Home / Concert Reviews / Nick Sanborn: Lend Me Your Voice @ Pitman Theatre
Monday, Nov. 11, 2013

Nick Sanborn: Lend Me Your Voice @ Pitman Theatre

Nov. 8, 2013

nick sanborn lend me your voice milwaukee alverno presents 2013
Photo credit: Kat Schleicher
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The Alverno Presents series has long been a local haven for artists looking to work outside of your usual music-show format. It’s easy to simply play a set with nothing more to it, to say “I wrote these songs and here there are,” but Alverno Presents requires more of a conceptual framework, an interesting skeleton on which to pin compositions that would otherwise stand on their own, and while in the past that overarching theme has sometimes felt forced, Nick Sanborn’s Lend Me Your Voice possesses an elegant simplicity which lends itself to the eclectic material that makes up the show. Exploring what it means to be sideman, to support and enhance someone else’s vision rather than having people fall in line with your own, Lend Me Your Voice convincingly demonstrates the give and take that goes on when two or more people try to make music together.

The premise is simple really: Sanborn turns the stage over to one of his many collaborators for a solo number, and then joins them onstage in a supporting role, and for each guest, every one of which have rubbed off on Sanborn in one way or another over the years, the band returning to the stage gradually expands by one. As the ensemble grew from a duo to a trio and on and on, the music got more and more dynamic, with Brad Cook of Megafaun adding his raw acoustic sensibility, William Tyler of Lambchop contributing his echoing, looping guitar work and drummer Joe Westerlund introducing the dark, eccentric children’s character Grandma Sparrow. More a curator than a host or star, Sanborn introduced every new addition to the band with an affectionate, off-the-cuff remembrance of how they became acquainted, and how each influenced his particular playing style.

As the night wore on, more and more members joined the group, which collectively formed a portrait of Sanborn’s own personal musical arc, one that became progressively richer as Amelia Meath and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig of Mountain Man and Field Report leader Christopher Porterfield entered the equation. The narrative, as well as the music, which ranged from stark alt-country to off-beat experimentalism and accessible, earworm indie-pop, was, as advertised, of a very personal nature, as was the setup of the concert itself, with the few dozen guests seated around the musicians on an unadorned stage, the Pitman Theatre’s art deco fixtures looming in the hulking darkness where, under usual circumstances, a crowd would be. The intense intimacy of the presentation was, again, appropriate to the content of show itself, the revealing story of an exceptionally open and industrious sideman, one which would never be told were it not for Alverno Presents.

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