road” (2003), a duo album with Ellis Paul that was lauded as “haunting, artful, and lovely” by Boston Magazine and nominated for a 2004 Boston Music Award.
Although Gilbert is known for his pop-friendly melodies, his many fans also know that he doesn’t shy away from painful subjects. Vance tackles issues head-on and often focuses on the fact that he’s a non-white in a very white culture. Which is not to say that he’s not a marvelously entertaining performer; but why would he want a passive audience? Come challenge yourself with a “rare performer for whom people lean forward in their seats as eagerly between songs as they do during them.”
And, by the way, if you could bring a donation for local food pantries to the show (non-perishable food and useful personal care products), it would be greatly appreciated. We’ll distribute whatever you bring to those in need.