A few thoughts on Dan Wilson’s first of three sold-out nights at the Cedar Cultural Center:
- His “Words and Music by Dan Wilson” format on Wednesday was a smart balance between music and backstories about the songs.
- Wilson did a fine job of showcasing material from his new album, “Love Without Fear,” without overselling the CD.
- He told an entertaining and insightful story about writing “Not Ready to Make Nice” with the Dixie Chicks but then, oddly, sang a different song he co-wrote with them, “Easy Silence.”
- After he talked about meeting Adele for the first time and how they came to write “Someone Like You,” he actually sang the tune – his way, on acoustic guitar. It was one of the highlights of the 90-minute presentation.
- Wilson is funny. And he gets funnier the longer he lets a story go on and unpeels more layers. Example: His mother believed in keeping a dream journal. Then he gave two examples of journal entries that were less profound than what she had remembered, including the “philosophical revelation” (Mom’s word): Always take the rear Cornish hen from the grocery freezer. Eventually, the singer pointed out that one of his songs came from a dream: “Secret Smile.”
- Wilson is quick on his feet. When he explained that he wrote 60 songs for Semisonic’s second album, “Feeling Strangely Fine” and the crowd cheered, he asked: “Is that for the band or the 60 songs? Not all of the songs were good.”
- Brad Gordon was an essential accompanist on piano and harmonica. Jacob Slichter, Wilson’s old bandmate in Semisonic, pitched in on the encore. Slichter promises to return Thursday night to read passages from his music-biz memoir, "So You Want To Be a Rock & Roll Star." By the by, Slichter, who lives in Brooklyn and is writing a second (nonmusical) memoir, teaches writing courses at Sarah Lawrence College.
- Wilson played a good number of Semisonic tunes, including “Secret Smile,” “Singing in My Sleep” and the sing-along “All Kinds,” but he didn’t play “Closing Time.”
- He talked a lot about Carole King and even performed the tune they wrote together, “One True Love.”
- He didn’t mention Taylor Swift once – or the tunes they penned together for her “Red” album.
- He didn't mention Grammy once, though he has won two of them.
- For his encore, Wilson covered Neil Young’s “Out on the Weekend.”
- Wilson gave props to his longtime merch guy Grant Flesland, who had just gotten married last week but he and his wife were spending their honeymoon selling merch at Wilson’s concerts.
- Speaking of souvenirs, as a lovely parting gift, Wilson gave each concertgoer an “illuminated set list” (see below) that he had hand written with little drawings (including one of Carole King), asides, one-liners, directions, notes to himself. What else would you expect from someone who graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in visual arts?
- Wilson will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with unnamed special guests; Friday’s show is being billed as “chef’s choice,” which means – who knows? – perhaps a newly illuminated set list (or recipe?) created on the spot.
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