On Stage: Suede is ‘Diva la Difference’

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


This is a special weekend at the Rrazz Room (6426 Lower York Road, New Hope, 888-596-1027, www.TheRrazzRoom.com).

Usually, the music venue inside the Clarion Inn & Suites has one act per weekend – mostly on Saturday nights, occasionally on Friday nights and almost never on Sunday nights.

This weekend, the Rrazz Room hosted two top-flight cabaret acts. And, it will not be dark on Sunday evening. Instead, it will host a show by Suede.

Suede is a veteran entertainer who is billed as “a cross between Adele, Diana Krall and Bette Midler.”

Suede’s website offers the following descriptive passage – “One part Rat Pack, one part Rosie Clooney, Suede is the “Diva la Difference” – sassy, smooth and simply intoxicating. Think sophisticated pop/jazz, think naughty blues with a sizzling trumpet, think love songs that will make you swoon. Think funny, think wow – what a set o’ pipes!”

Pop/Jazz/Blues phenom Suede plays piano, guitar and trumpet, but voice is her first instrument and entertaining is clearly her first love. She is a consummate entertainer and song stylist among the likes of Tony Bennett and company.

“I’ve known my entire life that I wanted to be a musician,” said Suede, during a recent phone interview from her Massachusetts home.

A native of Nyack, New York, Suede knew early on that she wanted to make singing her life. Her natural talent wowed friends and family throughout her childhood, culminating in her first bar gigs while still in high school. Completely self-taught until her college years, Suede then began formal training in classical voice and trumpet. She obtained a Bachelor of Music degree before launching her musical career shortly after graduation.

“Three decades plus and I’m still making my living through music,” said Suede. “There are times I think – how am I still doing it? It’s the best drug I’ve found. There’s nothing better than rehearsals with my band or getting on stage to perform for people.

“I was a kid that was fascinated with musical instruments. I wanted to learn piano in house. Then, I’d sneak into my older brother’s room and play his guitar and clarinet. I also learned to play bugle when I was young.”

The Rrazz Room is a favorite club for this world touring singer and multi-instrumentalist and Suede is a favorite of The Rrazz Room’s as well. She returns to the venue with her pals and fellow musicians Fred Hughes on piano and Amy Shock on bass.

“I play piano, guitar and trumpet but in live shows, I usually leave the piano to the band,” said Suede. “Voice is the primary focus for me. I’ve always approached it as an instrument. I sing words in a certain way.

“I usually perform live with at least piano and bass – piano, bass and drums if the budget will allow. What I really love is when I can play with a 12-piece band in New York clubs.”

Suede retains anonymity with her mono-syllabic stage name. The name is a hybrid. Imagine a Dutch or Belgian person with a surname like deGroot, deJaager or deBronchitis and a first name like Susannah. Shorten and combine the names and you have “Sue de.” (For the record, Susannah deBronchitis is not Suede’s real name.)

“There were some complications with the name because there is also a band from England called Suede,” said Suede. “But, I had it first and we’ve been able to work it out with mutual agreements.”

Suede has been making albums and DVDs since 1988 but her live show has always been her forte.

“My show has a general similar feel to it no matter where I go,” said Suede. “If there is a particular cause, I might think in particular terms.

“But, generally, my show is my show. My intention is to always have the show be very inclusive. There is a lot of humor in my show. I want to feel connected and to give the audience an evening of entertainment. I want to take my audience on a ride.”

Video link for Suede — https://youtu.be/PXK-EREQWck.

The show at the Rrazz Room on Sunday night will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 and $50.

Bart Shatto

On April 28, the Rrazz Room hosted Bart Shatto, a powerful vocalist with an impressive resume of Broadway and national tours of hit musicals.

Shatto, who shares his surname – and Midwestern roots — with a popular milk company in Missouri, was born and raised in Illinois and attend college at Western Illinois University and Southern Illinois University.

“I was born in Peoria, Illinois, and majored in broadcasting at school,” said Shatto, during a phone interview Monday from New Orleans.

Instead of pursuing a career in front of a broadcasting microphone, Shatto opted for the microphone of a live concert and the microphone of an actor in a stage musical.

Shatto has been featured in both original Broadway casts of Tony-nominated “Hands on a Hardbody,” Tony-nominated “The Civil War” and “Dracula” (originating the role of Texan Quincey Morris). He also played the iconic role of Jean Valjean in both National Tour and Broadway casts of “Les Miserables.” Shatto was nominated for a Helen Hayes award for Ford’s Theatre production of “The Civil War.”

His National Tour credits include “Cats” (Gus/Growltiger), “The Civil War” (1st National), and “Les Miserables.”

“I did ‘Les Miserables’ for one-and-a-half years on Broadway and then went out with the First National Tour which played Philadelphia in 2000. I played the role of Jean Valjean in both productions.”

Shatto has performed at renowned regional theatres including Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alley Theatre in Houston, Ford’s Theatre and the Barter Theatre. Shatto also had the distinguished honor of performing for President Bush at the National Theatre in Washington D.C. along with Maya Angelou, Hal Holbrook and Tricia Yearwood.

You might have seen Shatto perform on stage even if you’ve never seen a musical production in a theater.

As a singer, Shatto has been a member of the Gold/Platinum-selling symphonic progressive rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) for almost two decades. He is known for singing the live concert version of the song “Old City Bar” (dressed as a homeless man) from the “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” album – an album that is the ninth best-selling Christmas album in the United States.

“I’ve been a singer with Trans-Siberian Orchestra since 2002,” said Shatto, who now lives in Secaucus, New Jersey. “I do three TSO songs in my current show.”

Shatto has a mixed bag of other activities on his resume.

He can be heard as the voice of “Gaspard’s Papa” in the animated series for Disney Jr. “Gaspard and Lisa.” Other television credits include guest appearances on NBC’s “Chicago Med” and Fox Family’s “Ghost Stories” and “Guiding Light.” He co-starred in the feature film “Freedom” opposite Cuba Gooding Jr. and had major roles in a variety of other films. He has also lent his voice to a number of original cast albums.

“My most recent Broadway show was ‘War Paint,’ which closed in December,” said Shatto. “Now, I’m out with my show, which I’ve been doing for a while. I started it a couple years ago in San Clemente, California.

“I do my Jean Valjean binge with Valjean’s ‘Big Three’ including ‘Bring Him Home.’ They’re the hardest songs you can sing in musical theater.

“There are also comedy parts to the show like Trump firing the cast of ‘Hamilton’ and Hillary Clinton as Eva Peron from ‘Evita.’  And, I stop the show and do a Broadway trivia segment with the audience. The show is not a musical journey about my life. It’s cabaret on steroids. It’s a funny show. People laugh.”

Video link for Bart Shatto – https://youtu.be/HWjy8n0lxGA.

Lauren Ruth Ward

On April 29, Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,

www.johnnybrendas.com) will host a show by Lauren Ruth Ward.

Ward is touring in support of her highly-acclaimed new album “Well, Hell.” How she got to be an indie rocker living in Los Angeles is an interesting story

Ward grew up in Baltimore splitting her time between a bohemian mother and a Republican father. From a young age, she also had a natural drive for creativity –with the talent to back it. Ward also taught herself to sew clothes, as well as sing and play guitar, taking cues from the music of her childhood — ‘70s rock and her mom’s old disco compilations along with the music of her teens such as Mirah and Elliott Smith.
After graduating from high school in suburban Baltimore, Ward took on hairstyling. By 22 she had a fully booked calendar with cancellation backups at the salon where she worked and was running her own wedding updo business. She was ambitious, successful, and doing work she loved, yet something was missing. That led to a new career and a new hometown.

“There was no catalyst,” said Ward, during a recent phone interview from her home in L.A. I just knew I needed a switch.

“I had been a hair stylist for nine years. I was working six days a week – sometimes seven. I was making great money but I felt super complacent – and guilty.

“So, I said – I want to quit my job and move to California to be a musician. At that point, singing was northing more than a hobby. There were times I’d convince someone to play music with me but that was always short-lived. In Baltimore, that dream isn’t really alive. In California, people juggle day jobs and their pursuit of dreams. In Baltimore, they accept their fate.”

Baltimore is great for crab dishes, tourist attractions and festivals like Honfest but it’s a horrible place for aspiring musicians.

According to Ward, “I saw the music then, but I was behind a chair six day a week. To be honest, I wanted a band. Every time I found someone to play with, they had a day job — they didn’t have the dream. And you really gotta have it to live in a world that’s musical.”
So in 2015, Ward packed up her life and road tripped to her new home of Los Angeles. After a challenging, perfectionistic pursuit, Ward came together with a band — Liv Slingerland (bass), India Pascucci (drums) and guitarist and fellow songwriter Eduardo Rivera.

“I came out here with a bunch of songs,” said Ward. “I didn’t have a manager. I spent a year-and-a-half managing myself. It evolved into a situation where I’m a lead singer in a band. I needed a band to play these bigger venues that weren’t taking me when it was just me and my guitar.”

Together, the four new friends created Ward’s debut album, “Well, Hell,” a nine-track sampler of what she calls the band’s “four modes” – heaven, hell, acoustic and pop. The band’s chameleonic moods are punctuated by Ward’s playfulness with her bandmates on stage, dancing with audience and her signature white dotted eyes.

“With songwriting, most songs start with an idea,” said Ward. “When I used to play guitar more, I’d start with a riff. Now, it’s all stories and concepts. My Baltimore upbringing informs my songwriting. I just see it as really honest music.”

Video link for Lauren Ruth Ward – https://youtu.be/9MSZGI9pNdE.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which has Slugs as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Other upcoming shows at Johnny Brenda’s are Ibibio Sound Machine on April 30 and Frankie Rose on May 2.

John Craigie

On April 29, John Craigie will headline a show at Bourbon and Branch (705 North Second Street, Philadelphia, 215-238-0660, bourbonandbranchphilly.com).

Craigie, a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Los Angeles, is somewhat of a geographical anomaly. While most musicians grow up elsewhere and then moved to Southern California, Craigie actually was born and raised in L.A. Ironically, he has lived in Portland, Oregon for the last four years.

“My mother was from Santa Monica and I grew up in Inglewood,” said Craigie, during a recent phone interview from his home in Oregon. “I went to college at University of California Santa Cruz.

“I was making music when I was in high school but it wasn’t until I went to UC Santa Cruz that I started writing decent songs – and started playing out.

“In 2009, I started to make a career of it. I had been living in Ukiah (CA) and started touring full-time. My first studio album was ‘Montana Tale’ in 2009.

“I almost always perform solo. I had been doing this since 2007 and the first album came out, it was one jump. Around 2015, my first live album came out and gave it another jump. I had a lot of live stuff on the internet.”

Hailed as a “Modern-Day Troubadour” in the style of Woody Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott,  Craigie has been traveling continuously for most of the past decade through the United States, Canada and Europe. His music and performance style has been compared to John Prine with influences of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie.

Craigie has released five studio albums, two live albums, and two cover albums.

Craigie just released his second live album “LIVE – Opening For Steinbeck.”  With wry observational humor interwoven in both story and song, the album is an ideal introduction to an artist doing something that’s simultaneously old and brand new. The album documents a pair of sold out performances at Mississippi Studios and The Doug Fir late last year.

Craigie truly has a unique live performance. He is a singer/songwriter and a storyteller. Between nearly each song of the set, there’s a “bit” he’s written that thematically leads into the next track.

“A big part of my show is the storytelling – which isn’t that good for studio albums,” said Craigie. “My knack for storytelling came early on.

“I was a storyteller before I was a musician. I was always the class clown. I wanted to be a storyteller or a comedian. By 2009, I had it together.

“When I perform, the stories are more of an intro than an outro. Arlo Guthrie was probably the first I saw do this and then I watched John Prine and Loudon Wainwright III. Figuring out the set list – figuring out the process is a big part of it.

“The story stays the same. I’m not much of an embellisher. The way I tell a story changes according to the crowd. If I’m opening for someone, I have to keep it tight. Some songs are stories so there’s no sense to tell a story. Sometimes, a song is just a poetic bunch of words – but that’s not my style.”

Craigie’s storytelling is on prime display on his brand-new live album.

“I recorded it at The Doug Fir Lounge,” said Craigie. “I had played there once before. Knowing that I was recording there, I got very meticulous with the set list. I spent a lot of time on it.”

Video link for John Craigie – https://youtu.be/7wldRoZenss.

The show at Bourbon and Branch, which has Brian Dunne as the opener, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $14.


For fans who want their music harder, there is another option for April 29. Candiria will be headlining a show at the Voltage Lounge (421 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, 215- 964-9602, www.voltagelounge.com).

Candiria, which was formed in Brooklyn and still calls that borough in New York home, is a hardcore/metal band – and much, much more. The quintet – Carley Coma, John LaMacchia, Michael MacIvor, Danny Grossarth, Julio Arias — plays heavy music that also features elements of hip hop, fusion, ambient and jazz.

“This band has a lot of influences,” said LaMacchia, during a phone interview Tuesday morning. “What we enjoy most is when all things come together. And, they do come together in an organic way. We’re always satisfied at the end of a recording session. It’s a fluid, natural way that things come together. It’s never forced. The challenge is to make it sound natural.

“Most of our fans have their roots in metal, hardcore and punk. I would hope that our long-time fans have diversified and started listening to jazz, ambient and electronic. I do think that our fans listen to more than metal. But, the core is still Based in aggressive music.

“We’ve always done what has felt natural. At the start, we played a lot of metal shows and then mixed-audience shows. It was in the mid-90s that the line-up of bands on a bill got so diverse. We’ve always worked on getting our listeners to expand the palette of their musical tastes. We like to push the boundaries.”

Candiria’s latest effort at pushing the boundaries comes with the release of the band’s most recent album ‘While They Were Sleeping,” which was released on Metal Blade Records. “While They Were Sleeping” is a concept album conceived by the band’s lead vocalist Carley Coma. It tells the tale of a failed musician who revolts against a monarchy in New York City.

“We began working on getting stuff together for the studio in early 2014,” said LaMacchia. “The process to make it all happen took a little time. Some of the material – writing and drum performance – goes back to 2010. This line-up has been together for about a year when Danny and Julio joined. For the most part, the album has Dan playing the drums.

“We recorded the album at Spaceman Sound Studio in Brooklyn with Tom Tierney and Alex Mead-Fox. We finished tracking it in January and then mixed it in February and March. Our home base is Brooklyn and we all still live in the N.Y. Metro area – me Cory and Mike in Brooklyn, Julio in the Bronx and Dan in Queens. We’re a New York band.”

This tour will be a little different for Candiria. The band has hit the road for a series of headline dates commemorating 20-plus years of their critically acclaimed sophomore album, “Beyond Reasonable Doubt. “

The tour kicks off on April 20 in Long Island and will feature support from Cleric on most dates. The trek will take the band through the Northeast and the Midwest. It also includes an appearance at the annual New England Metal and Hardcore Fest.

Candiria has put together a special set list for the tour to celebrate the definitive “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” album. At the shows, Candiria will also be selling a special “Collector’s Edition” of “Beyond Reasonable Doubt.” This version is packed with memorabilia and imagery from the period in which the band was writing, recording, and supporting the album. It also boasts newly revised artwork, audio taken from the original 1997 masters, and a forward by original drummer Ken Schalk.

“This run is short and close to home,” said LaMacchia. “We didn’t want to take too much focus off the album we’re supporting for our new label.

“The trajectory of the band has changed a lot on 20 years. We went from being a local band to having Rolling Stone cite us as one of the most important metal bands. ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt’ was the first album we really toured at the beginning of our career.

“On this tour, we’re playing the entire album front-to-back. A very important aspect is having fans experience the album as closely to the way they were used to hearing it. We didn’t want people not recognizing some of the songs. We spent a lot of time in rehearsal and worked really hard.

“There were even songs on the album that we had never played live before. Now, we’re really enjoying performing all the songs live.

“For this run, the first thing we do is play the entire record and then we add a few songs from ‘While They Were Sleeping.’ After that, we close the show with some classics.”
Video link for Candiria – www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCVQb5pcA5Q.

The show at Voltage Lounge, which has Cleric, Mind Power and Collider as the opening acts, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Other upcoming shows at the Voltage Lounge are Powerman 5000 on April 28 and Counterfeit on May 2.

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