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Michael Penn... Bunker Hill

Michael at "Cafe Du Nord" San Francisco, CA (6/21/03)

This is an excerpt from space_oddity2001's, Cliff's, Ken's, and Rob's postings on the Yahoo! PennList. Thanks to them for posting the report there.

It was a terrific show. For someone who isn't too fond of mid-song banter, Michael's is an extraordinarily interesting and charming guy when gets around to talking. I didn't write down the setlist, just enjoyed the here are some pieces of information worth sharing and expressing...

-He said that RCA is going to rerelease March...but with nothing worthwhile, only nine tracks from Free for All added. Michael said it's like they put the two cds in a burner, ran out of room and decided to sell it as is.

-After the first encore, which ended with No Myth (and a funny monologue about how sketchy the idea of a "soulmate" is, and the great misinterpretation of Romeo and Juliet's not romantic, they weren't supposed to be together and, "they f***in' died!"), Michael came out again and said he didn't have any more rehearsed material and anything else would be pretty anticlimactic...he played a handful of songs anyway, including Bunker Hill and a slowed-down Lucky One)

-He's still working on the new album. He played some songs, presumably, from it...they were good.

-He performed Like Egypt Was, and introduced it with a great, great story I can't even begin to paraphrase.

-Lots of tuning.

-There were some over enthusiastic fans who may have drunk a little too much that "wooooo"ed and "yeah"ed maybe a little to much. Michael had some good jokes and laughs with/at them.

- He covered Happy Together. It was great. The audience even did back- up vocals and sung along.

-He seems really sincere about getting out more and playing more live shows. Hope so.

Saturday night's show was great! Michael was in a very playful mood and interacted very well with the audience. I can't remember the exact order of the setlist, but I know that he started off with "Now We're Even".

He worked quite a bit of banter in between the songs, as has been previously noted. He told us of his idiosyncratic cafe habits, gave background info on "Bunker Hill", "Like Egypt Was", "Lucky One", and "Bucket Brigade", talked about the Quay video for "Long Way Down" and made jokes about his series of bad relationships with multi-national labels. He also worked in the "weapons of mass destruction" line when someone asked when the new CD will be released.

He previewed two new songs, both of which were good ... It will be interesting to see how they're arranged by the time the record comes out.

After reading about the Portland show, I was worried that one rude fan would send Michael away early. Much to my relief, when people called out for songs during the first set, the only song *not* requested was "No Myth".

After playing these tunes (no particular order), he closed with "Brave New World", nailing the falsetto and all the words:

Me Around
Like Egypt Was
All That That Implies
I Can Tell
New Song #1 (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire)
New Song #2 (I can't remember the lyrics, but it's been mentioned here before)
Don't Let Me Go
Bucket Brigade
High Time (this may have been one of the encores ... my memory is blurry)

Now that I think of it, he also played another song that I didn't recognize. It may have been from the B-side of March. He didn't introduce it as new, so it left me scratching my head.

After much yelling and applause, we got him back out on stage again. I think he played "Long Way Down". After that, he said he didn't know anything else, but he'd be happy to take requests. Someone yelled out, "We love whatever you play, Michael!". He said, "God bless you." We all laugh. Someone then added, "yeah, as long as you don't play any songs about black jeans!" Michael gave a half-smile, half-grimace, finished tuning and launched into "Happy Together". The audience was remarkably on pitch considering there were three or four different vocal lines being sung. Very fun. He then gave his very ironic intro to "No Myth" and played the song. He leaves the stage.

We weren't done with him, though. We scream. We cheer. We applaud. After almost three minutes, Michael came out again, looking very pleased, yet exasperated. He insists he *really* doesn't know anything else but will gladly fumble through more songs for us. Someone yells "Lucky One", so he tries to remember the correct tuning and capo placement. He stumbled through the first verse and stopped after the chorus. He remarked "this really f***ing sucks; let's try something else". Someone yelled out "Coal!" Michael said, "yeah, I can do that". When he flubbed the little descending guitar run after the brigde, he smiled and said, "Almost!" and kept going. After that, he took requests for more songs but insisted he couldn't play any of the suggestions. He seemed to be doing well with Free-For-All songs, so I called out, "By The Book"! He said, "By The Book? Yeah I can do that." After singing the line "show me a Patriot, show me a Scud", he stopped and said "things really haven't changed, have they?" and then finished the song. After "By The Book" he said he'd play one last song. He settled on "Bunker Hill".

By this time, it was about 12:40am. The lights went up pretty soon after he left the stage, dashing our hopes for more. We stuck around for a while hoping he'd come out to mingle, but no dice.

It was definitely a very satisfying show ... especially since I hadn't seen him play before. He did a great job of chatting while tuning. Additionally, two seperate snapped-string incidents provided unplanned comic relief.

Just a quick note to say the show at Cafe Du Nord was inspired! It reminded me of the VH1 show "Storytellers" because Michael was so talkative and into the show. He played a total of 21 songs which initially seemed to be in the order of where he needed to place his capo for each song...i.e. the first 3-4 songs(not really sure on the actual number) were 1st fret capo songs, the next 2-3, 2nd fret and so on. Then he got off his set list and started improvising.

Here's the list:
1. Now We're Even
2. I Can Tell
3. Figment
4. Bucket Brigade
5. Like Egypt Was
6. Automatic
7. new song... "That Was Then" (title is a maybe)
8. Try (broke a string at the end)
9. new song... "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
10. All That That Implies
11. Me Around
12. Don't Let Me Go
13. High Time
14. Long Way Down
15. Brave New World
16. Coal
(another broken string at end of song)
17. Happy Together (w/ audience participation)
18. No Myth
19. Lucky One (curtailed)
20. By the Book
21. Bunker Hill

What a show!! More to follow.

The show was way beyond my expectations. I'm the guy who yelled out "I like any song you sing!" (the previous email had this as "We love whatever you play, Michael!"). I also was the first to yell out Bunker Hill which he agreed to play to close the show (OK - I'm a little too proud of myself :)). But that's what the show was like. It was so personable and so was he. He's very funny and witty (no surprise) when he relaxes and has fun. I also tried to get him to play "Strange Season" by yelling it out a couple of times, but he said "I have to re-learn that one man"...he also said that he was taking notes of the songs that we wanted him to play for next time, so hopefully...

I noticed that he didn't say anything when various people yelled out for "This and That", almost like he was ignoring the request. Maybe it was just me. The highlight of the show for me was the story behind Bunker Hill - from my memory it goes something like this:

Bunker Hill was a place in LA at the top of a hill somewhere where there was a train called "Angel's Flight" that ran from the bottom of the hill to the top -- apparently Angel's Flight was built a long time ago -- I'm guessing in the earlier part of the 1900's and was built for the sole reason of getting the upper class from the bottom of the hill to the top (Bunker Hill). Michael said his father took him there when he was a child and he remember's being fascinated by the fact that it only travelled up and down the hill and was built only for rich people. He also mentioned that he thought it was interesting and good that the city preserved Angel's Flight, even thought they "took apart the Angel's Flight" and moved it to another location.

I thought it was awesome to get the story behind "Strange Season" and "Bunker Hill" as I listened to these songs constantly back in 92 - 93 when Free For All came out.

All in all it was a great show - I loved how it was just him with a guitar the whole show. His voice sounds perfect - exactly as it does on his albums. I can't wait for his next show!!!


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