Mary Fahl was nothing less than stunning at Caffe Lena's in Saratoga Springs, NY
By Phill Marder
Caffe Lena's in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. opened in 1960 in a building that looks as if it survived the Revolutionary War's Battles of Saratoga - barely. Today, the non-profit venture stakes claim as the oldest continuously operating coffee shop in the United States.
The '60s, of course, marked the height of the folk music boom, and over the past 50 years this little room, the best place ever to watch a show as you can practically touch the performer from any seat in the house, has played host to the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Rush, Don McLean, Arlo Guthrie, Mississippi John Hurt, Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco and earlier this summer Noel Paul Stookey returned and Al Stewart visited.
But take my word for it. No one could have topped last night's performance by Mary Fahl.
The former lead singer of the October Project, which gave us two stunning albums in the early '90s before breaking up, Fahl has kept a profile much too low for a talent of her magnitude - two solo albums - 2003's "The Other Side Of Time" and the newly released "From The Dark Side Of The Moon" - and some movie soundtrack work.
The new recording is, believe it or not, a song-by-song recreation of the Pink Floyd classic and Fahl included "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse" in her set, which also featured a handful of October Project tunes - "Ariel" was No. 1 in Norway, she proclaimed half serious, half in jest - several originals, some arias from her work with Sony Classical and "Going Home," her beautiful piece from the movie "Gods & Generals." Her version of "Wild Is The Wind," done by Johnny Mathis, Nina Simone and David Bowie, was breathtaking, while "Ben Aindi Habibi" she proclaimed her favorite.
Fahl mesmerized the full house, bringing at least one listener to tears and many to laughter with her personable vignettes between tunes.
Except for two numbers on which pleasing opening act Gregory Douglass provided harmony, she did it all with just her amplified acoustic guitar and her voice, which has been described as "deep," "haunting," "unique," "operatic," "a voice for the gods" and more.
I couldn't find any words that would do justice to her performance, but my wife saved the day.
"That was like listening to a female Roy Orbison live in our living room," she said.
Now why didn't I think of that?