Friday, March 01, 2013

Marcus Foster impresses at stateside tour kickoff

My review was originally published in The Orange County Register's Soundcheck blog on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. A special thank you to Bob Steshetz for the use of his photos taken at the concert.

San Clemente newcomer Gal Musette also stands out at Coach House performance.

Marcus Foster at The Coach House
While The Coach House was well below capacity Wednesday night (Feb. 27, 2013), the energy level of the two acts on the bill gave the show the distinct feel of a sold-out bash on a Saturday.

Marcus Foster, a burgeoning singer-songwriter from the same London scene that spawned Mumford & Sons, somehow blends commanding Chicago blues, authentic folk and blue-eyed soul into his songs, and the mix worked nicely over the course of his 13-song set.

The first part of his showcase featured energetic electric material. Opening with "Shadows of the City," from his November 2011 debut Nameless Path (yet to get a proper stateside release, though it's avaialble for download and the import is reasonably priced on Amazon), Foster used minimal strumming on guitar while singing in a powerful voice. Eventually bass and drums kicked in and the piece evolved masterfully into an uptempo groove.

On the beautiful ballad " I Don't Need to Lose You to Know," offered up during an acoustic portion of his set, Foster and his three-member band displayed their collective skill at moving fully outside of the blues. His tone and the tune's lush arrangement would fit right in on a Dawes or M&S album.

"I Was Broken" was just as potent, but here the song was a nuanced mix of blues and Americana. Foster worked his eletric six-string skillfully, the cut slowly building to a soaring finale with forceful singing that filled the San Juan Capistrano space.

His most powerful moment, however, came with "Rushes and Reeds," which conjured the graceful attrack of Robert Cray but with Foster's vocals adding a unique stamp. As evidenced throughout his set, he never overplays, but rather inserts tasty licks here and there to propel pieces on their natural course.

This being the first night of Foster's first-ever full-band tour of the U.S. (he performs again March 5 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood), it's safe to assume big things may be in store for this talented newcomer.

Brent Samson, left, with Gal Musette
San Clemente's Gal Musette opened with an impressive turn that boasted 26 songs performed over the span of an hour. The singer-songwriter, who plays keyboards and ukulele and gets an assist from singer-guitarist-percussionist Brent Samson, recently celebrated her 15th birthday, yet she's already strong enough to be considered a bona fide top-tier talent in the O.C. music scene.

Inspired by her love of the Magnetic Fields' 1999 opus 69 Love Songs – she's well on her way to completing her own batch of 70 and had the chance to open for songwriter Stephin Merritt and his group in St. Louis and Minneapolis last November – Musette's music has a distinctly European, almost chanson feel.

The audience at The Coach House greeted her material warmly, and although the songs primarily focus on youthful romance and sweet songcraft, the talented duo mixed things up by occasionally getting the audience to clap or snap along. During "Tomorrow Is So Far Away," Samson even used a small cup to serve as a mini snare drum while Musette cooed and played piano.

Elsewhere, Musette used more than plaintive lyricism to carry a tune: there was extended humming on "Some Solemn Summer," while the harmonies with Samson for "October" were sterling. The duo veered into Americana territory on the pretty "Blue Eyed Boy," and the lengthy set ended with the lovely "Catch Me If You Can," Musette's stirring soprano accompanying emotive work on keyboards.

No comments: