The thin and lanky Kyle took command of the stage from the get-go, a smooth crooner with an Irish lilt who handles tender ballads (“Ixcatan”) and solid rockers (“Queen of Hearts”) with equal ease.
During an 11-song set that featured songs from their second album, America, Kyle shared stories of his youth in introducing “Fiona” (about his experiences in a troubled Belfast) and “The National Side,” which tackles the oh-so-Un-American sport of field hockey. “When my family moved to Minnesota, my dreams of becoming a field hockey player were dashed,” Kyle said, sounding sincerely sad.
Specializing in what Kyle calls “Irish-Americana pop,” Romantica brings a full sound to the stage, aided adeptly by Jacobs (wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey) on guitars (including pedal steel), the formidable Zaccardi (at left with Kyle) on bass and drummer Orvis, who didn’t miss a beat – or lose his good-guys-wear-white cowboy hat – throughout the night. Their live show is grittier and punchier than the music of the low-key but lyrical America, one of Paste magazine’s top 100 albums of 2007 that is available online at 2024 Records.
Both Rodriguez and Holzen made guest appearances (“They’ve been dragging us around the country to play for their fans. Very nice of them, isn’t it?” Kyle remarked) near the end of the hourlong set, humbly remaining in the background on fiddle and electric guitar, respectively, during “Fiona.” Its romantic melody is offset by some heartbreaking lyrics (Took the 17 uptown / From the back of the bus you could hear the sound / Of the bombs explode / And our fears implode into the night.”)
Kyle, his vocal style more Mark Knopfler than Bono, seemed a bit surprised and genuinely touched by the crowd’s reception. He soon gave way to Rodriguez, who was in the final days of a tour of the West before heading overseas – including Ireland – to promote the European release of her second solo album, She Ain’t Me. See my review of her album here and a review of her September concert with Escovedo here.
Rodriguez, who has toured extensively with Romantica since releasing She Ain’t Me last August, was a vision to behold, wearing a leopard-print miniskirt and black heels that matched the color of her tightly curled hair.
A classically trained violinist, she relied on her scorching fiddle for most of her 90-minute set – especially on raveups such as “Absence,” “You Won’t Be Satisfied (That Way)” and “Never Gonna Be Your Bride” – but showed her all-around capabilities with turns on the electric guitar and Mandobird. Her jam with Holzen on an extended version of “Seven Angels on a Bicycle,” the ode to a dear friend who was fatally struck while riding on the streets of New York City, was an early highlight. Another was a cover of Lucinda Williams’ sultry “Steal Your Love,” during a show that primarily drew material from both of Rodriguez’s solo albums.