Joan Osborne makes Montclair coffeehouse seem like a cabaret



There is a hymn-like quality to Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.” Or, at least, it seemed that way when Joan Osborne sang it as the encore to her Friday night show at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair. The show was at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, as most Outpost shows are, and Keith Cotton, who accompanied Osborne on keyboards and guitar throughout the show, moved to the church’s pipe organ for this song, which Osborne sang with devastating emotion.

It’s too bad these two can’t have a pipe organ for every show they do.

Osborne, who has also just announced a show with her band Trigger Hippy at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park March 26, was in good form throughout the night, and really benefited from the venue’s intimacy and pristine acoustics. She delivered songs like Willie Dixon’s “I Want to Be Loved” and her own “Where We Start” in a slow, sultry manner that made the Outpost seem more like a urban cabaret than a suburban coffeehouse. Her versions of the Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace” (dedicated to the late Popsy Dixon of the Holmes Brothers) and John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” were immaculately phrased; her take on Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” more upbeat and playful.

On most songs Cotton, was the only instrumentalist, though Osborne occasionally played guitar or tambourine. On two songs, she also added some canned beats with an iPhone program (which was also responsible for the night’s comic relief, when it unexpectedly switched to The Jackson 5’s “ABC” in the middle of one song).

Not surprisingly, the setlist included Osborne’s minor ’90s hit “St. Teresa” and her major ’90s breakthrough “One of Us.” Yes, it was a bit strange to hear the latter in a church, since some people may consider its questions (“What if God were one of us?/Just a slob like some of us?”) to be blasphemous. But in a way, the setting seemed perfectly appropriate, since the song really functions like a sermon, asking listeners to think about the nature of God and spirituality.

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