September 2005

Michael Penn
September 28, 2005The RivoliToronto
A Platform in Space
by Stanley Fefferman
Michael Penn: looks a bit like Leonard Cohen, dark with prominent, rounded features; sounds a bit like Elvis Costello—raspy pushing into the high register; his songs mostly speak to his woman, the woman he’s not with, saying, ‘exactly here is where things are not working out, I’m sorry’; sings with eyes closed, concentrating inward, leaving himself vulnerable; lots of folk energy in his Gibson; nice blend of tones with keyboard or accordion backing him.

Billed as the ‘thinking person’s pop musician’, Michael Penn’s songs are built around moments of suspended time, like when Wiley Coyote finds his leap across the canyon is a bit short, he looks down, says “Oh-oh” and just before plummeting down, for a second or so, he finds a platform in space. He has the intellectual’s melancholy, the defensive irony-“ Isn’t it high time to choose, between what you’ve lost and what you stand to lose?” Sharp minded, but emotionally fallible: “If I’m wrong again, don’t let me go.” Prides himself on his talent for analysis, the perfection of his sense of symmetry:” You don’t understand how perfect it is.“

Michael brought Rosie Thomas and her brother to open for him. Rosie comes on as a shy solitaire with a voice that sighs like wind and rings like a bell. She modulates her tones a lot, like Joni Mitchell, so her songline undulates, sending out waves of relaxation. On piano and guitar, her simple folk arrangements are more sensitive than elaborate. The Thomas kids create a lovely, if slightly mournful mood.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Stanley Fefferman
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