Maureen McGovern, Jimmy Webb Dazzle at Landmark

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Stellar double bill with two musical luminaries

webb-and-mcgovern-265px-6b05424696e7bd43d0c08cbe81591d06The audience got twice its money’s worth when a fabulous double bill of Maureen McGovern and Jimmy Webb – two musicians so talented and versatile that they easily deserve an entire show to themselves – took to the stage at the Landmark on Jan. 29.

Maureen McGovern opened the sold-out show. Looking great at 61, McGovern sounds equally as impressive with a wide vocal range and a strong, pure voice. She’s a consummate professional – wooing the audience with stories, smiles and eye contact. Her set was aimed at baby boomers, and covered mostly songs of the 1960s and 1970s. I confess that I knew every song she performed, even though I was born in the very last year to be considered a baby boomer.

McGovern opened the show with Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a Changing,” effortlessly accompanied by her musical director Jeff Harris on piano. Harris sang back-up vocals on her excellent rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Feeling Groovy.” McGovern also covered two other songs by Simon & Garfunkel – “The Dangling Conversation” and “America.” Other standouts from her hour-long set included The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game,” and Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

McGovern was humorous and charming. “Want to sing along?” she asked at one point, then quipped “Please don’t.” Also humorous was her excellent rendition of Tom Leher’s “Vatican Rag.” She closed, very fittingly, by covering some songs by the evening’s second act, Jimmy Webb. McGovern’s performance alone was well worth the cost of a ticket.

After an intermission, Jimmy Webb took the stage, and the piano. I spent the next hour jabbing my husband in the side, repeatedly asking “Jimmy Webb wrote THAT song??” “He wrote that one TOO???” I left the concert, and remain today, in absolute awe of Jimmy Webb’s songwriting abilities.

You may have known that Webb wrote “By The Time I Get to Phoenix,” and “Witchita Lineman,” both covered most notably by Glen Campbell, but did you know that he wrote “Up, Up, and Away” covered by The 5th Dimension? Or, most surprising to me, was the fact that Webb wrote “All I Know,” the exquisitely beautiful song that was Art Garfunkel’s first hit after Simon & Garfunkel broke up.

The show was a wonderful revelation of Webb’s talent, not just as a songwriter, but as a singer and pianist as well. He spent a great deal of time talking about the inspirations for some of his songs, and his experiences working with such notables as Frank Sinatra, Richard Harris, and Linda Ronstadt. He was both casual and charming, giving the audience the feeling of sitting in his living room hearing stories and listening to songs.

Webb played many of his hits during the concert, including “Highwayman,” “Witicha Lineman,” “Didn’t We,” and a heartfelt rendition of “All I Know.” Most impressive, and surprising, to me was his interpretation of “The Worst That Could Happen.” The song was covered most notably by Johnny Maestro and The Brooklyn Bridge, and I’d always found a bit sappy and schmaltzy. But Webb’s pared down version was heartrending, touching and very viscerally real. Webb’s finale was the perpetually perplexing “MacArthur Park,” which has been covered by both Richard Harris, and the familiar disco version by Donna Summer. It’s a fascinating song with unfathomable lyrics and a catchy chorus – “Someone left the cake out in the rain…” I couldn’t get it out of my head for the rest of the night.

For his encore, Webb was joined by McGovern, and the two did a beautiful version of “Galveston,” which he analogized to today’s soldiers going off to war. All in all, it was a spectacular evening of entertainment not soon forgotten.

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