John Felice

22 April 2005, 7:46 pm

When I started reviewing live shows, my main goal was to remember the experiences I had more clearly. I wasn’t in a band that was playing out that year, and when I started up again (and began worrying about journalistic integrity), I made a rule never to write about shows I played myself.
I’ve since bent this rule a couple of times and broken it outright once — for a band I thought was extraordinary — but it’s still the rule.
On the other hand, I’d still like to remember certain things. Like the night I got to share a stage with John Felice. So I’m gonna write about it here, instead of on the actual review site.
The show had been billed in advance as John Felice and Billy Cole, but was just John sitting there on his stool with his acoustic guitar for virtually the whole set (the last number was enhanced by some tasty electric slide playing from someone whose name I didn’t catch).
For the first few numbers it looked like the set might be painful for all concerned — Felice was obviously ill at ease. I winced in sympathy at a few of the guitar flubs. But 3 or 4 songs in he warmed up, his guitar playing steadied and he started to sing the songs like he remembered how much he meant them.
And that was magical, because Felice has one of those voices — unmistakably his, and undeniably compelling. It’s the sort of voice that — for me at least — makes questions of technical proficiency nearly irrelevant. A lot has been written by folks better informed than I about how the years and fates have maybe not been so kind to Felice and the Real Kids. Maybe there’s some kind of Dorian Gray thing going on with his voice, though, because it was as great as ever, and really not substantially different — it starts to crack on the same high notes it did 20-odd years ago.
I get the impression that for some listeners the histrionic intensity of Felice’s delivery may have overshadowed the fact that he’s written some fucking great songs. “Common at Noon” still sends shivers down my spine, and while Felice was playing it, I kinda wanted to shake some of the folks who were paying more attention to the Sox securing their victory over the Orioles.

After our set was Obskura, featuring Gary France from Rods & Cones, a name that everyone drops as if it should mean something to me. (Sorry, Gary.) They turned out to be a stripped-down metal trio — no costumes or poses, few solos, mostly just blistering intensity. They were super tight, too — enough that I was entertained for over half the set. I can’t imagine wanting to listen to them without watching them (even though they had some things that were pretty song-like), but I was impressed. Despite how the bassist’s EQ curve pointed the wrong way. Famous Gary (who looked substantially older than the other members) played an SG and the drummer did most of the barking/howling. He had a great voice for metal, and he didn’t simplify his parts much to allow for his vocals.
Dammit, I’m going to talk myself into wanting to see them again.
Which might be going too far.

One comment on “John Felice”

  1. Rich(or Pesque, as Felice prefers)

    That was me on slide.

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