March 31, 2015 10,000 Maniacs bring magic to Long Island Aquarium Riverhead, NY 3-28-15
Over the past three plus decades, Jamestown, New York’s Alternative Rock outfit 10,000 Maniacs has built a strong following with four platinum selling records to their credit, including the unforgettable 1993 MTV Unplugged live album. Originally founded by late guitarist Robert Buck, keyboardist Dennis Drew, bassist Steven Gustafson, guitarist/vocalist John Lombardo, and vocalist Natalie Merchant, with the addition of drummer Jerry Augustyniak in 1983, the band has sustained a variety of line-up changes since, but continues to triumph. With the departure of Merchant in 1993, the highly talented Mary Ramsey stepped in as lead vocalist without the band skipping a beat, going on to three more studio records, as well as tour. Releasing their first studio album in fourteen long years back in 2013, entitled Music from the Motion Picture, the band make a return in 2015 with a special collection of traditional Folk songs in a package set to release in April entitled Twice Told Tales. Intriguing within itself, the release also marks the return of Lombardo for the first time in over a decade as the Maniacs set to perform select shows through July in support of the new album. As part of the Long Island Winterfest, on a unexpected snowy evening out in Riverhead, New York, the band came to the most unusual places for a concert, the Long Island Aquarium. With a stage set up between tropical fish tanks and a massive shark tank, the setting was quite unique, but inviting, as a sold out crowd of fans gathered to escape the winter weather for a night of music they soon would not forget.
As a table setter for the night, New Yorker Gabrielle Ross arrived to the stage after a brief introduction. Begun her career as a professional singer while still a teenager, Ross made her debut at the Apollo Theater when she won at Amateur Night back in 2006, which she advanced through four levels in the adult category. Now after years of performing, Ross has a world of experience, well shy of even hitting thirty yet. Originally born and raised on Long Island, she seemed ecstatic to make the trip out to the east end of Suffolk County as she and her band opened up with her newest track “Ultimatebreakupsong.” Possessing an upbeat sound, Ross’ voice was full of life as was her stage presence as she moved about all smiles. Going into other songs like “Coldest Vibe” and “Nobody Told Me,” Ross then did a fantastic cover of Everything but the Girl’s “Missing.” Keeping the audience’s attention, she spoke of her love for music and growing up listening to artists such as Mariah Carey and Celine Dion with her mom, but always enjoying more Rock acts like Pat Benatar when in her dad’s company, which was a perfect lead into her cover of “We Belong Together.” Having everyone dancing and singing along, Ross closed out her showcase with another original tune entitled “Nobody Bring Me Down.” Her enthusiastic, dynamic vocal range were an excellent way to start the night and, chances are, Ross walked away with more than a few more interested listeners as she continues to make her way.
Kicking back to revel in the atmosphere of colorful sea life in the aquarium’s surrounding, the audience grabbed a few drinks, gathered close to the stage, and leaned over the balcony above ready for 10,000 Maniacs. It was after a brief intermission that Ramsey, Gustafson, Lombardo, Drew, Augustyniak, and guitarist Jeff Erickson walked into the stage to a roar of cheers beginning their set with 1987 hit single “What’s the Matter Here?” In high spirits and sounding tight musically, Ramsey sang passionately with her unique intonation on another In My Tribe favorite by the name of “Like the Weather” before 1989’s “Trouble Me.” It was at this time the band offered up their rendition of the hybrid Folk song “Canadee-i-o ” from their forthcoming album. Beautifully delivered with jingling guitars, textured keys, and vocals, the storytelling track fit perfectly with the setting.
Going back further into their discography, the band kept the night moving at quite a steady flow as they went into “Cherry Tree” before a unmistakable cover of Roxy Music’s “More Than This.” Stimulating conversation with the audience on a personal level, Ramsey and company playfully made light of the snowy weather outside, saying they are more than used to it being from Chautauqua County. Feeling more like a coffee house setting, the mood was light, but the music was powerful as they continued on with newer songs “It’s a Beautiful Life” and “Gold,” moving into Folk tune “She Moved through the Fair” where Ramsey delicately played her violin. Mixing in “Stockton Gala Days,” thereafter Ramsey introduced the following song, which is over three hundred years old, interestingly named after her entitled, “Lady Mary Ramsey II.” A Celtic tingling tune, Ramsey’s violin resonated through the high ceiling aquarium, making for a magical segue into the band’s signature cover of Patti Smith Group’s “Because the Night.” Almost instantly as Drew struck the piano keys, the crowd began to cheer, mirroring the vibe of the MTV Unplugged session over twenty years earlier. Having many singing along the chorus, the song had everyone ready for more, and more they received with “Rainy Day,” “Candy Everybody Wants,” and uplifting version of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People” with Drew belting out the words affectionately.
It was a non-stop musical journey 10,000 maniacs kept up and did so like the well versed musicians they are. Wrapping up their set with other familiar tunes like “My Sister Rose,” 1992’s “Few and Far Between,” and the crowd pleasing “These are the Days,” fans responded with ample applauds. Seeming as if the lengthy adventure was over, the band provided one last gift in the form of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” flowing right into “Hey Jack Kerouac.” The marvelous closing sent the crowd away feeling fulfilled and elate to spend the Saturday night with 10,000 Maniacs. It is not often music fans have the opportunity to experience such an influential band such as 10,000 Maniacs in such a intimate setting. It can not be understated the impact the band had on Alternative Rock during the 1980s, and thankfully their legacy still continues all these years later. Be sure to check them out as they are set to return to New York in May after sold out dates set for April 4th in Maryland.