After a record rainfall and substantial flooding which prompted a state of emergency here in the NYC area, most events on Friday evening were canceled, including Emile Mosseri’s solo debut at National Sawdust. Quickly pivoting, concertgoers were offered the chance to attend Saturday evening’s show, while the venue accommodated the extra patrons by switching from a seated to standing room event. That pivot proved to work out incredibly well for everyone involved, with Mosseri and The Greedy Heart Orchestra delivering an incredibly moving and intimate performance with moments of humor peppered in along the way.
Kicking things off, acclaimed artist, musician and filmmaker Terence Nance, aka Terence, Etc. took the stage and set the tone early for what would be an evening of free expression and deep reflection. Donning all white, each person on stage had a pivotal role to play in elevating Terence’s sound. His stage presence and easy banter helped us all relax into the space and openly receive his messages of love, introspection and community.
After Nance’s set ended, there was a small wait during the changeover. The crowd filled every available pocket of space, clamoring to get as close as possible to the stage for Mosseri’s set. The Greedy Heart Orchestra seems to change as I’ve seen during previous shows, this show included drums, guitar, sax, trumpet and synths in addition to Mosseri on keys. Additionally, a few special guests rounded out the set: local artist Kamilah, who Mosseri collaborated with for Nance’s HBO show, Random Acts of Flyness, the film The Last Black Man in San Francisco’s soundtrack and a number of other projects took the stage to perform a handful of songs as well. Another welcomed face was Mosseri’s former bandmate from The Dig and Human Love, Erick Eiser, holding down synth duties for the entirety of the set, which turned out to be a wonderful treat to see them onstage together as a huge fan of the band myself.
Having released his solo effort, Heaven Hunters, in June of this year, I was eager to hear some of these songs live. Mosseri has the distinct talent of being able to use his voice, particularly within the upper registers, coupled with the delicate nature of strings and tinkling piano to really drive emotion home. There were moments looking around at the crowd when everyone seemed to be in awe of what they were hearing. Some were swaying side to side, some with eyes closed, and others were in rapt attention desperately trying to crystallize the moments in their minds forever. Contrasting deeply to when I saw him years ago wielding his bass around stage in his alt-rock frontman days, it was a breath of fresh air to see him lean into all of his vast talents.
A bit of technical difficulties here and there gave Mosseri ample time for crowd banter, relating a story to the crowd about how at a previous performance his uncle was in attendance, curiously dancing facing away from the stage. He thanked everyone for facing forward and paying attention, earning some hearty laughs. The only downside of the performance was that it was over far too soon, leaving the audience no choice than to run over to meet and greet with Emile. Showered with hugs and gifts of all shapes and sizes, it was evident that he was missed here in his former hometown. Hopefully he won’t be a stranger, and give us a month-long residency so we all can continue to sink deeper into everything he has to offer.
Article/Images: Lesley Keller