Susan Greenbaum at Weinstein JCC

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Two very special things happened last night at the Weinstein JCC in Richmond, VA. The first was a tribute and fundraiser for the Henry S. Fine Memorial Fund for Special Needs. Henry S. Fine was quite an extraordinary person (unfortunately, he passed away last year). You can read about him and the benefit in this Richmond Times-Dispatch article.


The second special thing happening last night was Susan Greenbaum performing at the benefit.


On May 22nd, Susan Greenbaum was one of several special guest conductors at the Richmond Symphony for a benefit held at Richmond CenterStage. It was one of the rare nights when I couldn’t muster any energy to go out, but Lois joined our friends for the performance. Susan Greenbaum was voted winner of the guest conductors and Lois got to meet her and chat for a bit afterward.

The next day we met Susan and her husband, Chris Parker for brunch. We enjoyed our time together and bought two of Susan’s CDs: Wake Up! and You are My Holiday. I love both CDs.

Susan performed with a full band last night and I’ll cover each member (like I always do). The set list last night was special (to me, but I’m pretty sure it was for the entire audience). Susan played Carole King’s Tapestry album start-to-finish. It’s one of my favorite albums which I rarely listen to now, so I was particularly excited.

Susan educated (and regaled) the crowd with an amazing tribute to Carole King in general (listing many top hits that Carole wrote or co-wrote that we had no idea were Carole’s). Susan has incredible stage presence and warmth, a complete pro.

In addition to performing, Susan and Chris also sponsored a table at the benefit. We had the privilege of sitting at that table. Henry used to identify with a one-eyed Smiley, so they used that as the logo for the event.


On to the performance.

Susan has a fantastic voice. I already knew that from both CDs, but not all produced voices come across live as well. Susan’s does. Power, nuance, range, always with an appropriate volume to the rest of the band and the material. She accompanied herself on the acoustic guitar (nicely) on all but one song, the title cut, Tapestry, where she sang and just held the guitar.


In addition to playing the entire album in order, Susan closed the show with two non-Tapestry numbers. The first was a Carole King song cut by The Monkees, Pleasant Valley Sunday. Susan wanted to end on a more upbeat Carole number, rather than the last song on Tapestry.

After receiving a standing ovation (quite a long one!), Susan apologized for breaking the all-Carole-King set to close with a number of her own, Everything But You. She introduced the song saying that Henry S. Fine had it on his iPod and that it was his favorite Susan Greenbaum song. Easy to see why, it’s gorgeous!


The band, from left-to-right on stage:

Ed Drake on electric guitar (and a bit of background vocals). Ed was extremely good throughout the set. Very fast and smooth leads, matching the material perfectly. Susan highlighted Ed a number of times, thank you Susan!


Lucy Kilpatrick on electric keyboards and harmony. Wow! Seriously, Lucy can play the piano something fierce. Like Ed, Susan highlighted Lucy quite a bit, but the material itself is oriented toward the piano, being Carole King’s primary instrument.


In addition to the exceptional keyboard play, Lucy provided the primary harmony for Susan (way too little) and she was excellent at that as well. Bravo!


Chris Parker on drums and background vocals (sorry, no good individual link to Chris). The Tapestry set doesn’t call for any exceptional drumming. Chris opened it up a bit for Pleasant Valley Sunday and Everything But You. Very nice job.


Mike Drake on electric bass and a bit of background vocals (also no good individual link). Mike is Ed’s brother. Mike did a wonderful job though the material doesn’t particularly highlight the bass.


To summarize, I was not surprised to find out how wonderful Susan Greenbaum is as a performer. Still, she exceeded any expectations I had. That she was accompanied by such an excellent band, with Lucy Kilpatrick as a standout, was indeed a wonderful surprise.


P.S. As with most live performances, we were all asked to turn off our cell phones before the show started. I never need to be reminded. Mine was off 15 minutes before the announcement.

Toward the end of Tapestry, Lois leaned to me and asked for the name of the song that she loves from Susan’s Wake Up! CD, in case she had a chance to call out for a request. I pulled my cell out to look it up. While scrolling through the songs, I accidentally pressed on one of them and the phone started playing Susan’s song, loudly. Yikes!

I was so flustered that I didn’t even look at the display to find the pause button. I just covered the speaker (clumsily) with my finger and rushed out of the auditorium. My humble apologies to Susan and everyone there, who thought I was the one jerk who didn’t turn off his cell phone.

Rather, I was probably one of the few people there who has two of Susan’s CDs loaded on his cell phone (and of course my iPod too). I’m also the only klutz who tried to share that CD with everyone else while Susan was singing. 🙁