Review: Acoustic Music San Diego, Sunday, 30 July 2006
John Batdorf with Bill Batstone
Acoustic Music San Diego's Third Anniversary
Before I go into detail, I do have to breathe a sigh with a large WOW in there and my favorite word when it comes to any of Johns' performances: AWESOME!, because thats what Sunday night at Acoustic Music San Diego was for me.
What ages well and becomes better as it does? Wine. Cheese. Well-made Guitars. Brilliant Musicians. But only a musician with an old soul to start with could have written the songs and music John Batdorf did when he started composing at the age of 15. And when he plays those songs for us now -- 35 years later -- I think he brings with it the conviction of having lived the life that makes those songs even better than when they were first written and performed. It's like being a seer and making a prediction at the age of 15, and then looking back over 35-odd years and seeing the predictions come true.
Many people initially booked their tickets for the Third Anniversary of Acoustic Music San Diego based on the fact that there was going to be reunion of John Batdorf and Mark Rodney at the venue. It didn't work out and for someone (like me) who has never seen or heard Mark perform other than on the re-mastered CDs, I do have to say I was disappointed. I would very much like to see/hear John and Mark play together someday soon.
However, I also know John and his work (past and present). I came to his work from this end of the spectrum. I heard that voice first on All Wood and Stones and was initially impressed with his rendition of Have You Seen Your Mother Baby (Standing In The Shadows), and based on that one song alone, I wanted to hear more. When James Lee Stanley and John started to tour the CD, I got my wish. The first solo song he played live at Kulaks was I Will Not Be Afraid. At the very next show I bought the most recent CD of his that had that song on it (Batdorf & McLeans' Don't You Know). The second song of his I ever heard played solo was It's Not Love and I thought "This guy really knows what its all about...".
It's about a year and a half later and I am deeply entrenched in listening and trying to do whatever needs to be done to get more people to hear/see/witness this extremely talented musician. So when I was told about the pending show at Acoustic Music San Diego with John and Bill, I called Charlette and we planned to attend almost immediately based only on our knowledge of AMSD's acoustics and the combination of John and Bills vocals and guitars.
And I think ... I think those people who were initially coming to see John and Mark reunite for a few songs in the second set, though maybe initially disappointed, got a major treat instead. I've heard/seen several of the B&R songs performed live in the last year and a half and I love hearing Johns' vocals, Bills' harmonies and watching/hearing John play the guitar parts to perfection. Songs like Oh Can You Tell Me, Let Me Go, Between the Ages, and All I Need. But Sunday night, John pulled out all the stops and played and sang and seriously impressed me with his solo versions of Home Again and Aint It Like Home. I never saw them performed live before so I have nothing to compare them against except the remastered CDs but I really seriously think both were performed to perfection with a certain conviction that may not have been there 35 years ago, and Johns' talent has grown substantially in those years. Home Again blew me away. Aint It Like Home further blew me away and simultaneously gave me goosebumps.
John and Bill covered a large spectrum of music from each of their backgrounds as well as their current work. Bill Batstone is an awesome musician in and of himself and I do love the magic that comes about when John and Bill play and sing together. My favorites of Bills' songs? Walking on the Water and Jamie but I enjoy everything else of his too.
John did one song that he wrote very recently that will be on the new CD that he's working on: I Don't Always Win. I love this song to start with plus its an important song for the message it imparts giving those who might not quite understand what its like to be in drug and alcohol recovery; no one can understand what its like to be there but I think Johns' song comes very close to allowing understanding. In addition, I Dont Always Win is an important song for John because it showcases his all-around talents at once. This song has that ability to get into your head and just ring there, and even though the entire song is beyond awesome (for the music, the vocals and the words), there is the one crescendo moment that pulls it all together and is breathtaking. The amazing acoustics at the venue where Acoustic Music San Diego is held only accentuated this song to perfection. Goosebumps and tears accompanied that song Sunday night for this audience-member.
I like music in general; I could never live without it; but one thing I've learned about myself over the years is that I have an eye and ear for top-of-the-line brilliance. I had it with books -- when I worked for a major publishing house back east -- if I read a manuscript and I cried not from sadness but from release of tension that the writing caused, invariably that would be a book that we licensed worldwide and would win lots of awards and get all kinds of publicity attention. I also have it for music. And I can't follow someone just for one or two songs here and there. It's all or nothing for me. So the voice and the guitar-work that impressed me in person back at that very first All Wood and Stones show at Kulaks Woodshed when John performed I Will Not Be Afraid and It's Not Love? Well, I've had a wish since then. And maybe? I think maybe I finally got my wish ... I think everybody in the room Sunday night in Normal Heights, San Diego heard what I hear. How could I tell? Two standing ovations and CD sales like I've never seen at any show in the last two years since I've been involved in the SoCal music scene.
I've been attending almost all of Johns' shows over the last year or more; and every one of his shows are different depending on whether he's playing solo or with Bill Batstone or Greg Collier or James Lee Stanley or Michael McLean. I never tire of the music. One of the Batdorf & McLean CDs -- The Early Years -- goes with me everywhere when I drive; I never leave the house without it. In the last 6 months, John has hit a certain long-legged far-reaching stride and he's climbing. Every show I see, he has mounted another step upward and surpassed the one before it.
What we need now more than ever is friend and fan support. Fans bringing more possible fans to future shows and spreading the word. Because John is giving us everything he's got and I think its only fair that we reciprocate...
Jeanette A. Lundgren, August 1st, 2006
Mother Hen Promotions