Duncan at the Palace of Fine Arts

Duncan Sheik‘s concert at the Palace of Fine Arts last Saturday was awesome. We had perfect seats in the front row, center, so it was like he was singing just for us. His band opened, including Lauren Pritchard (the original Ilse in Spring Awakening), Holly Brook, Louis Schwadron, and Ben Kalb. Duncan’s set consisted mostly of songs from Spring Awakening and his new show, Whisper House, and also included songs from Daylight (“For You,” “Such Reveries,” “On a High”) and one of the old favorites, “She Runs Away.”

The songs from Daylight really take me back to when I used to live in Washington, D.C. I bought that CD soon after it came out in 2002. I still had an old discman (remember those?) and would keep any given CD in there forever and play it over and over again on my work commute. I listened to Duncan a lot then. We last saw him in concert in Virginia at the Birchmere in 2005.

I didn’t take any pictures from last Saturday’s concert, but here’s a set I found on Flickr, which may in fact be from the folks sitting next to us at the show.

Pink Martini

On Saturday Thom and I had dinner at Trader Vic’s (the downtown San Francisco location), which was fun. We both love tiki, as you know. I think we had expected the Trader Vic’s experience to rely almost solely on the kitschy atmosphere, but we were a little surprised but of course pleased to find that the food and service were really good as well.

Tiki Thom Cheers! (2)

The main event of the evening was Pink Martini with the San Francisco Symphony! Pink Martini has been around for a while, of course, but I can’t believe I’m only just now getting into their music. I love them. It’s hard to describe their music, so I’ll leave it to what bandleader Thomas Lauderdale has said: “Pink Martini is like a romantic Hollywood musical of the 1940s or 50s — but with a global perspective which is modern. We bring melodies and rhythms from different parts of the world together to create something which is new and beautiful.” That they do. And China Forbes, their vocalist, has a sultry voice to die for. I totally need to get their CDs. They have three out so far, and their latest one (Hey Eugene!) was released in May.

By the way, one of their encore pieces was an instrumental (violin and piano) arrangement of an old Filipino song, “Bayan Ko” (“My country”). I vaguely remember the melody; my grandparents and parents sometimes sang it at parties with their townmates, where they’d sing old Tagalog songs around the piano. I always thought it was a bit corny, but I finally looked up the history and lyrics. Apparently it was written in the 1920s as a protest song during the American occupation of the Philippines, and has been a sort of anthem in every struggle since. I’ve been browsing for clips on the web just now, and not to sound like an old manong, but it makes me all misty-eyed to hear it again. Heh.

Pink Martini performs songs in several languages; I think they should take on some Tagalog! It would sound great.

» See also NPR’s recent two-part interview on Morning Edition.