Freedy Johnston @ Cafe du Nord, SF, 5.14.10

Freedy Johnston is sort of indirectly responsible for the 13+ years I spent working either directly or tangentially in the music business. I'd get into that story here, but it's reserved for my second memoir, to be published in 2014 by Simon & Garfunkel.

I'd gather that I probably saw Freedy Johnston about ten times in the 90s. From First Avenue in Minneapolis to stops all over the East Coast, he was one of my favorites of that time. I was hooked on Can You Fly (1992), This Perfect World (1994) and Never Home (1997). And I still play those records regularly. Add in the grossly under-appreciated Right Between the Promises (2001) (which was my favorite record of that year) and this year's Rain on the City, and Freedy has amassed an enormous library of great songs. As far as straightforward singer-songwriters go, he truly is one of the best of the past two decades.

In the past decade, I've only seen Freedy maybe once or twice prior to tonight. If you take a look at his discography, that should come as little surprise. It's been nine years since Freedy has released a record of new material. It's been a quiet decade, to put it mildly. Knowing this, I wasn't sure what to expect tonight. I've been loving his new record, but man, he's been away for a while.

When he took the stage just after 730, he actually looked slightly nervous. After a few quick quips, he started into not only one of my favorite Freedy songs, but one of my favorite songs, "The Lucky One." It was perfect. And the night took off from there. The room began to fill as he moved through his first few songs and the crowd was incredibly appreciative. Requests abound, loud applause and back-and-forth banter that had the whole room in a pretty joyous mood. Freedy's expressions made it pretty clear that this show was somewhat special. And boy did he deliver. He has such a mountain of great songs that it would have been impossible to please everyone, but what a set he gave us: "Evie's Tears," "Don't Fall In Love With a Lonely Girl," "Responsible," "This Perfect World," "California Thing," Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman," "The Mortician's Daughter," "Dolores," "Bad Reputation," a gorgeous take on the new record's title track to close the show, and a few I'm missing. I can't remember the last time I saw a merch table at Cafe du Nord so jammed after a set.

N and I left the joint feeling pretty damn good. I didn't get my favorite Freedy song, "I Can Hear the Laughs," but if tonight's any indication, it can't be long before I get another chance.