in performance: ian mclagan/janiva magness

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ian mclagan.

Ian McLagan has always been a crafty devil. As far back as his early ‘70s albums with The Faces, the pianist was dishing out the bawdiest of boogie woogie breaks one minute and constructing a serene pop melody line the next.

The repertoire McLagan favored for last night’s taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Lyric Theatre was vastly lighter and considerably more reflective. Still, that same mix of fire and beauty was present. The humble pop meditation Shalalala, one of three tunes performed from his recent United States album, was a wonderful case in point. The song was a stately affirmation aided by bassist Jon Notarthomas. Then as the music modestly drew to a close, the left hand rumbles started and a hint of barrelhouse mischief revealed itself before subsiding without overstaying its welcome.

At 69, what McLagan may have lost in terms of recklessness he has gained in pure performance taste. Enforcing that notion was another United States tune, I’m Your Baby Now. McLagan and Notarthomas colored the song with an arrangement that functioned like a pressure cooker in that the groove within the melody line was repeated with a simmering intensity the duo purposely did not allow to boil over.

Curiously, the biggest nostalgia moment came with a 2008 tune called An Innocent Man. But it wasn’t McLagan’s spirited keyboard work that peeled back the years. It was instead a warm, disarming vocal performance that recalled the hapless singing of his late Faces bandmate, Ronnie Lane.

janiva magess

janiva magess.

Detroit blues-soul diva Janiva Magness, a veteran of several previous WoodSongs shows, shared the bill last night with singing that was as commanding and concise as McLagan’s keyboard playing.

Promoting her first album of self-penned songs (hence the title – Original), Magness nicely meshed with the smokey r&b groove of Let Me Breathe, the torchy stride of When You Were My King and the rockish cool that fueled I Need a Man.

Magness clearly possessed the vocal pipes that could have turned any of those tunes into shriekfests. But her phrasing (and, again like McLagan’s playing, taste) never allowed such grandstanding to ignite.

Ian McLagan and Jon Notarthomas perform again on Oct. 28 at Parlay Social 257 W. Short. (8 p.m.; $15, $20). Call (859) 244-1932.

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