Friday, September 05, 2008

Checking Out The Motels

One of my favorite places to see musical acts is the Ramshead OnStage in Annapolis (not to be confused with the much bigger Ramshead Live in Baltimore, which I have never been too). Over the years, I’ve seen acts ranging in age from Nellie McKay to Crystal Gayle.

On a whim, my wife got us tickets to The Motels, a two-hit new wave wonder from the 80s. After about a decade of inactivity, lead singer and songwriter Martha Davis has been hitting the studio with a vengeance. In the past year she has put out three albums. One is re-recordings of classic Motels hits and two are new material. Since I have a format to follow, lets hit it.

The Motels
Blurry Overexposed Cell Phone Picture

Martha Davis, a New Wave icon is still touring and rocking.
Opening Act

None. If you make reservations at the restaurant, you get 10% off your bill before the show.
Stage Presence

The 21st century incarnation of this band is basically lead singer Martha Davis and whatever musicians she can find for the evening. I kid, but I’m not far off. While she has a core band of sidemen that are completely different from her band in the 80s, they often have to go out on tour with bigger bands to pay the bills. Nonetheless, the group that formed the Motels that night were talented and knew the tunes.
Stage Show

She got into quite a few conversations with the audience as well as her band members. She came onstage with a wine glass in hand and sipped from it between songs. She teased that if the keyboardist got drunk enough that he would take off his shirt. The audience soon littered the stage with drinks they had sent up. This led into a story about Martha forgetting her purse in his motel room and him answering the door in the nude. The whole show was just a loose raucous hoot as she told stories and cut up with the band.
Amusing Anecdote

She wasn’t wearing her glasses, so between songs she kept squinting and looking at the setlist. Some guy sitting by the stage pointed out that she was skipping around. She checked the list and recoiled in horror saying “I’ve skipped ‘Suddenly Last Summer’, you guys wouldn’t like that would you?" After gasps from the audience, she went into a note-perfect no-dry-eye rendition.

After the show Martha Davis came out and signed stuff and chatted with the fans for over an hour. It was a real trip listening to her talk about the old times. She’s fifty-seven years old and quite upfront about it. Her fans were aghast at her suggestion that maybe it was time for some plastic surgery.
Show Length
90 minutes from start to finish.
Audience Demeanor

The best part of the Ramshead experience is that the audience loves the music and is respectful of it. One guy was lip-syncing along to every tune. The lady next to me took meticulous set list notes on a cocktail napkin all night and then went to the bathroom during show closer “Only The Lonely”. Go figure.
Noticeable Omissions
None that I’m aware of, but then my one Motels cassette hasn’t seen daylight in about two decades. The set was a mix of about equal measures original versions of older songs, new arrangements of older songs, and new material. After one of the songs that Martha would announce as a “remix”, a guy in the back loudly yelled “Brilliant, but how about the original version?” Wasn’t going to happen.
Other Reviews

Here's one from a gig in LA earlier this year.

It's great to see the rockers of my youth still going strong twenty-five years later. Martha Davis may be older but she still has the haunting pipes that made her such an influence for later female singers.


Jeff and Charli Lee said...

I would have loved that show. Our singer had Martha down to a tee and we did all their hits.

"Take the L out of lover, and it's over."

Clever huh?

Elizabeth said...

Gosh, I haven't thought about the Motels in forever. Sounds like it was a fun show!