Saddle Creek | Maria Taylor | Reviews



Author: Steve Forstneger
04/06/2006 | Illinois Entertainer | | Live Show Preview
Mates of State, Maria Taylor
Metro Chicago, 4/6/06

The initial effect Mates Of State have on people is how much sound the two of them produce though their giddily happy marriage is a close second. So when opener Maria Taylor and her five-piece band joined them onstage prior to the encore, it was a tad superfluous.

But love runs amuck at Mates shows Taylor gave Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel big hugs before exiting the stage squeezing its way past the duo's vocal harmonies and hopping all over Gardner's organ substation and Hammel's trap kit. Concentrating on the March release of *Bring It Back* (Barsuk), they poured their hearts into "For The Actor" ("You and me/what a fantasy!") and "Beautiful Dreamer." Gardner, in particular, has taken control of her voice with phenomenal ease, tested the upper limits of her register with power during "La'Hov" and dancing around Hammel's yelps in "Think Long."

"Like You Crazy" gave them the waltzy, '50s slow dance that befits Mates Of State so well, and relegated some of their herky-jerky older material ("Everyone Needs An Editor," "A Duel Will Settle This") to nostalgia bins, odes more to technical proficiency than revelatory songwriting. They kept with older material nonetheless, though repeatedly tracks from Bring It Back won out.

Despite its newness, Gardner and Hammel have obviously recognized "Fraud In The '80s" as an encore-capper from here 'til death parts them, and strategically deployed it juuuust before the end to inject a cover of Jackson Browne's dour "These Days" with some goofy fun. Recast almost as amateur karaoke with Hammel standing awkwardly in front of his kit, his half-embarrassed glances at Gardner revealed the irony.

Taylor seemed gracefully drunk not wasted during her set, setting a striking contrast to the fragile solemnity when she's performing with the band that put her on the map, Azure Ray. Touching only lightly on last year's 11:11 (Saddle Creek), she foisted instead a healthy serving of new songs that ranged from slowed power pop, West Coast breeziness, and some abrasive guitar maelstroms. She was able to corral some adoring fans with a charging version of "Song Beneath The Song," but for the most part her mind and material were steps ahead of the audience. The benefit was showing a concerted effort to separate herself from Azure Ray's lovelorn, if formulaic navelgazing, something 11:11 wasn't prepared to do.


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