10,000 Maniacs are back, touring in support of their new release, Music from the Motion Picture. Despite the departure of Natalie Merchant and tragic passing of guitarist Rob Buck, the band brilliantly builds on the American folk-pop sound that made them famous 30 years ago. Perhaps it’s in part because they’ve kept it all in the family; Lead vocalist Mary Ramsey’s exquisite viola can be heard on tracks dating back to 1992 and has become integral to the group’s core sound. Likewise, guitarist Jeff Erickson channels Buck’s unique style; as his close friend and former guitar tech, their kindred connection is eerily present. Returning to City Winery with co-founders Steven Gustafson (bass guitar) and Dennis Drew (keyboards), along with Jerome Augustyniak (drums), and Melanie Luciano (guitar), 10,000 Maniacs charmed longtime fans and newcomers with a set alternating fresh beats and familiar tunes.
The transformative “Clouds” was a fitting opener, reminiscent of the lush melodies captured on Our Time in Eden. To the room’s delight, the Maniacs transitioned to fan favorite, “What’s the Matter Here,” featuring Ramsey’s viola over the traditional guitar and piano riff intro. Bouncing from classics like “Hey Jack Kerouac” to breakthrough tracks like the reggae infused, “It’s a Beautiful Life,” 10,000 Maniacs showcased their musical dexterity. In spite of the challenges, this band continues to stretch the edges of their creative artistry.
– Rebecca Dolber