Jules Shear And Pal Shazar At Invisible Manor
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By Nate Hertweck
On a warm June 22 night at the Invisible Manor, a historic estate tucked in the West Adams Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, singer/songwriters Jules Shear and Pal Shazar joined forces to perform material from their new album Shear Shazar. Released in January, the album marks the first collaborative effort for the couple, who have pursued their individual music careers for decades. With the venue, a gorgeous turn-of-the century mansion, bathed in moonlight and packed with diehard fans of both artists, the perfect stage was set.
In addition to the prowess of Shear's songwriting, it's difficult not to take immediate notice of his unorthodox guitar technique, picking a right-handed guitar with his left hand while using his right thumb over the top of the neck. Shazar added her unmistakably pure voice and exuberant energy to make this rare West Coast show a true treat. Together, the two played off each other like, well, a married couple, connecting deeply during the songs they performed and laughing lovingly between them.
While Shear has never become a household name as an artist, his résumé as a songwriter and performer is impressive. After releasing a self-titled album with the Funky Kings in 1976, he fronted the critically acclaimed band Jules And The Polar Bears. Shear went on to pen hits for the Bangles, Cyndi Lauper and England's Alison Moyet. His solo career yielded collaborations with the Band, Carole King, and Rosanne Cash. He is also credited as helping to conceive the "MTV Unplugged" series and hosted the first 13 episodes of the show.
Shazar, who has enjoyed pop success in her own right with her early '80s synth-pop outfit Slow Children, revisited two of their most popular songs — the irreverent "President Am I" and the punchy "Vanessa Vacillating." However, it was during her rendition of "It's My Party" that Shazar shined brightest, sticking chillingly true to the maudlin lyrics and giving the attentive crowd an honest, stark take on the Lesley Gore classic.
The couple played several of the duets from their new album and Shear also wove in slow, thoughtful versions of his most successful pop tunes such as "If She Knew What She Wants" (made famous by the Bangles) and "All Through The Night" (a hit for Cyndi Lauper), displaying his penchant for writing undeniable melodies.
Shear and Shazar were backed by an impromptu paring of old friends from Shear's first band, the Funky Kings, including Los Angeles' definitive pedal steel player Greg Leisz (who has played with everyone from Eric Clapton to appearing on Daft Punk's latest release, Random Access Memories) on dobro and Richard Stekol on mandolin. They wailed, moaned and tugged at the sentiments of the songs, the perfect complement to the couple's playful dynamic.
As the sound of a mature couple still very young with love and music brushed against the walls of the Invisible Manor, the two unique styles of Jules Shear and Pal Shazar collided in a fresh new way.
"Beauty To My Bones"
"What You've Heard About Me"
"Quit Lyin' To Yourself"
"Lonnie" (Funky Kings)
"Mercy" (unreleased Jules Shear song, actual title unknown)
"If She Knew What She Wants"
"Whispering Your Name"
"It's My Party" (Lesley Gore cover)
"Husbands & Wives" (Roger Miller cover)
"President Am I" (Slow Children)
"Vanessa Vascillating" (Slow Children)
"All Through The Night"
"See That Star"
"On These Wheels Again"
To catch Jules Shear and Pal Shazar in a city near you, click here for tour dates.
(Nate Hertweck lives in Los Angeles where he serves as Content Manager for The Recording Academy. Hertweck also plays guitar in a rowdy rock band, produces artist tribute projects and collects musical gems in all formats. Connect with Nate on Tumblr.)