WILKES-BARRE — Singer-songwriter Joan Osborne proved to be a perfect choice for the new “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” series at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday.
Backed solely by guitarist Jack Petruzzelli and pianist Keith Cotton, Osborne presented her new album (which just hit stores Tuesday) nearly in its entirety and breathed new life into some of her classic tunes from her 1995 major-label debut “Relish” in the intimate, 90-minute performance.
After a smoldering version of Muddy Waters’ “I Want To Be Loved” from Osborne’s 2012 Grammy-nominated album “Bring It On Home,” the songstress said of her new album, “‘Love and Hate’ is about all aspects of romantic love, both positive and more challenging.”
She and her band then did a nicely stripped-down version of the album’s lead track “Where We Start,” the first of eight songs from her just-released eighth studio album, which she co-produced with Petruzzelli over the past seven years.
The new songs continued with “Mongrels” and “Train,” a pair of songs co-written with Petruzzelli, and “Thirsty For My Tears,” the album’s first single (written with Cotton) and featuring Osborne on acoustic guitar for Wednesday’s performance.
Osborne then reminisced about her touring days with the Grateful Dead (after Jerry Garcia’s death), saying she had to learn hundreds of songs in about two weeks. She then did an absolutely stunning version of that band’s “Brokedown Palace,” which featured great solos by Petruzzelli on acoustic guitar and Cotton on the grand piano.
After a version of Ike and Tina Turner’s “Game of Love” (also from the “Bring It On Home” album), Osborne did two more new songs before finally pulling out one from “Relish,” garnering the biggest reaction of the evening to that point with “St. Teresa.”
Another “Relish” tune followed as the trio did an impressive version of “Spider Web,” then followed with the title tune from the new album and “Up All Night,” another standout from “Love and Hate.”
The audience of around 100 gathered in the theater’s art deco lobby applauded as soon as Cotton started the intro to “One Of Us,” Osborne’s No. 4 hit from 1995. The trio then did a subdued version of the song written by Eric Bazilian of The Hooters, and the gentle reworking brought even more gravitas to the lyrics about an everyday encounter with God.
“Thank you so much for coming out to see us tonight,” Osborne said before leading the trio into its final number. “We’re going to leave you with a beautiful Bob Dylan song.”
Osborne, Cotton and Petruzzelli then played a gorgeous version of “Make You Feel My Love,” the same Dylan tune Engelbert Humperdinck sang in the theater less than 24 hours before.
Wednesday’s performance by Osborne and her cohorts showed exactly what is so great about the Kirby’s new chandelier series – a chance for audiences to spend an intimate evening with a talented singer-songwriter with the focus squarely on the songs.
The Kirby Center’s chandelier series continues with Alejandro Escovedo, a roots rocker and alt-country performer active on the indie scene since his days with The Nuns in the 1970s, on Tuesday.