English singer/songwriter Graham Parker paid a visit to TCAN in Natick Center over the weekend, playing solo on his acoustic and electric guitars—as well as a harmonica and kazoo—as he treated the crowd to a mix of new and old songs.
Parker, with his band The Rumour, began releasing catchy, sometimes edgy songs, in the mid-1970s, and his style has often been lumped in with the likes of Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. I own at least one of his CDs from back in the day, though reached for Spotify to refresh my Parker memories before the show (he half joked/half ranted about streaming services during his show, resigned to the fractions of fractions he said artists receive for their work).
Inspired by some of the different rules during the pandemic in London, including being able to hang out in public with friends and get away with stuff, Parker has cranked out new music that he dubs his “lockdown tapes.” He played both the B-side, which he described as being creepy (“3D Printer for Another You”), and the lead single, “Humans are a Mutant Virus.”
Parker didn’t perform some of his more recognizable songs (i.e., “Local Girls”) that even my younger friends know without Parker’s name ringing a bell for them. He did dust off the timely “Coathangers” in light of current Supreme Court doings.
While shaking his head about a 40th anniversary re-release, the singer we saw sure sounded like Graham Parker of old. He also slowed things down here and there for story time, including the strange backstory on a song called “I’ll Never Play Jacksonville Again.”
We attended the show for a night out, not to review it. But we’ll share some basics for those of you who haven’t been, or haven’t been in a while due to the pandemic.
TCAN offers memberships that can knock a few bucks off your ticket price, but more importantly supports the downtown entertainment venue located in a former fire house. TCAN runs a no frills movie theatre upstairs with seating for 120.
We ordered our tickets online, though as it turns out could have bought them at the door and skipped the “convenience” fee. A guy leaned against the wall outside seeking “extras,” and sure enough a patron with more tickets than he needed gave the man one.
The cozy theater seats 270 people, and Parker’s show didn’t sell out. But there was a good sized and appreciative crowd. We found the acoustics excellent, and that’s great for hearing a wordsmith like Parker who tosses off zingers in many of his songs. Importantly, the temperature was also reasonable: It was steamy outside, but TCAN didn’t chill us out.
The volunteers who get you into the theatre, serve refreshments (beer, wine, popcorn, etc.), and usher you into your comfortable seats are friendly and fantastic. Masks were encouraged, but the crowd was mixed in terms of wearing them.