by Peter Brizick
Something wicked this way comes. No – I’m not speaking of the Ray Bradbury novel, but of the band Pages & Poets, hailing from Baltimore, Maryland wielding power, soul, mature songwriting and a polished performance. Every now and then, like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, you see and hear a band who “got the goods”. This was one of those times and it happened at The Legendary Dobbs on Sunday evening.
First of all, the songwriting is exquisite and radio-ready featuring well-constructed and memorable melodies, effective tempo changes, and progressions that encompass artistic integrity and commercial viability. It didn’t take the audience long on this early Sunday evening to grasp and memorize the hooks put forth by this quartet from south of Philadelphia. Although I generally dislike making comparisons between up and coming bands and those who have already climbed the mountain, I can’t help but listen and think of early Incubus, Faith No More and Living Colour. The hard-rock foundation combined with emotional and well-delivered lyrics force me into the exercise.
The live performance was impressive in every way, especially considering that they have only been together for roughly four months. This is where their prior experience in the industry is most valuable. The three instrumentalists set the table, if you will, for a fantastic meal which is then served up by a lead vocalist who possesses range, soulful style, enough grit to appease the hard-rock lovers, and the stage-presence required to best front a band like this. Additionally and impressively, those in attendance were able to understand almost every word being sung which is difficult to achieve sometimes. That takes talent and excellent technique.
An older gentleman once told me when I was a teenaged musician to always leave the crowd wanting more. I’m pretty certain that the guys from Pages & Poets never met that man, but they certainly know how to leave everyone wanting more. In my estimation, we will all be hearing more from them in the near future.
Preceding Pages & Poets were three local acts; Mike Liberatore, Nicki Sbaffoni and The Jericho Horns. What was great about this lineup of acts was the diversity of styles represented and the fact that the fans each one brought to the show seemed to really enjoy the other acts. It was a very supportive environment for all involved.
Liberatore performed his solo acoustic material, beginning without the benefit of the main sound-system in operation. He successfully managed to perform through the stage monitors and still sounded great. His voice combined a raspy soulfulness with an innocently light falsetto while the guitar sound was full and often modified by the use of his capo.
Nicki Sbaffoni, also known as “Acoustic Nicki”, performed a solo acoustic set of covers and original material. Sbaffoni is a full-time musician performing regularly on the cover circuit and also for private functions. She has a great vocal range and well-developed style that makes it easy to understand why she performs so much. She also has a sense of humor. When taking requests, she clearly stated that there is a note on her tip jar advising everyone that a cover of “Freebird” costs fifty dollars. No takers on that one.
The Jericho Horns offered a very different experience from the other bands. They feature a tenor sax player and a keyboard player. Their sound was loose, casual and makes you feel as though you are sitting dockside at the shore or wandering the boardwalk on a summer’s evening. Along with their original material, their set included a great cover of “Unchain My Heart” which featured a fabulous piano solo.
In summary, I feel this was a great show with something for everyone to enjoy and appreciate. This doesn’t happen very often; again, another example of the needle in a haystack.