concert reviews

Marc Cohn at the Birchmere, Alexandria, VA, Sunday 23 July 2006

After hearing Marc Cohn's polished recordings, it's hard to believe that his smooth, strong vocals are not enhanced by studio wizardry. But Sunday night at the Birchmere, it quickly became apparent that the rich textures of Cohn's voice are quite natural. In fact, his voice was the highlight of the 90-minute show, especially on songs like "Ghost Train," with its sparse instrumentation drawing even more attention to Cohn's soulful singing.

Cohn's vocals and narrative ballads were instantly reminiscent of Van Morrison. He even made light of those similarities: On the Morrison sound-alike "Dig Down Deep," he jokingly slipped in a few lines of "Brown Eyed Girl." But Cohn took a break from crooning on the unreleased "Dance Back From the Grave," a passionate song about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that juxtaposed fiery choruses with nearly spoken verses.

After he sat down for his first song at the piano, a fan shouted out a request for his 1991 hit "Walking in Memphis." With a laugh, Cohn replied, " 'Memphis' is sort of a given at this point, don't you think?" He continued, "I don't even think I'm needed to play the song any more!" Several songs later, he indulged the request and confirmed his suspicion, allowing the audience to take over large parts of the singing as he leaned back and listened with a contented smile.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 25 July 2006; Page C04
.: Selected discography: Burning the Daze (Marc Cohn, 1998); The Rainy Season (Marc Cohn, 1993); Marc Cohn (Marc Cohn, 1991).