Thursday, Sept. 7, Barrymore Theatre, 8 p.m.
"Growth is the only evidence of life."
So wrote 19th-century theologian John Henry Newman in his landmark Apologia pro vita sua. Having never read it, I don't know the quote's context, but I'm pretty sure it's something other than folk-pop phenom Mason Jennings.
Still, it's a message worth sending to Jennings' fans, many of whom are in a dither over Boneclouds, his first major-label release.
Throughout his short career, Jennings has been an indie paragon, someone who, as a talented teenager in Minneapolis, eschewed copious major-label interest for the artistic control and integrity of an independent.
The resulting all-acoustic Mason Jennings and the full-band Birds Flying Away proved that newfangled production equipment or citified P.R. execs aren't necessary for success.
But like John Henry Newman, whose success with his indie Anglican "tractarian" movement was still not enough to keep him from joining the Catholic church, Jennings has turned to a major: Sony.
Some cry heretic. But frankly, it's about time. I'm not alone in believing the reason Jack Johnson is famous is because Jennings is not.
By the way, both Jennings and Johnson were born in Hawaii in 1975. Weird, huh? Discuss.
So, sure, Boneclouds is more polished than Jennings' earlier work, but at least he avoids unnecessary string-fills or duets with Gwen Stefani. It's not Jennings' best album, but most of the songs still contain the wry lyricism, impassioned politics and sweet progressions that made him so popular in the first place. And since he's performing live, who cares about the label?
Change can be good ' after all, thanks to an impressive medical recovery in Boston, John Henry Newman is now up for sainthood. Could similar fortune follow Jennings? Could this comparison be even more labored? Discuss.
I caught Madison's homegrown musical Walmartopia at the New York Fringe Festival a few weekends ago. The production was outstanding (no surprise), won an award and sold out enough shows to scare the bejesus out of the ticket-less tourists in front of me. They ended up buying from a scalper. That's success.
Afterwards, I saw a supposedly Broadway-bound show based on old Oingo Boingo tunes. As a huge Boingo fan, let me say that it made Walmartopia look even better.