Material: Craig Greenberg’s piano skills have brought him as far as Cambodia, where he recently finished a residency, and back to New York City where he gave a pared-down performance previewing songs from his forthcoming album. With shades of Randy Newman mixed with some Billy Joel, Greenberg’s pop-styled originals showcase solid composition and polished piano chops. Though his songs do not resemble current pop hits, it is clear that Greenberg walks to the beat of his own drummer, delivering an authentic and straightforward performance. “All The Pretty Things,” with its distinct arpeggiated motif, deals with being trapped in one’s own negativity; keeping potentially good things safely tucked away. Take all the pretty things keep them locked away/cause I’m sure I’ll only force them out/tell everyone I love I’ll be back one day /cause I know how this ends/ I know I’ll only bring them down. “Wanting To Hear” is pretty self-explanatory––wishing to hear what you hope someone you care about will say: Say the least/leave the rest/lay your hands on my beating chest/and tell me what I’ve been wanting to hear tonight. Greenberg’s material also leans toward the theatrical, making him a good fit for musical theater.
Musicianship: In addition to his piano skills, Greenberg took a few breaks from the keyboard, switching to guitar, which he also plays proficiently. Though often performing with a full band, his choice of percussion for this set was effective in this intimate setting. Matsuura’s subtle and varied percussion sounds, along with Greenberg’s full-bodied piano instrumental breaks, offered the listener plenty to absorb without the support of a full backing band.
Performance: Someone you could envision chatting with over a drink, Greenberg’s friendly and easygoing demeanor belied his whirlwind piano moves, which at times upstaged the song’s underlying message. However, he shared some of his songs’ backstories, which is always useful in building a bridge between audience and performer, as well as giving some insight into the artist. He rounded out the set with Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927”––always a good choice to include a high-profile songwriter’s material in the same genre as your own.
Summary: Craig Greenberg is a top-shelf pianist, with strong vocals and sound songwriting skills. Though his piano playing and arrangements are central to the songs’ performance, pulling back on a few numbers will help the lyric content to stand out a bit more without shortchanging his overall presentation. His new release is scheduled for this coming fall.
Venue: Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY
Contact: [email protected]
The Players: Craig Greenberg, vocals, guitar, piano; Hiroyuki Matsuura, percussion.