Eric Andersen You Could Have Heard a Pin Drop

Eric Anderson Photo Credit Christophe von Hohenberg.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Eric Andersen’s return to Hugh’s Room was a fascinating night of legendary songs, newer songs destined to become legendary and triumph.

When I arrived at Hugh’s Room for Eric Andersen’s performance, the room was already buzzing in anticipation of seeing and hearing this American icon who was there at the beginning of the explosion of music in New York’s Greenwich Village.  He was introduced by Jane Harbury who was once a waitress at The Riverboat in Toronto where Eric played and sang in the 1960s. The moment he was introduced and made his way to the stage the room fell quiet, eerily quiet. That’s how much respect this man got from this audience of fans and people just wanting to be transported back to a simpler time. But this was not a nostalgia show. Unlike some veteran performers Eric Andersen didn’t just sing his classic songs from the 60’s (although he could have easily done a whole evening of that) but rather did some current material. He even had a song called The “Plague” where he referenced the current Ebola scare in Dallas Texas. “You guys are following that right?”

From the first words out his mouth when hit the stage you knew you were in for an interesting evening, As he climbed up on the stage and put on his guitar he stood by the mic, in the soft lighting, looking very ethereal and said, quietly “ Can you walk behind Niagara Falls? “ Somebody yelled out “Yes!”  Eric said, “How far back can you go?” The answer, “ About 200 feet.” Eric stared out at the crowd and said “I’m going to be thinking about that all night.”  The crowd was all his from that moment on.

He roared through some up tempo, driving guitar songs and mesmerized the crowd with his ballads, especially “Violets of Dawn” that had the crowd hanging on every word. His voice was raspy but full of emotion and soul.  He played a couple of songs on the piano which he plays well and in a style that has some rolling blues notes that made me feel I was listening to an old time minstrel blue pianist.

The triumph part came from some issues that Eric had with his guitar. He explained “This is a brand new guitar, never played live with it.” The issue was he had trouble keeping it in tune. When he spent one longer than normal period of time tuning , instead of getting frustrated he said, “This guitar is a Gibson J45. It’s a parlour guitar; very popular the 30s and 40s. It’s the kind of guitar you usually found leaning against wall on a front porch. It was very popular in folk music and country music and then the blues guys got a hold of it. Gibson is famous for that rich bottom end and that bright treble ring on the high strings.” At that point he was tuned and ready to go. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times this veteran pro had used this tactic of engaging the crowd while tuning instead of leaving them to listen to him laboriously plunk at his strings. To me it was a wonder to watch.

For his encore Eric did a song that his old friend Jane Harbury had requested, a song called “ Sheila”.  Eric had said earlier in the show that folk music was defined by instrumentation, saying that Lou Reed wrote more about New York City than Pete Seeger and was more of a folk singer than Pete. Hearing “Shelia” I couldn’t help but hear it as a Bruce Springsteen song and thought if Bruce had been an acoustic act he would have been  labeled a folksinger and if Eric Andersen, who WAS labeled a  folksinger, had the E Street band behind him, he would been labeled a rock act.

Eric Andersen makes great music AND makes you think. If he comes back I will be first in line to see that show.