Back at Whelans Ed Romanoff this time out played in the downstairs room. He again brought with him some accomplished players - Deni Bonet on violin and backing vocals, Seth Woods on cello as well as the ever excellent local boy Clive Barnes on steel and electric guitar. Clive will be familiar to may through his own solo work. All three added a subtle but highly effective atmosphere to balance with Romanoff's voice and guitar centred songs. He will freely admit the limitations of his voice but gigging has definitely improved his tone and timbre. He appeared earlier in the evening to sing a song with his special guest Rachael Yamagata during her short set. She returned the compliment and joined Romanoff later in his set.
The songs were mostly taken from Romanoff's debut album. Between the songs he told some stories and anecdotes about the backgrounds and inspiration for the songs. He told us how while on a cab he had come across a dead man lying in the street who had a small dog who was staying beside the unfortunate man and he wondered who would look after the dog but that neighbours had come out to take care of the dog. This led on to how he had found his own dog Freckles and how he brought him back into the States from Costa Rica. There is a mix of humour and warmth along with some darker tones in his tales of what is the human condition that features in Romanoff's music. He is an entertainer who is on this chosen journey of expression, using words in different forms to tell the real and imagined stories.
For the song Two Yellow Roses he was joined by a singer Sharon, a singer he had encountered while walking round Dublin on his last visit to Dublin and who he had asked to join him onstage. She repeated her vocal harmony again tonight. He related a story of a singer who had been sent a letter from John Lennon telling the singer to always pursue his dream but that the letter never got to him at the time but turned up years later. It is this sense of the storyteller that is at the heart of what Ed Romanoff does. He is further exploring that aspect of his own life with a book that will tell the story of his adaption. That tale is the subject of St. Vincent De Paul on his album and here live.
Rachael Yamagata joined him then for a song and used Romanoff's guitar and they sang together Lost And Gone. A new song not on the album. She later came back on stage at the end of the set and played piano and added vocals. There was an obvious rapport and friendship between the two. Less Broken was written for a friend that Ed had visited in hospital who was recovering and who had said she was "a little less broken now". Which shows again a songwriter always needs to have a ear open for little expressions or phrases that can spark off a song.
The show ended with a version of Orphan King, a song that Romanoff had written with Mary Gauthier, which he has subsequently rerecorded with Rachael Yamagata and released as a single to benefit the Chernobyl Kilkenny Outreach Group. It was a fitting end to an intimate and warm show and was followed by Romanoff coming off stage to meet those in the audience who wanted to speak to him.
There's no doubt that Ed Romanoff will be back in Ireland before long as he feels a strong affinity with the country and those who have heard his music will likely be happy to have him back here to.
Review by Stephen Rapid. Photography by Ronnie Norton