Cliff Eberhardt, with
Liz Queler & Seth Farber
The Brokerage, Bellmore, NY
(15 November 2000)

Despite a disappointing turnout, Cliff Eberhardt proved to an intimate yet appreciative crowd of about 50 at the Brokerage in Bellmore, New York, that he is arguably one of the most engaging and entertaining performers in the folk music universe. Perhaps Long Island music-lovers stayed home on a chilly Wednesday evening to take in more of the countless lawsuits and counter-lawsuits surrounding the 2000 presidential election dominating cable and network television. Those that ventured out to one of New York's best acoustic music venues caught a rare glimpse of a seasoned veteran songwriter who has never sounded better.

Eberhardt ran through a number of recognizable tunes from his last three albums, accompanied most of the evening by the ever impressive Liz Queler on backing vocals and Seth Farber on electric piano and what might only be described as a squeeze box.. Highlights were his lively renditions of "Brave Little Gray," "Voodoo Morning," "My Father's Shoes," "Wrong Side of the Line," "Always Your Face" and "Borders," the title song from his latest CD. All through the lengthy set Eberhardt wasn't so much singing but dramatically performing the songs in his own inimitable style. The newly goateed troubadour also treated the audience to a handful of brand new tunes as well, with tentative titles like "Love Slips Away" and "School For Love" written, he said, for his young teenage nieces who were nursing broken hearts.

Ever the consummate jokester, Eberhardt continually joked about launching into a medley of polkas, nimbly finger-picking the opening notes of various classic Polish dance tunes. Why was I not surprised he could effortlessly play these so well?

In my view, Eberhardt is arguably one of the most original songsmiths currently on tour, a highly intelligent and articulate artist whose often penetrating and profound lyrics are sometimes overshadowed by his extraordinary guitar playing. But upon closer listening, the Philadelphia-born singer's gift with the English language becomes clear. The poetry of words that tumble from his mouth is framed by a raspy yet deeply elegant voice that is at once resonant and, dare I say it, sexy.

Eberhardt chose to close the intimate yet remarkable evening with "Memphis," one of my favorite tunes from his 12 Songs OF Good And Evil CD and a song covered by the once and former folk trio Cry Cry Cry comprised of Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky and Dar Williams. Eberhardt performed the song much slower than I've heard him do it in past shows, lending a heart wrenching soulfulness to a song already bounding in emotion and passion.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the evening: Eberhardt announced that he had just finished recording his new record, which he said could be in record stores as early as next April. That's as welcome as the next Cliff Eberhardt performance I may be lucky enough to attend.

[ by Ralph DiGennaro ]

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