Live Review: The Weepies – The Highline Ballroom, NYC

Deb Talan and Steve Tannen don’t just sing to you when you’re at one of their shows. They weep. Although they’re soft, mellow aura is clear right away, the Weepies natural power to harmonize vivid lyrics is misleading in their band title. In early December they lit up the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan, New York with pure intimacy and flawless feel good/sing along vibes.

The loud bar atmosphere turned silent when they opened with Nobody Knows Me At All. The harmonies hook me right away. Every time. Live or studio. After the song Steve told us that walking around NYC can be a little nerve racking with children who are questioning the creaks and sounds from under the street where trains zoom by, as well as skyrocketing, overbearing buildings.

After some laughs they strummed into Rocks and Water, one of Deb’s exemplary solo songs from her 2004 release A Bird Flies Out. I couldn’t figure out the title of the song while they were singing. My brain only scanned songs released on Weepies albums. I was forgetting about the catalogue of Deb solo songs that Steve sang harmony on which essentially is the first Weepies era.

The third song was Cant Go Back Now from my favorite Weepies album Hideaway. Deb’s vocal part on this song consists of a harmonizing echo that is a classic example of the signature Weepies magical sound. For the next song they continued to jump albums with I Was Made For Sunny Days from their brilliant 2010 release Be My Thrill. This was a highlight of the night because this song is usually a full band song but for this tour they were completely acoustic and alone so this raw, stripped back version stuck with me.

They returned to Say I Am You with World Spins Madly On as the fifth song in their set. Even though Steve leads the song and delivers boldness, honesty and power, Deb Talan steals the show when she enters with harmony on “everything that I said I do, like make the world brand new.” This song segued into another somber song, the title track from their latest album Sirens. Deb successfully battled breast cancer before the release and the title track holds a lot of weight and profundity in the theme of the latest record.

Next they performed a beautiful version of Please Speak Well Of Me another track from Be My Thrill. Afterwards they informed the audience that Deb is recording a new solo album and she would end up previewing a few songs throughout the rest of the night. Then Steve shared one of his new solo songs, written for his newly engaged brother’s fiancé.

My Little Love is a highlight in any Weepies set. It’s one of the stronger songs on Sirens and its simplicity and natural feel good vibe makes it stand out when its played live. Next we got another treat from A Bird Flies Out as Deb broke into a sharp rendition of Ashes on Your Eyes.

Next they delivered another classic sounding but recently released song called Ever Said Goodbye. Steve’s high capo songwriting range provides more signature Weepies sounds and this song is another example of both of their composing skills. After, they performed an alternate version of Red Red Rose which shined as another highlight of the set because of the intimate and appropriate key change. The Weepies know just exactly how to control the vibe of the room with their music. It’s as if their songs put spells on you.

One of the last few songs was Little Bird, and this turned into the story about how and why Steve wrote the next song Dating A Porn Star after the bouncer at Deb’s solo gig wouldn’t let Steve in to the venue because he was late driving up from New York. You can’t help but chuckle a bit when the first words you hear after a funny story are “Dating a porn star.”

Be My Thrill was a real treat and rarity to hear acoustic. After Steve played another one of his current works they broke right into Crooked Smile and kept the intimate vibes strong with Orbiting. At the end of that song someone yelled out for Somebody Loved and sure enough they played it. Be My Honeypie was the last full band song that was really different to hear completely acoustic and alone, but it still had that rocking jolt even without the drums and bass. The closing song was Painting by Chagall  and they encored with All That I Want, their Jewish Christmas tribute and contribution to the jewish Christmas song writers list. The Weepies are always a soul cleansing experience and every time these two fill an intimate room with their shameless, heartfelt song maker energy my brain fries with excitement. And that’s exactly what they did at the Highline Ballroom in NYC a few weeks ago.

Scott J. Herman