Jangly pop has been a Boston staple for almost forever. And with Letters to Cleo, Kay Hanley stood for a time at the top of Boston’s bubblegum heap. She and her husband, ex-Letters guitarist Michael Eisenstein, may have relocated to LA, but when Hanley returned to T.T. the Bear’s Place on January 5, she was greeted by a packed crowd who hadn’t forgotten past triumphs. With backing from Eisenstein on guitar, Joe Klompus on bass, and Gravel Pit/Gentlemen drummer Pete Caldes, Hanley got the home-town-hero treatment as they warmed up for their Hot Stove, Cool Music gig at the Paradise three nights later.
Hanley seemed relaxed and happy to be home. She opened a playful, high-energy set by dedicating "Cellars by Starlight" to long-time friend (and Phoenix writer) Brett Milano. The song, from a split single she and Scamper (an up-and-coming local band) released this month, is a bright, keyboard-laced number full of handclap rhythms and an anthemic vocal hook. Although she complained of losing her voice, it didn’t seem to put much of a damper on her soaring vocals. And though she spends more time composing than performing these days, she still radiates a low-key but tangible star power on stage.
The set included everything from familiar Letters to Cleo tunes like the metal-edged "Get On with It" — from their 1993 debut, Aurora Gory Alice — to newer solo material like the sexed-up rocker "Brown Betty." Hanley passed the torch to Scamper when she joined them on stage to add backing vocals to their heartfelt rocker "Barcelona" — the song she recorded with them for the split single. Scamper’s goofy, upbeat set had a playful Fountains of Wayne/OK Go feel to it, replete with ironic posturing and choreographed dance moves.Former Fuzzy frontwoman Hilken Mancini and Buffalo Tom’s Chris Colbourn teamed up to perform some of the twangy, heartbroken tunes from their recent homonymous Kimchee album. And reform-school-girl rockers the Knee-Hi’s kicked off the evening with big riffs and raw attitude.
: Live Reviews
, Chris Colbourn, Hilken Mancini, Fountains of Wayne, More