John Wesley Harding’s CABINET of WONDERS @ Le Poisson Rouge, 11/18/09

Variety, they say, is the spice of life and there may be no better proof than the eclectic assemblage of talent that was culled together by “folk noir” singer and author John Wesley Harding for his Cabinet of Wonders show at Le Poisson Rouge.

Harding opened the show by introducing the performers via rhyming poems and played a tune featuring his band The English U.K. The first featured guest was author Stephen Elliott who read an excerpt from his novel The Adderall Diaries followed by singer A.C. Newman (of the New Pornographers) who did a duo of tunes and was then joined onstage by Harding and his band for one of the highlight’s of the evening, a wonderful rendition of Julian Cope’s tune “All the Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers.”

Rhett Miller from The Old 97’s joins the band onstage.

Next up to bat was author Steve Almond who did a humorous reading deconstructing Toto’s 1983 hit “Africa” followed by comedian Eugene Mirman and an impassioned performance by Old 97’s singer Rhett Miller who did a few originals as well as a cover of Bowie’s “Five Years” with Harding. Finally, comedian Mike Birbiglia hit the stage and delivered another terrific performance with some very personal material about how early love and carnival rides don’t pair well.

The venue was perfect for the occasion with a very intimate setting and the line-up made for a thoroughly entertaining show which was topped off with everyone joining Harding onstage for a cover of “I’m a Believer.”

Tim Needles

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