Cameron McGill & What Army/Gabriel Reed; September 4, 2008; Café Montmartre
Perhaps the best thing about Cameron McGill is his band name. A truly talented pop songcrafter, his ability is sometimes obscured by all the pomposity he surrounds himself with. His outfit this time (and yes, it really is an “outfit”) was better than the contrived looking costume he had put together the last time, an elbow-patched jacket and scarf, but the bandanna he had tied around his head on this visit was really just too much. It didn’t work for Justin Jahnke and it doesn’t work for him. I’m pretty sure Neil Young is the only person who can get away with that look. Also dialing down the melodrama was the considerably less flamboyant and perhaps more talented Dan McMahon (of the Wandering Sons) on guitar who took the place of Noah Harris. Amusingly, McGill has duct-taped over the “This Machine Kills Hipsters” inscription that used grace the front of his acoustic guitar. Perhaps he realized the hypocrisy.
I shouldn’t be too hard on McGill, after all, he’s a much better songwriter than much of the population that falls under that heading, and he uses the word “beholden” correctly in a song. And besides I wasn’t really there to see him. It was the opener that got me there. It has been ages since Gabriel Reed has played a show in town. He splits his time between Madison and Argentina, so I can only guess that he was wintering in another hemisphere. He’s returned with a few new songs that he brought out at the top of his set. Lyrically simple, they succeed more the expressiveness of his voice than on the much repeated lines. In addition to new songs, he also has a new backing singer, Bobby Hart, who sang with him for most of his set. She’s no Jentri Colello (who accompanied Gabriel on one occasion), but Hart does have a lovely voice that blended well with his.
Old favorites were also on display, the perfect pop song “Give Me the Sun” showed up early in the set while “I’m Not Afraid of the Radio” settled in near the end. Gabriel claimed that the latter was a rock song and he wasn’t sure if he could do it solo, but decided to give it a shot after Tag gave him the thumbs up. Honestly though, the song which tells of the trouble with having ex-lovers connected with songs is just more of the ear candy pop that he trades in. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.