Sean Nelson is not afraid of Billy Bragg.
While the goal of the Chamber vs. Chamber series is to explore the intersection of popular music and classical chamber music, it generally does not behave itself. But the basic premise stands: two musicians from either side of the chamber divide crowd the stage in the cozy Fireside Lounge of the Sorrento Hotel and play their hearts out to a crowd of eighty eerily polite listeners.
On Saturday night, the "dueling" teams consisted of popsmith Sean Nelson and marimba master Erin Jorgensen, both exploring the various ways love can be sung about in the appropriately titled program, "Valentine's Day is Over." Nelson, whom you might know as the former frontman for Harvey Danger, is readying a solo release for later this spring. He shared a few of his new songs, which revealed that he is working right in his sweet spot, employing clever lyricism delivered with emotive clarity. Jorgensen started her portion of the musical back-and-forth with J.S. Bach's Cello Suites, a startling rendition that found the hammer as effective as the bow in expressiveness.
There were plenty of covers, including "Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick, "Love Hurts" by Nazareth and "The Longest Time" by Billy Joel, all performed by Jorgensen and her, as Nelson referred to them, "all-male band."
Nelson was not without his odes to love songs past, playing a show-topping cover of Billy Bragg's "Valentine's Day is Over," for which the evening was named. (Check it out in this video clip:)
After the music is done, I stole the mic and asked the performers to speak about their respective music styles and other stuff, like, who was on the first mixtape they ever made? Two answers in particular stuck out:
1. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that Nazareth's "Love Hurts" is a cynical song (I disagree).
2. On the first mixtape Nelson ever made for a girl, he included three Black Crowes songs in a row. "I wanted to turn her on to some underground music," Nelson explained, in his classic self-effacing style.
Stay tuned to the CAB for info on the next Chamber vs. Chamber event — and for more and better video coverage (what you see here was just snapped on our Flip camera for fun).