Live-in-Concert at CBGB's 313 Gallery, NYC
Tues, Oct 28, 2003
Music Review by

The fine acoustic-rock duo THE MARCH hails from Milan, Italy and consists of political-pop singer-songwriter Benjamin Slavin and Italian songstress/vocalist Odette Di Maio. Both artists are also accomplished guitarists.

I caught the duo for the last gig of their five-city tour through the United States and Italy which they simply named the ACOUSTICAL TOUR.

THE MARCH onstage is two strong individuals - each pulls you into their own sphere - yet they are a perfect pair. It's difficult to choose which one to observe in concert, and this listener has rarely heard two voices so beautifully matched to sing with each other. Their pitch-perfect, clarion dual vocal harmonies are vaguely reminiscent of the gals from the B-52s, Fleetwood Mac and 60's icons like the Youngbloods. (In fact, THE MARCH offered up a fresh & uniquely haunting version of the Youngbloods classic "Get Together" at the show I attended).

What I found most appealing & intruiging about THE MARCH was not so much their songwriting, (which is pretty mainstream in a Fiona/R.E.M./acoustic grunge kind of way), but how WELL they sing, craft and put over their work. They may not be breaking any brand new ground in the realm of alternative/acoustic/folk song styling, but they more than make up for it in professionalism, musical camraderie, and sheer love of singing & writing as a team in a popular genre.

It's a refreshing twist in the world of male/female acoustic duos to hear the woman as the most agressive & adventurous on acoustic guitar, as Odette Di Maio is in THE MARCH. She adeptly tackles bars chords all the way up and down the neck, and even solos now & then - with the the more generic "folky" chord fingerings handled by her male partner. Like trophy-notches on a gun, Odette's travel worn acoustic guitar is etched with long stumming scratches all across it's face, no doubt a result of her forceful playing approach & many hours spent on her instrument.

Odette's stage presence of intensity, coolness and a certain slightly chilled lonliness added to the often dark & moody quality of THE MARCH's songs. Side note: It was a fun contrast listening to this native Italian sing in perfect english with a nice American twang, and then speak between songs with a lovely, sumptuous, edgy italian accent.

Benjamin Slavin exudes an equal amount of intensity onstage, but his is more plaintive & gentle in nature. This legit vocal artist sings in a luscious, spinning voice also perfectly suited for contemporary musical theater high baritone roles - as one finds in shows like Rent, Les Miz, or any Sondheim musical. He is right at home in that grey area somewhere between opera-pop-rock, much in vogue these days, esp in concert. Benjamin's bio mentions he is also an operatic singer, and after the show he spoke to me of his desire to further pursue an operatic career. It would be interesting to hear this vocalist in a large room with no mic. He certainly knows how to deliver a song.

Two MARCH favorites of mine from their show were "Non-Existence" and (I think it's called) "Splinters from the Heart" - These doleful yet churning songs epitomized THE MARCH's talent for capturing that certain kind of existential sadness - at once both personal and worldly. I heard after the show that Benjamin plans to remain in the U.S. to pursue opera, while Odette is returning to Italy. Perhaps this sparked the touch of meloncholy I sensed hovering over the evening as they played.

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