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Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater

Ninety minutes of smiles and rocking-good happiness, all courtesy of the SH4.

Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater

Did you know that cashews are a natural mood elevator? St. John's Wort and Kava are herbal supplements that can be used as natural ways to fight anxiety or depression. But there is another way of keeping yourself happy that people don't talk about every day of the week: a visit to any theater or club where Sean Harkness AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS are playing. Sunday night Mr. Harkness and three other gentlemen spent an insanely generous ninety minutes elevating the mood of a nearly at-capacity crowd at The Birdland Theater - and looking around the room was tantamount to breaking open your heart while thinking, "Oh! Those poor people who could have been in those ten empty seats!" If only they had known the seats were there, if only they had known what they would be missing. Tragedy. Absolute tragedy.

Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater

Mr. Harkness, one of the most beloved musicians in the club and concert industry, is not so highly held in regard because he is a good musician, nor because he is a good guy; no, Sean Harkness holds the key to everyone's high esteem because he is one of the most spectacular musicians and greatest men on Earth. This is not hyperbole, and to be absolutely transparent, I have never met Mr. Harkness, only been in the room as many times as possible to watch him play. You see, with Sean Harkness it isn't just the listening that makes the experience so exciting - it is the combination of using both one's ears and eyes to achieve euphoria. To watch the Baryshnikov and Balanchine that are his right and left hand scale the heights of six strings and twenty-one frets while simultaneously listening to the unfathomable, impossible, and life-affirming. Victor Hugo once said "To love another person is to see the face of god," but one might argue that to hear Sean Harkness play is to hear the voice of god. The magic has to be experienced in person and in real-time to truly be believed.

Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater

On Sunday night, it wasn't all about Harkness, though, and he knew it. The bandleader leaned heartily on his comrades, whose provided billing cleverly reads as follows: Etienne Stadwijk [keyboards, planetary vibrations], John Lenis [upright bass, pure heart], Clint de Ganon [hit things, keep groove]. Playing everything from The Beatles to The Cars, from Richard Rodgers to The Doors, this fantastic foursome made a gift of nine songs, some imaginatively and artistically rearranged in ways that might (as Harkness accurately points out) make it difficult for you to recognize them at first (hello, Maria Von Trapp!), and others that you know from the first four notes, like the 1977 hit "Baby Come Back," and always to stunning effect. One might ask how a quartet of jazz/rock/pop/blues (and everything in-between) musicians can stretch nine songs into ninety minutes, and the answer is: brilliantly and blissfully. This merry band of players of music can take a three-and-a-half-minute radio hit and turn it into a twelve-minute movement - ladies and gentlemen and non-binary friends, welcome to the show, please enjoy opuses one through nine, and particularly revel in the Herculean efforts of Mr. Stadwijk at the keyboards, throughout the entire set.

Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater

The extraordinary musical experience aside, another aspect of being at The Birdland Theater Sunday night was informed by immense joy. Humanity. While you are in a room with Sean Harkness and The Unusual Suspects, everyone else is a friend. Strangers at neighboring tables could be seen, turning to each other in happy camaraderie to comment, through words, gestures, and EYESTHISWIDE, on the shared experience of the immense fun they were having. Hands were thrown into the air, bodies were dancing in chairs, and gasps heard, everywhere, as Harkness and co. brought nuance and newness to The Who, Tears For Fears, and Crowded House, though this writer's favorite performance of the evening was an arrangement of Gary Wright's "Love Is Alive" that highlighted bass player John Lennis in ways artistically eye-opening. But then, most of this evening of music was a revelation, in one way or another.

Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater

Before playing Todd Rundgren's "Hello, It's Me," Sean commented that he was reluctant to play the 1972 hit because the song is "perfect as it is... what could I do to it?" A LOT. Just by taking a deep dive into the music and what he feels about it, just by taking his guitar and swimming around inside of himself with the composition he, clearly, admires, just by welcoming Misters Stadwijk, Lenis, and de Ganon (especially important to this number) to follow his lead and add the voices of their instruments to those few minutes, Sean Harkness allowed a room full of strangers to take a trip to a place where excitement lives, where contentment thrives, and where happiness dwells... a place where a person's mood is elevated just by the act of listening to great music.

Sean Harkness and The Unusual Suspects played this one-off show at Birdland Theater but more great shows can be found at the Birdland website HERE.

Visit the Sean Harkness website HERE.

Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater
Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater
Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater
Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater
Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater Review: SEAN HARKNESS AND THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS Are Unusually Better Than Prozac at Birdland Theater Photos by Stephen Mosher



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