Peter Mulvey/Paul Otteson; January 29, 2012; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music
After seeing Peter Mulvey in the middle of his bike tour last fall, I was convinced that pedaling all those miles was what made him so hilarious. Turns out, he’s just like that all the time now. Tonight’s show was my favorite of Mulvey’s three appearances in the basement. His first had been one of the Letters from a Flying Machine shows, a very well-done but more scripted affair where he read letters he had written to his nieces and nephews as a means to tell a story and introduce a song. His second, last winter, was an excellent show but almost solemn compared to tonight where his wit was non-stop.
Perhaps the most hilarious moment was when he was talking about Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch who said that gay marriage was like letting someone marry a table. “I agree,” he said, “because my brother is dating a table and when they come over it’s really awkward, because look at our table, it’s working.” He’s always been political, and prone to voice his opinions during a show, but tonight it was with a lot humor. In between off the cuff remarks like that, he wowed the crowd with what he does best, play and sing. His voice, which is addictive enough when he’s speaking, is a drug when he sings. Mulvey often seems a man out of time, as likely to sing a Hoagy Carmichael song as he is to cover U2. The former he did tonight, the latter on his covers record. He drew from his extensive catalog playing some of my favorites, from the tongue twisting, mixed clichés of “Simon Stinson” to the reflective homesickness of “Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, and Far Away from Home.”
He started his set by thanking opener Paul Otteson and praising his well-trained voice, before claiming that unfortunately that all ended now. Mulvey protests too much of course, his voice is amazing, but it’s true that Otteson’s is a wonder. It’s an instrument all its own, his high notes so perfect and so easy. Last year he released his debut record February Fables at a house concert and he revisited many of those songs tonight. The record is based on a number of Aesop’s Fables, and therefore all the songs have similar names, inevitably “the something and the something,” that I find difficult to keep straight. Even so, the songs are instantly recognizable and the record made my best of the year list. It was a pleasure to have Otteson back and the house.