m. ward : the music box at henry fonda, september 28, 2006
i like m. ward better as a solo performer.
first off though, i have to say that i do really, really like the full band sound he's got going on, especially as it sounds on the album. it's a much fuller, expansive sound, and when those drums kick in...wow. the live band is first rate as well--adam selzer and mike coykendall are both very capable on the bass and guitar, jordan hudson provides a second set of percussion, and rachel blumberg just flat out kicks vast quantities of ass on the drums. she ripped that kit to shreds last night. another part of the reason why this show wasn't quite as thrilling as i'd hoped probably has nothing to do with the band at all--the acoustics at the henry fonda were atrocious and the lighting was just bizarre, with no real spotlight to illuminate the otherwise too-dark stage. but mainly the reason why i think m. ward is better solo is because he is just too good to not be the sole focus of our attention. the man is a stone-cold killer--a golden god--on the guitar. previous to post-war, he has always had instrumental pieces to bookend his albums. and while they were almost always comfortably relaxed and full of warmth, they were for me among the most thrilling moments on each disc. when i saw him perform solo last year, that spectacular talent had nowhere to hide, and he's got a style and a flair that just has to be seen to be believed. this time, with the full backing band, he would a lot of times pass off the guitar parts to selzer and coykendall, which while great and all, just did not have the same presence and effect that his own guitar-playing does. granted there were a few moments where he was able to showcase his talent, but it wasn't until the first song of the encore that he came out solo with his acoustic guitar and showed us his stuff, on "duet for guitars #3". i just could not help shaking my head, in amazement but also in regret over the performance that could have been. and sadly for me, that one song was the extent of his solo set. perhaps i'm just spoiled by having seen him perform alone in the best venue in LA (the outdoor but small and intimate john anson ford amphitheatre) last year. but i miss my solo m. ward...
my favorite m. ward songs all happen to be non-instrumentals, but just to make the point, here's a taste of his instrumental guitar pieces:
m. ward : "duet for guitars #2" (
m. ward : "duet for guitars #1" (
from the (out of print) album duet for guitars #2 (ow om records, 2000)
[if somebody has the japanese import version of this album (linked above), could you let me know? i've been trying to get a hold of the two exclusive tracks on this version, "waiting years vol. 1" and "waiting years vol. 2". i own the australian import version, which has two exclusive tracks of its own, a previous version of "i'll be yr bird" and "not a gang". i'd be glad to exchange if someone has those other two...]
m. ward : "silverline" (
m. ward : "o'brien's nocturne" (
from the album end of amnesia (future farmer recordings, 2001)
m. ward : "transfiguration #1" (
m. ward : "duet for guitars #3" (
from the album transfiguration of vincent (merge records, 2003)
m. ward : "you still believe in me" (
m. ward : "well-tempered clavier" (
from the album transistor radio (merge records, 2005)
m. ward : "neptune's net" (
from the album post-war (merge records, 2006)
m. ward : "bean vine blues" (
from the compilation i am the resurrection: a tribute to john fahey (vanguard records, 2006)
also got this up on youtube last night:
m. ward : "chinese translation"
from the late late show with craig ferguson (september 29, 2006)