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Natalie Merchant to Perform with Full Orchestras This Fall; The Atlantic Calls Her Live Set "A Tour de Force"

on August 11, 2010 - 1:03pm
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As Natalie Merchant and her band perform songs from Leave Your Sleep in California this week, new shows have just been added in the Northeast this fall featuring a full symphony orchestra. LA Weekly calls Leave Your Sleep "the most sonically adventurous project of her career." The Atlantic, reviewing the Seattle show, says it "worked—in wondrous ways," calling it "a tour de force ... an artist's creative and courageous venture into new territory altogether."

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Natalie Merchant and her eight-piece band have made their way to the West Coast of the United States for several shows in California this week, performing at the Fox Theater in Oakland tonight, the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles on Friday, and the Spreckels Theatre in San Diego on Saturday. Now comes word that, a month after the close of the current tour in September, Merchant will hit the road again, this time backed by a full symphony orchestra.

Starting October 8 at the Bardavon Theater in Poughkeepsie, New York, and running through October 19 at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware, Merchant will play five very special shows in the Northeast joined by area orchestras to perform both new songs from her recent Nonesuch debut album, Leave Your Sleep, and some of her best known hits. Also included are shows at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (October 13); the Mayo Center for the Performing Arts in Morristown, New Jersey (October 15); and the American Music Theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (October 17). For more information and links, go to nonesuch.com/on-tour.

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LA Weekly, previewing Friday's show at the Oprheum, says, "Natalie Merchant manages to make what would seem to be a stuffy premise—putting melodies to the classic words of dead poets—into the most sonically adventurous project of her career." Merchant spoke about the making of the album with LA Weekly's Falling James, who explains: "Known more as a singer and lyricist, she proves to be uncanny at conjuring the perfect and surprisingly eclectic musical settings for these old poems, on her new double CD, Leave Your Sleep." Read the extensive article at laweekly.com.

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The Atlantic, reviewing last week's concert in Seattle, describes Merchant's current summer tour as "audacious" for its unique focus on the poets and poetry featured on Leave Your Sleep. "And yet, it worked—in wondrous ways," says reviewer John Douglas Marshall. As on the new album, "what Merchant provided on stage was a tour de force through a host of musical genres that included New Orleans, Chinese, Jazz Age, Celtic, R & B, bluegrass."

Following a full set of songs from Leave Your Sleep, Merchant performed an encore featuring favorite songs from throughout her career. "The whole summer concert could have been filled with such crowd-pleasing songs, as was probably expected by many," Marshall suggests, "but Merchant truly earned her lingering standing ovations for something far rarer—an artist's creative and courageous venture into new territory altogether."

Read the complete article at theatlantic.com.

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At Merchant and her band's recent sold-out set at the Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City, "the crowd was treated to an ambitious, engaging performance," says Salt Lake Tribune reviewer David Burger. "Merchant is known as a brassy, deep singer with interesting nuances that are like a captivating deep chocolate," write Burger. "But what made the first half of the show [featuring songs from Leave Your Sleep] so enthralling is that each poem was performed in a different style." Read the complete concert review at sltrib.com.

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To pick up a copy of Leave Your Sleep with high-quality MP3s of the complete album included at checkout, head to the Nonesuch Store.

Publish date: 
Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - 11:00
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Natalie Merchant 2010 sq (Mark Seliger)

Punch Brothers' "Antifogmatic" Now Out on Vinyl; Ed Helms Offers a "Slobbering Rave" in Paste

on August 9, 2010 - 4:35pm
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Punch Brothers' latest Nonesuch album, Antifogmatic, which was released earlier this summer on CD and described on NPR's Weekend Edition as "10 delectable tunes," is now available on vinyl. The vinyl edition includes the album pressed on 140-gram vinyl plus a CD of the complete album. Actor/comedian Ed Helms offers a "Slobbering Rave" of the band's music in Paste, calling "an impossibly perfect mixture of down-home charm and staggering sophistication."

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Punch Brothers' latest Nonesuch album, Antifogmatic, which was released earlier this summer on CD and described on NPR's Weekend Edition as "10 delectable tunes," is now available on vinyl. The vinyl edition includes the album pressed on 140-gram high-performance vinyl plus a CD of the complete album. Nonesuch Store orders also include the album as high-quality, 320-kbps MP3s at no additional cost upon checkout. To pick up a copy now, head to the Nonesuch Store.

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Ed Helms, star of The Office and a stand-out banjo player in his own right, offers a "Slobbering Rave" of the Punch Brothers and their new album in Paste magazine, where they are today's Artist of the Day. He warns readers that the musical skills exhibited by Punch Brothers in concert and on their new album are just too good for these five players to be human. "Mere human beings could never achieve the Punch Brothers’ musicianship and technical proficiency," writes Helms, who offers proof by describing their music as "an impossibly perfect mixture of down-home charm and staggering sophistication."

For further proof of the band's efforts at world domination, Helms points to the Antifogmatic tune “Rye Whiskey," which, though "simply awesome—fun and uplifting, even witty" is also suspiciously impossible to resist. In the end, Helms is glad to acquiesce to the power of the Punch Brothers, insisting that "this alien band is amazing, and you will no doubt love their music as I do."

Read the complete "Slobbery Rave" at pastemagazine.com.

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Just in time for the vinyl release, the band has re-launched its official website with a new look and a number of new features that make it easier for fans to enjoy and share news, photos, and videos of the band. Included among those videos are the band's recent performances at the MTV studios in New York for the Live at MTV online series, featuring songs from the new album and a uniquely Punch Brothers cover of The White Stripes' "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground." Check it all out now at punchbrothers.com.

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The band continues its US tour out West this week, performing next at the Myrna Loy Center in Helena, Montana, on Thursday, followed by weekend shows in Wyoming and Colorado. For more on these and other dates, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour.

Publish date: 
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - 10:00
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Punch Brothers: "Antifogmatic" [cover]

The Black Keys Offer Home-State Crowd "Most Superlative-Sapping" Set Yet, Says Cleveland Plain Dealer

on July 26, 2010 - 12:47pm
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The Black Keys have kicked off their North American tour, offering the home-state crowd in Cleveland their "most superlative-sapping local performance to date," raves the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Eardrums were ravished. Minds were blown. And when singer-guitarist Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney finally made their exit, sweat-soaked and utterly spent, it was no small wonder that the downtown skyline was still standing." Pat and Dan's fathers appeared on WKSU radio to offer their unique perspective on the band.

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The Black Keys kicked off their summer tour of North America performing as special guests of The Flaming Lips Friday night in upstate New York, and a Saturday set in their home state of Ohio at Cleveland's Nautica Pavilion. The band plays D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, tonight, followed by three sold-out shows in New York City in the coming days: two nights at SummerStage in Central Park and a late-night show at Terminal 5.

"When the Black Keys headlined a sold-out concert Saturday night at Cleveland’s Nautica Pavilion," raves the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "all was right in our little corner of the world." Reviewer John Soeder exclaims: "I’ve never seen this two-headed rock ’n’ roll monster from Akron put on a bad show. Yet this was the most superlative-sapping local performance to date by a band that emerged from a Northeast Ohio basement nearly a decade ago to conquer the world."

He goes on to use just a few of those superlatives to describe the night's events: "Eardrums were ravished. Minds were blown. And when singer-guitarist Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney finally made their exit, sweat-soaked and utterly spent, it was no small wonder that the downtown skyline was still standing."

Read the complete concert review at cleveland.com.

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Soeder recently spoke with Auerbach for a concert preview in the Plain Dealer. "It's official," Soeder begins, "The Black Keys are big-time." The article explores highlights from the band's career, not least their latest Nonesuch release, Brothers, and the heightened acclaim it brought.

"Auerbach sings like an old soul unfettered," says Soeder. "As for his guitar, he doesn't merely play it; he exorcises the instrument, casting forth diabolically catchy riffs and howling solos." As for The Black Keys' other half, Soeder writes, "Carney has been known to decimate his drum kit by any means necessary, including thwacking the cymbals with a tambourine. He pounds the skins harder than anyone you've ever seen, like King Kong throwing a tantrum."

The article also takes a look at the band's Akron roots and how their home town has shaped them and the band they have become.

As Auerbach tells the Plain Dealer: "Akron rubs off more on your subconscious, you know what I mean? It shapes who you are as a person. And you take that wherever you go." 

Read the article at cleveland.com.

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The Cleveland Scene used this evocative description to sum up the night's event: "Hot and sweaty rock: the kind that leaves your hair matted and your knees weak. This is what the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney delivered at the Nautica Pavilion on Saturday." Reviewer Jara Anton said "the Akron duo produced a live show that can only be called extraordinary. The energy was as palpable as the humidity." Read the complete review at clevescene.com.

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And speaking of The Black Keys' Akron roots, Dan Auerbach's father, Chuck Auerbach, and Patrick Carney's father, Jim Carney, appeared on local public radio station WKSU, out of Kent State University, last Friday to talk about their sons, the origins of the band, and the impact the elder Auerbach and Carney men may have had on its success, from the music they listened to at home to the support they offered their sons along their less traditional career choice.

"If you are lucky enough to have a kid who has a passion, you're a fool not to support it and encourage it and guide it," Auerbach advises. "That's what we did, and it doesn't always work out as well as it did for Dan and Pat, but, even if it doesn't work, they'll know that they gave it a shot, and they wouldn't have regrets for the rest of their lives."

You can listen to the interview online now at wksu.org.

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For more information on The Black Keys tour, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour. To pick up a copy of The Black Keys' Brothers, on CD, vinyl, MP3, and the deluxe edition, head to the Nonesuch Store.

Publish date: 
Monday, July 26, 2010 - 12:00
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The Black Keys 2010 horiz sofa

Natalie Merchant Creates "Uplifting Show" with "Cheerful Vibes" and "Tender, Intimate Voice," Says Chicago Tribune

on July 23, 2010 - 11:15am
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Natalie Merchant brought her Leave Your Sleep tour to the Chicago Theatre for what the Chicago Tribune calls an "uplifting show," in which Merchant's "multimedia presentation enchanted with childlike wonder and wide-eyed imagination." The Tribune cites her "refreshing enthusiasm and approachable demeanor" and, most important, her "tender, intimate voice."

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Natalie Merchant's US tour, featuring music from her recent Nonesuch debut album, Leave Your Sleep, has made its way to the Midwest, where Merchant and her eight-piece band performed songs from the new album and favorites from earlier solo albums and 10,000 Maniacs at the Chicago Theatre last night. The Chicago Tribune says it was an "uplifting show," in which Merchant's "multimedia presentation enchanted with childlike wonder and wide-eyed imagination."

Reviewing the concert for the Tribune, Bob Gendron further describes that multimedia presentation, in which Merchant introduces the audience to the poets whose words she set to music to create the songs of Leave Your Sleep, as part of a joyful exchange with the receptive audience. "Merchant's refreshing enthusiasm and approachable demeanor carried over to her informed introductions of poets ranging from the familiar (e.e. cummings) to the obscure (Arthur Macy)," he writes. "Yet the folk-based music—and Merchant's tender, intimate voice—did the heavy lifting."

For further evidence of "the evening's cheerful vibes" and that of the songs on the new album, Gendron cites the singer-songwriter herself: "'Who said poetry isn't fun?,' asked Merchant, having seemingly stumbled across a secret that's eluded English teachers for decades."

Read the complete concert review at chicagotribune.com.

Merchant continues to perform in the Midwest into next week, before she heads to the UK for a set at the Cambridge Folk Festival. For more information, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour.

To pick up a copy of Leave Your Sleep on CD with the complete album included as high-quality MP3s at checkout, head to the Nonesuch Store.

Publish date: 
Friday, July 23, 2010 - 11:00
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Natalie Merchant 2010 sq (Mark Seliger)

Audra McDonald Displays "Brilliance," Effortless Versatility, Says Boston Globe

on July 23, 2010 - 10:06am
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Audra McDonald performs in the Aspen Music Festival's Season Benefit this weekend. Her performance at The White House's A Broadway Celebration airs October 20 on PBS; she'll be on PBS again November 24, when Great Performances airs Lincoln Center's Stephen Sondheim: The Birthday Concert. "The brilliance of Audra McDonald," says the Boston Globe in a review or her recent Tangelwood recital, "is not just her ability to move through" the many styles comprising musical theater, "but that one never notices the change of channel."

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Audra McDonald returned to the set of Private Practice this week to begin work on the popular ABC series' fourth season. This weekend, she returns to the stage to perform in the Season Benefit concert for the Aspen Music Festival at the Harris Concert Hall in Aspen, Colorado, followed by an intimate dinner on the Benedict Music Tent stage.

Earlier this week, McDonald performed in A Broadway Celebration for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at The White House, an event that will be broadcast October 20 on PBS stations across the United States.

That very special event was preceded by a solo recital from McDonald, with her longtime collaborator Ted Sperling on piano, at Tanglewood's Ozawa Hall in Lenox, Massachusetts, last weekend. The Boston Globe's Matthew Guerrieri was there and describes it as quite a memorable event of music from A New American Songbook, from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim to Adam Guettel.

"Musical theater, oscillating between repertory and innovation, demands its performers be polytropic: operetta-like legit sounds, jazz vernacular, pop casualness," Guerrieri writes in his concert review. "The brilliance of Audra McDonald ... is not just her ability to move through those styles, but that one never notices the change of channel."

Guerrieri later compares the singer with one of the composers whose work she performed to such great effect. "As McDonald moved into such deeper emotional territory—a healthy dose of Stephen Sondheim, including a rich, powerful rendition of 'The Glamorous Life'—she completed an effortless turn from dexterity to strength, a turn more impressive for being imperceptibly gradual," he says. "Like Sondheim, McDonald does amazing things by often seeming to do very little at all."

Read the complete concert review at boston.com.

In related news, Lincoln Center's unforgettable concert celebration of Stephen Sondheim on his 80th birthday, at which McDonald sang "The Glamorous Life," will be broadcast on PBS's Great Performances program on November 24.

Publish date: 
Friday, July 23, 2010 - 10:30
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Audra McDonald by Michael Wilson 2006 sq

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