Ben Caplan and Harrow Fair: Live in Pittsburgh, PA

Ben Caplan

With our scaled down travel schedule through December, we were definitely fighting the effects of ‘cabin fever’ (also known as ‘no live music’), and eager to greet the arrival of a New Year and new concert schedule.  In 2017, we waited right up until the final weekend of January before attending our first show.  Fortunately, 2018 would not keep us waiting as long this time around, although some last minute winter weather conditions did pose a threat as to the feasibility of hitting the road.  With a well-timed break in the snowfall over Western PA this past weekend, we pointed the car west towards Pittsburgh for an eagerly awaited night of music from both Harrow Fair and Ben Caplan.

Arriving in downtown Pittsburgh, we made our way through the snow packed streets to Club Café, an intimate music venue on the south side of the city.  With a much appreciated ‘early show time’, we were able to escape the cold outdoors and settle ourselves with some food and beverages, and of course, some great live music.

At 6:30pm, the familiar sounds of “Harrow Fair Pig Auction” playing over the café speaker system signaled the beginning of the show, with both Miranda Mulholland and Andrew Penner taking the stage.  And as the cries of “Sold” rang out from those speakers, Andrew’s bluesy opening guitar riffs meant that Harrow Fair were ready to go, launching into their popular opening number, “Told A Lie To My Heart.”

Given that this was their first live performance in Pittsburgh, Harrow Fair naturally brought their ‘A’ game for the great turnout of music fans in the room.  With a solid 45 minutes of stage time, the duo knocked out an eleven track set list that featured popular cuts from their debut “Call To Arms” album, along with some cover versions of known hits that were much appreciated by those in attendance.  The lengthier stage time allowed Harrow Fair to incorporate a few lesser played gems into their set too, including “Been There Ways” and a cover version of the Turnpike Troubadours’ “Long Hot Summer Day” (preceded by the short instrumental “The Hunt”).

Miranda would tell the tale of their ‘Valentine’s Day’ release (“Wicked Game”), and Andrew would remind us of how Chris Isaac’s ‘spicy’ music video for this tune proved to be quite the distraction in the recording studio.  A voice from the back of the room commented that Harrow Fair’s version was better than the original, to which Andrew offered his gratitude.  With their impeccable musicianship and genuine chemistry, it remains evident that both Miranda and Andrew are having so much fun with Harrow Fair.  The crowd at Club Café certainly appreciated the 45 minute set, and of course, we are always happy to see such good friends perform time and time again.

Harrow Fair Set List:

  1. Told A Lie To My Heart
  2. I Will Be Your Man
  3. Call To Arms
  4. Been There Ways
  5. Held Tight
  6. The Hunt
  7. Long Hot Summer Day (Turnpike Troubadours cover)
  8. Hangnail
  9. Wicked Game (Chris Isaak cover)
  10. When The Levee Breaks (Muddy Waters cover)
  11. Bite The Way

The last time we had the opportunity to catch Ben Caplan live was back in April of last year in London, ON.  For that particular show, Ben was supported by his full band, but for this smaller US tour, drummer Jamie Kronick would be the only musician to accompany Ben.  Yet just a couple of minutes into the opening “Birds With Broken Wings,” it was immediately apparent that these two gentlemen could produce an almost full-band sound between them.  And with a room full of music fans, many of which were much more familiar with Ben’s music that I would have imagined, the duo performed a flawless twelve-track set list with material that spanned both of his popular albums.

Ben Caplan is an incredibly charismatic and theatrical entertainer.  I made that point very clear during my review of his London show, and I want to make it abundantly clear again.  Once beneath those stage lights with his guitar or keyboard at hand, Ben transforms from his humble self to an eccentric performer who whips his fans into a frenzy with his rambunctious on-stage persona.  Conversing with the audience in a hushed, somber tone one minute, then in a maniacal wild and crazy fit the next, Caplan keeps everybody engaged with such antics.  Of course, this is all part of the experience, as is the enjoyment of the unscripted and off-the-cuff banter between Ben and his fans.  There was plenty of off-the-cuff banter bouncing back and forth between Caplan and Kronick too, leaving no doubt that these gentlemen thrive on the entertaining aspect of their profession.

The audience were treated to a collection of Ben’s popular hits, and positive feedback was thrown at the duo all night upon the recognition of favorite tracks.  “Belly Of The Worm” in particular led to shouts of ‘I so wanted to you do this one’ from an audience member just behind us.  Ben balanced his choice of tunes perfectly, offering the slower paced tracks such as “Beautiful” and “Night Like Tonight,” along with the up-tempo “Under Control” and “Seed Of Love.”  And with a nod to his recent “Old Stock” musical production, Ben shared the new track “Lullaby” from the upcoming soundtrack currently in the pipeline.  Ever hopeful that the set list would include some of my favorite Caplan tunes, I was grateful to hear him perform his fiery cover version of Amelia Curran’s “The Dozens.”

Opting to close the show with the well-received “40 Days and 40 Nights,” the Club Café faithful gave Ben Caplan the ovation he deserved.  Both Ben (and Harrow Fair) were only too happy to meet and greet with many fans following the show and all earned the admiration of many new found fans too.  For Team GDW, it was wonderful to have such good friends and musicians venturing down here to the Keystone State, and naturally, all are invited back again anytime.  A great evening of live music on a cold and snowy Saturday in Pittsburgh – what a great way to start our 2018 concert calendar.

Ben Caplan Set List:

  1. Birds With Broken Wings
  2. Seed Of Love
  3. Beautiful
  4. Night Like Tonight
  5. Lullaby ***New Track***
  6. The Dozens (Amelia Curran cover)
  7. Southbound
  8. Drift Apart
  9. Belly Of The Worm
  10. Under Control
  11. Down To The River

~ M

Visit Harrow Fair’s website.

Visit Ben Caplan’s website.

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