Pittsburgh's Got Her Groove Thing Going

Martha & The Vandellas were right when they sang "Dancing in the Street" more than 50 years ago: All we need is music, sweet music. And yep, Pittsburgh's got that going on. Take this recent lineup of sweet shows here in the 'Burgh...

Carnegie Music HallThe band Television (yep, there's a band named Television; no relation to Radiohead) played a rare North American show this fall as part of The Andy Warhol Museum's Sound Series at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. I was unfamiliar with Television before this amazeballs show, but am a bonafide convert to this New York City band whose 1977 album, Marquee Moon, made Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs of all time. With a lead singer who sounds like an edgier David Byrne, this tight band would've made Andrew Carnegie want to kick up his kilt and dance.

Two weeks later, it's October and we're off to see Mark Knopfler. You know, of Dire Straights fame? To hear some of my favorite songs - "Romeo and Juliette", "So Far Away" - being played in beautiful Heinz Hall made for one beautiful night of music.

Heinz HallLater, I follow up on the show by reading the "Notes from the Road" blog written by Richard Bennettio, Knopfler's go-to guitar player since 1994. Bennettio writes: "It was a sold out show tonight, a wonderfully warm audience and the sound was superb in Heinz Hall. It all added up to a good show all the way around, well played and well received." And to that I say, well said!

Next up on this musical merry-go-round is none other than the wonderful Stevie Wonder. This show on Oct. 19 at CONSOL Energy Center was perhaps the concert of all concerts - and I was there for the center's opening with Paul McCartney, who was amazingly awesome in his own right. For this arena show, Stevie Wonder played every single song on the Songs in the Key of Life double-album. Every. Single. Song. Before getting down to the music, he noted that Pittsburgh is special to him, because it was home to his first wife, Syreeta Wright, who (I later learn from Wikipedia), sang backup for Wonder on "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)". Who knew?

So, yes, Stevie Wonder played 3.5 hours (minus a short intermission) and was still playing near the midnight hour. At times, I counted 50+ people on stage...20-man band, orchestra, back-up singers, choir. I don't think I've ever heard such a wall of magnificent music coming at me. His song, "If It's Magic", which he dedicated to a friend with cancer, was achingly beautiful. Those who stayed for the encore were rewarded by hearing Pittsburgh performers Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners pairing up with Wonder to sing their hit, "Since I Don't Have You". It was astonishing to see Little Stevie Wonder all grown up, and bigger than life.

Byham TheaterOne week later and it's time for what is being billed as her last-ever world tour - Joan Armatrading at the Byham Theater. This theater was a perfect venue to hear the rich vocals of this amazing singer-songwriter's whose career has spanned four decades. In her trademark black outfit, she was funny, smart, charming and gracious. When she sings "All the Way from America", I can't help but cry just a little as I think of my late brother, Mark, who introduced me to Armatrading's music about 20 years ago via mix tapes he would make for me. Yeah, yet another beautiful night of music for the soul.

And now it's early November and we're at Club Cafe for an evening with Joseph Arthur. Unless you listen to WYEP, you're probably not familiar with him, and that's too bad. The lovely, intimate space was packed with fans - except for two women at the bar who forgot there was a show going on and kept on talking. But what a show it was. The indie/folk singer-songwriter doesn't just sing and strum at the same time, he also paints! "I've never seen anything quite like it," I say to my husband, who I first met at a Lucinda Williams concert at the old Metropol. But meet cute and artistry aside, Joseph Arthur rocked the house at Club Cafe. And Pittsburgh - save for the pair at the bar - loved him.

Rex TheaterBut the music won't end there. Nononono. Next up is Squeeze Acoustic at The Rex on the South Side, Dec. 4. And then, come Jan. 25, it's Wilco at the Benedum Center.

How cool is it that Martha & The Vandellas had it right when they said, "There'll be music everywhere".