Joan Osborne Performs to a Sold Out Crowd at World Cafe Live

-Brenda Hillegas

Covid lockdowns forced a lot of artists to cancel tours. A silver lining though, was that the pandemic allowed some downtime to work on projects they may have put on the backburner. For Joan Osborne, that project was Radio Waves– released in early 2022 on her Womanly Hips Records, the album consists of a hand-picked collection of Osborne’s favorites from live radio appearances.

Pair Radio Waves with her 12th studio album back in 2020 (Trouble and Strife) and you have a sold out Philadelphia audience eagerly awaiting a live performance from the acclaimed artist. Osborne stepped onto stage shortly after the 8pm scheduled show time, along with Keith Cotton on keyboard and Jack Petruzzelli on guitar. The set started with “I Want to Be Loved” (by Muddy Waters, off her 2012 covers album, Bring It On Home).

Osborne then addressed the audience with the anecdote that they were under the impression this show was going to be completely “songs by Dylan”, as per her tour manager, so she promised to sprinkle in a few. Songs of Bob Dylan was released in 2017 and she covers a lot of his greats on it. For the World Cafe crowd, she included “Spanish Harlem Incident” and “Highway 61”.

The entire set felt incredibly intimate, and though the venue is small compared to many in our city, Osborne really made her set list sincere and important. She was playing just for us that evening. This was clear during another Dylan song which isn’t on Songs of Bob Dylan. “It’s not something you can download or stream. You have to be here with us right now [to hear it],” she said before going into “Gotta Serve Somebody.” She was also excited to play the original songs she recorded during that “raging pandemic” and so the set included some songs from Trouble and Strife like the title track and “Take It Any Way I Can Get It”.

A little over halfway through the set, Osborne whispered to her musicians on stage and played a note we all recognized so well off her 1995 debut, Relish– “One of Us”, written for her by Eric Bazilian of Philadelphia rock band, The Hooters. She pointed out that much of the album was actually recorded in neighboring Conshohocken. Other Relish songs on Saturday’s set list were “Pensacola” and “Spider Web”.

“Music has an important job to do in the world right now,” Osborne told us. She explained, obviously, just how much we need music in our souls. How we need to come together as human beings without political labels and what divides us. From here she went on to perform “Whole Wide World”, also from Trouble and Strife.

“What the hell are we here for if not to love each other?” Osborne asked this question before closing out the show with a two-song encore that included “Lumina” from Relish.

Listen to a handful of the songs Joan Osborne has written and performed since she broke into the music scene in the ’90s with Relish, and you’ll know she’s not one to stick with a specific genre. Instead, her music (she’s an eight-time GRAMMY nominee) travels through rock, pop, country, blues and more. If you missed her performance at World Cafe Live this weekend, you won’t want to next time she’s in town.

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