Karla Bonoff at the Winchester (2006)

Winchester in Lakewood, Ohio

4 August 2006

Karla Bonoff made her first appearance ever at the Winchester in Lakewood last Friday, and a small but appreciative audience enjoyed a memorable evening by one of the forgotten icons of the California rock/singer-songwriter era of the Seventies. Known mostly for the hits she has penned for Linda Ronstadt over the years, Bonoff showed that she too is a gifted singer, guitarist, and pianist. Even if you had never heard of her, you knew most of the songs in the 15 number set. Romantic sentimental ballads like “Home,” “Rose in the Garden,” “I Can’t Hold On,” and “Like a Falling Star” all sounded familiar and had the audience humming along at times.

Of course, most of her more popular songs were included, with her alternating back and forth on guitar and piano. Accompanied as she has been for years by another Seventies singer/songwriter Kenny Edwards, she was also joined by Amanda Gruber on guitar, allowing Edwards some room to pay mandolin and bass. “Goodbye My Friend,” “Someone to Lie Down Beside Me,” “Never was a Bad Girl,” and “I Waited All My Life For You,” all sounded fresh and beautiful as always with Bonoff’s voice and the simple instruments behind it. Another highlight was “The Heart is Like a Compass” from her time in the folk group Bryndle.

Bonoff has started touring more and more the last several years, and seemed a bit more comfortable in front of a live audience than the last time I saw her. Her story telling between songs has become a little more of her show, and everything is told with a bit of ironic humor, whether its telling about being on the Merv Griffin show with Richard Simmons or recalling lip synching a song on the old Solid Gold Show. She closed the show with an almost haunting version of the only cover of the evening, the Irish folk standard “The Water Is Wide.”

Edwards also opened the show with a short set of mostly new material, folk songs with catchy titles like “Go on with the Games You Play” and “Wake Me Up when It’s Raining Flowers.”

I’ve recently been to three shows at the Winchester and all have been enjoyable evenings. Jonathon Edwards, Nils Lofgren, and Karla Bonoff and all put on very polished shows that especially showed off the songwriting ability of each of them. The audiences quietly sat and listened, the sound system is top notch, and you are never more than the equivalent of ten rows away from the stage. Plus most bottles of beer are three bucks. Nils filled the place, the other two had some room left for a few more fans.

Too bad more people don’t know about the Winchester, it’s a great place for classic rock fans to here some great live music without going to the “Q” and spending a hundred bucks for good Roger Water tickets, let alone eight bucks for beer.