Nov 19, 2010

Donovan Frankenreiter with John Oates at Double Door on 11/18/10

Finally, after at more than 5 years of marriage (hers), my friend Wendy plans a double date with me and Jeff to go to see Donovan. I have heard that John (her S.O.) is doing well but have not seen him in years (we live 3 miles apart but this is how it goes...). So to begin with, I call Wendy to make a plan to meet up. It turns out she got the night wrong and was babysitting for her brother. Wendy quickly obtained the next best sitter (mom) and made her way back to the city (from the outreaches of suburban Northbrook) to go to the show. Wendy's husband John (not Oates) on the other hand, was not as willing to rise to the occasion being in the middle of an accounting class in another similar outlying suburb. So, no double date, but Wendy, Jeff, and I trekked onward to what turned out to be an amazing show. Sorry John, shoulda rallied! (and you owe me a double date).

First of all, it had been something like 10 years since I had been to the Double Door. The last time may have been to see a band called "Flammable Dress" because I was auditioning to be a back-up vocalist with the band. Turns out I cannot harmonize. Sally, the lead singer, did not really want to switch parts so, alas, I lost my one chance to be a rock star. I do however manage to get rock star parking from time to time (OK, not the same but it is nice). Moving on, Double Door is really a great venue. The sound was great and the crowd, reasonable even though packed. Of course the location is in the middle of all things Bucktown so it is easy to plan a pre-event start that includes food and drinks prior to the show. We did not (given the issue of getting the night switched and babysitters) but will in the future.

Donovan is a 37 year old singer-songwriter from California who began his career as a pro-surfer at age 10. He did not pick up a guitar until age 16 (which gives me hope for my kids). His pal, Jack Johnson, gave him his first real break by producing his first album of folk songs and his big hit "Free". His sound is decidedly on the Jack Johnson side of the spectrum: mellow and relaxing, and maybe a bit too much sameness. His later album (CD, downloadable media file, etc.) Pass it Around, features Ben Harper and G. Love (see earlier review). Donovan now lives in Kauai full time with his wife and two sons, Ozzy and Hendrix (seriously!).

He is touring with close friend John Oates (yes for you retro folks, of Hall and Oates) who plays lead guitar and provides back-up vocals (he can harmonize). John was unexpectedly amazing. He plays a mean axe and harmonica. I was/am a fan of Hall and Oates (oh, be quiet if you don't think that is "cool") but now have new found respect for John's musicianship. It was not all about Darryl and "Sarah Smile". Donovan sounds exactly like his recordings. Not much jazzing up of his song stylings live but not sure how you could. I was surprised by how much his mellow songs would segue, with the help of John Oates and his other band-mates (who were phenomenal) into some great bluesy, kick-ass, riffs. Having now listened to his latest recording, Glow, I have found it to be extra sleepy and mellow. This may explain Donovan's perpetual "bed head" (I was curious to find out what he would look like with hair brushed and/or cut). The songs reflect his love for his children and wife (so you can't get too upset because he has good intentions) but do not expect to find too many sing along moments.

From the show, "Lovely Day":

John Oates, Harmonica Solo:

The encore consisted of John Oates doing the famed "I Can't Go for That"(see original 1980's version below) and Donovan doing "Don't Matter". Listen to the chorus and decide on your own, on a scale of 1-10, the difficulty level of learning the lyrics (this will be explained afterwards):

I Can't Go for That (original version):

During the final "Don't Matter to Me", Donovan gave fans a chance to sing the chorus "if it don't matter to you, it don't matter to me" using the mic from the floor. These were the lyrics, plain and in my view, simple. It was surprising that two fans got the lyrics wrong and the third, just could not sing on key. Not sure which is worse. Here is the first lyrically challenged fan attempting to sing these lyrics:

In case anyone is interested, I did wave my hand emphatically trying to get picked and to have my chance at lead vocals at the Double Door. Just was not picked so, not a rock star, once again. I rate the show a 5 out of 5 guitars for great acoustics and a fun, energetic show. Minimal banter but I barely noticed (for a change, you are likely noting, if you have read any of my other show reviews).

Ximena Sarinana (opening act)

Ximena is from Mexico City and promotes herself as a spanish Fiona Apple (according to her merch salesperson). I see the style resemblance but she has a long way to go to reach that stature. She played keyboard and made full use of garage band on her mac for musical support. At times flat and at others, she sounded similar to a cat in heat. If you have ever heard a cat in heat, it can land you in an asylum if you are subjected to it relentlessly. Otherwise I really liked her. I will search the net to see what others have said, in the meantime, this was her first song. If you listen until the bitter end you can vote for yourself on the cat comment.

I think you see my point.

However, after additional investigating I have learned that 1. she was a grammy award and latin grammy award nominated singer-songwriter, 2. she performed with Jason Mraz and together they produced a spanish version of his song "Lucky", 3. Her first CD, Mediocre, sold 80,000 copies, 4. she acted in telenovelas from the age of 11 and 5. She is considered to have reached "international stardom" according to her feature article and cover photo in Venus Zine's summer 2009 issue. So what do I know. My opinion only carries so much weight and will likely not impact her career. At least the male cats will be happy.

"Lucky" with Jason Mraz:

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