Shows/John Linnell/1999-10-26

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Tonight was quite a strange night for my family and I, I must say. Wonderful, though. Before the show, my husband spotted actor Nathan Lane walking down the street, and then later, he walked back up and past us (across the street), as we waited in line outside the record store. I brought a mini-tape recorder with me to the show, so I'll type out what I think is most necessary.

Linnell (to audience, with accordion in his arms): "Don't sit's just going to make me feel strange"... "Hello, I'm John. Welcome to my in-store...welcome to my 'display'." (There is a display around him as he is performing, which has the green print from the State Songs album as a decorative motif -- we say "Hi" back.) "Um, thanks for guys." (We say, "You're welcome.") "So, I just want to start by saying I'm..not..feeling..well today," ("awwws" all around) which is by way of saying that if you come see my *band* play the State Songs at the shows we're going to be doing around here over the next couple of months, it's going to be *way* better. So if you like this, in other words, you will love the show we're going to do at The Turning Point in Piermont, NY, which is somewhere near Nyack, in the 14th of November. And also, we'll be at the Bowery Ballroom (someone in the crowd says "December 11th," and the crowd laughs)... December 11th. I'll say it again at the end, after you decide whether you ever want to see this kind of music live again."

First song: The Songs of the Fifty States (beautiful! when he forgot the words, at a rather interesting point, he improvised in a way to make the song seem flawless: "Every state a different composition keeping me awake, late at night, can't forget, not to remember, part of the song, where I go, can't get them out of my mind." After he's done, Linnell says, "OK, this gets better..." (we clap) "They say the accordion is too loud -- what do you guys think?" (the crowd seems to think it's fine) "Right level of accordion, vocal level OK, everything sound alright?" (again, we say all is well) "Alright..." "So this is a song that's called 'Oregon.' It's not about the real state of Oregon, for those of you who are from Oregon."

Second song: Oregon (his vocals to this sounded so great in the store :-) ...he was struggling a bit with the accordion on this one, and nearly stopped at one point, but he simply paused, and kept going).

Third song: South Carolina (just a tad off on the accordion, but overall, sounded great...lots of applause on this one). Linnell: "Well, this is the one I'm really afraid of...I practiced this one the hardest, and still don't know if I've mastered the intricacies of New Hampshire." (we laugh) "I'm going to try...the thing that's going to happen is I'm going to wipeout at some point, and the mystery is 'When during the song will it happen?'

Fourth song: New Hampshire (and of course, his performance of it tonight was near-perfect... personally, I was touched -- and we all seemed to be amused by the lyrics). During the applause, Linnell says, "Other people make it look easy...I make it look hard." (Linnell asks a nearby man offstage to pass over a small bottle of water to him). "I just want to mention that Rounder, in their infinite wisdom, has put out an unbelievably attractive colored vinyl thing (we "ooh" and "aah" at the thing he holds up, which I can tell you is indeed a thing of rare beauty and shape...I sure am glad I pre-ordered one of those a few weeks back), which I think is coming out in about a week, is that right? (asking some man offstage) Week or two. This will be in stores...available...for purchase...for money (again we laugh). And what this is is the single 'Montana,' and there's a previously unreleased can see if you know your state shapes...(a few people shout out "Louisiana!") That's right, somebody got it. We're going to start quizzing people on their shapes. That's 'Louisiana', that's not on the LP. (somebody asks "Can I buy it now?," and we laugh yet again). "It's the only copy, apparently. They're pressing them right now." "You guys really have to see me when I get better...and it's going to be a great show, we've got the set...oh, by the way, in New York, we're doing a performance with the carousel organ that was used on the record. In other words, it's this enormous machine that plays music by itself -- it's got a paper roll with the music punched into it. And I'm going to be singing along to it, and the band will be playing along to it on some tracks. You know, I think opinion is probably divided on whether it's a nice-sounding instrument, but it will be a very unique experience."

Fifth song: Arkansas (a sweet and flawless performance -- I really like this song)

Sixth song: Montana (again, wonderful song, sounded perfect -- Lin looks great performing this one on stage, singing those 'Le-e-e-eg!' parts, great photo opportunity for many). Linnell: "Thank you very much!" (followed by much cheering and clapping) "Thanks a lot -- I'm sick!" (he smiles after saying this) "Thanks for coming...I'm going to be signing your records, to convince you to...(Lin's water bottle tips over) ...I've been informed that my water is spilling out...I'm going to sign your records, to convince you to buy them if you haven't already. And that's happening...right here? (they inform him that is true) Can I have a chair? (lots of laughter)

Lin puts personalized autographs on copies of State Songs that people brought up...I had bought an extra copy from Tower that afternoon for my kids, as I had pre-ordered a copy for myself, online a few weeks back -- so we had John sign my children's names on the CD, even having to tell him how to spell my daughter's name: L-A-M-B-E-R-L-Y. My husband jokingly him that he was only there to buy an Andrew Gold album, and that his "display" was preventing him from doing so (a joke that Linnell found pretty funny)...and as for me, your dedicated reporter, I decided to go ahead and ask him that question that's been plaguing my mind since June of this year: "I was wondering if you remember a music box that I gave you, back in June, for your birthday and Father's Day?" He said he didn't recall receiving such an item. He asked me who I gave it to, and almost in unison, my husband and I said, "You!" (we were smiling when we said it). He looked a bit flustered, and said "I think I might have put it away somewhere with a bunch of other stuff...I know I wouldn't have thrown something like that out..." He seemed a bit embarrassed, and I felt a bit bad for having put him on the spot like that, so I said "well, I hope that when you find it, you enjoy it"...he smiled and said he would, and then signed the back of the Tony Millionaire bird postcard that tmbg-list member Jordan Arnot had given me moments before. After our family time at Tower Records, we went to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant (yet another new experience for us), and over dinner, I pondered over my first conversation with Mr. John Sidney Linnell -- a man that I have the utmost respect for...what's become of the music box is not important to me anymore...the box has already served it's purpose, as I was able to give something special to John, and of course, it's simply the thought that counts.

Karen Riley :-)