John Gorka gets intimate,
funny and bloody at Stargazers


By WARREN EPSTEIN ........................January 29, 2010


Photo: Evan Hooton

John Gorka started his concert at Stargazers Friday night with a sweet, confident love song about a partner who loves and accepts him for who he is inside.

Then he explained that the song was a strategy to mislead us into thinking he was a happy kind of folk singer before confronting us with the truth. His following tunes would take us down paths of misery, heartbreak and loss.

Oh, and enough self-deprecating humor to balance the tears with laughter. I think Gorka is one of the best folkies working today. Rolling Stone once called him “the preeminent male singer/songwriter of the new folk movement,” and he’s still going strong, touring on a new CD (“So Dark You See”) that’s his best and meatiest work in years. So, when I came to Stargazers at 7:40 p.m., 20 minutes before the concert, I worried about getting a decent seat.

I could have come 20 minutes later. Only about 50 people showed. I realize that John Hammond was playing at Colorado College, and the CC Tigers were playing at the World Arena, but 50 people for John Freakin Gorka? Actually, for those of us who showed, the small crowd made it seem like a more intimate setting, almost like a house concert (but with better lighting and acoustics.)

Gorka strummed and sang through a nice balance of new songs and old favorites, and tied it together with clever stammering banter. (I don’t remember him stammering the other couple of times I’ve seen him. Nor did he do it last week when I interviewed him on the phone. I couldn’t tell if it’s an affectation. A shtick. But it reminded me of Bob Newhart. He came off as an introvert forced to become extroverted.)

His funniest moment came after accidentally bonking himself in the forehead with the mike. After wiping blood with his bandanna, he said, “I’m trying to think if I have any blood songs.”

He couldn’t think of any. But he did have some funny songs, particularly “People My Age (have started looking gross).” Other highlights of the show included: A beautiful, tender cover of Michael Smith’s song “The Dutchman.” A lively, soulful rendition of the old blues tune “Trouble in Mind.” His fun signature song, “I’m From New Jersey.” And sweet, sweet revivals of two of his best love songs: “Love Is Our Cross to Bear” and “Silence.”

I left with two hopes for Gorka: a larger crowd next time, and workman’s comp