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Show review: Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore at the Institute of Musical Traditions

Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore
Institute of Musical Traditions at St Mark’s Episcopal Church in Rockville, Maryland
October 5, 2010

Oh, my feet are moving. Rich, don't stop the beat!

Molly O’Brien and Rich Moore’s set was a powerhouse package that included a fairly wide range of old and new favorites and originals. As might be expected, this show was dominated by the songs from the duo’s new album Saints and Sinners, with the key difference being that the live performance removes the complex background instrumentation that accompanies them on the CD, bringing a focus to the material itself rather than the production. The more personal nature of the stripped-down performance brings new light to the material.

O’Brien and Rich played older material like Hart and Rodgers’s “Everything I’ve got” (perhaps proof that political correctness has no place in a philosophical discussion of life) as well as more recent material like Richard Thompson’s “The Ghost of You Walks,” George Harrison’s “Don’t Bother Me,” and their multilayered interpretation of the dark humorous Kathleen Brennan and Tom Waits concoction “Dead and Lonely.” Then, almost as if it’s the Sunday morning after a wild Saturday night romp, there’s David Francey’s gospel-like “Saints and Sinners.”

As the concert progresses, each number represents some aspect of human nature’s ever-present conflict between sanctity and sin, pain and pleasure, or perhaps the temporary nature of depression and triumph.

As good as the album is, the nature of the compositions makes them especially suited to the intimacy of the duo’s live performance.

The Institute for Musical Traditions did a fine job of presenting this performance. They did the lighting and sound and arranged the venue, a beautifully complimentary auditorium. It was a most professional presentation indeed, well beyond what I am accustomed to on average from nonprofits struggling to keep traditional music alive.

—H. Stephen Patton (Baltimore, MD)

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