Puddles Pity Party Iron Horse Northampton MA December 3 2016

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My brother tells me that as a connoisseur of fine dining, an experienced diner seeks out bold and unique flavor combinations, new and interesting ideas that may never have been tasted by you before.  As a connoisseur of fine live music, I crave the same thing on occasion, a unique perspective on performance, a new sound, an unusual take.  I got that and more on Saturday night at the Iron Horse in Northampton MA while taking in Puddles Pity Party.

Like probably everyone else, I became aware of Puddles via youtube.com.  His videos, in which he takes contemporary music and puts a crooner spin on them, typically slowing down the pace and applying his rich and deep voice to the songs, have millions of hits.  He’s definitely a sight to behold also, an enormous man, probably 6’5″ and I’m guessing over three hundred pounds, and dresses in a white clown suit, with face paint and a jaunty tiny crown on top, and giant sneakers on his feet.  The costume hints at the scary clown phenomenon, but really is a traditional clown suit.

Upon entry to the Iron Horse, where we have been many times, we were told to be quiet even though we couldn’t hear anything as we were getting our tickets.  Upon entry into the hall though, we could see Puddles seated on stage, eating popcorn and reading a Rolling Stone, and the entire audience, likely over two hundred people were straight out staring at him and he was just sitting there, chilling.  He started the show shortly thereafter, basically just standing up and starting.

The stage was decorated with some props including some white balloons, a video screen behind him, and some various clown and carnival looking knick knacks, leaning toward the antique classic look in general. He opened with Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots and I could see that the rich baritone he delivers in the videos would be available to us all night.

In between songs Puddles was verbally silent, but would vary between vaudevillean vignettes and strange obsessive compulsive behavior.  He would frequently bring up audience members who were very attentive, great sports, and very much in on the fun and the jokes.  I want to keep reporting on these activities to a minimum so as not to spoil future shows.  Suffice it to say that he is very entertaining and thought-provoking.

The show unfolded with one song after another, from Nat King Cole to David Bowie to modern pop songs for which he has become internet famous.  A great selection was the Who’s Pinball Wizard done to the music of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues.  Most every song had a visual component, whether on the video screen, via Puddles’ antics, or both.  Each song was delivered with a very well thought out performance, no cast away songs here.

The sad clown is very clear, balancing elements of performance art, amazing singing, creative stage show, and a Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin style stage character.  He is wildly entertaining and engaging. Additionally, there is genuine love passing from the stage to the audience and back again.

Puddles is a freaky character, but it feels as if he is fully accepted by his audience who love him dearly for who he is, and for his creative take on the world and on entertainment.  I may not need to see him again for a few years, but this show made me enthusiastic about live music and creativity, almost giddy from the experience.

My fourteen year old son, who I thought would be impatient to get to the Pink Floyd tribute show we were heading to after this, agreed that it was an amazing show- a testament to its universal appeal.

Set List: Stressed Out (21 Pilots) When You Rock and Roll with Me (David Bowie) Magnificent Obsession (Nat King Cole) Back in the Crowd (Tom Waitts) Pinball Wizard to the tune of Folsom Prison Blues (The Who / Johnny Cash) All By Myself karaoke audience member (Eric Carmen) Fix You (Coldplay) Oh Danny Boy (Frederic Weatherly, Irish traditional) Telephone Line (Electric Light Orchestra) into Hello by Adele Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) We Don’t Need Another Hero (Tina Turner) Royals (Lorde) Under Pressure (Queen and David Bowie) Come Sail Away (Styx) It’s Now or Never (Elvis Presley by Aaron Schroeder / Wally Gold)

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