Mount Vernon native Dan Bern returns to play at CSPS Hall about once a year. His shows are far from repetitive because he not only always has new material of his own to perform-he included several songs from his latest release “Adderal Holiday”-but he also throws in songs by other writers that have had some sort of impact on his life. Dan also tells great stories to both update fans on what is going on in his life, as well as give backstory to songs he performs. Maybe.
I wasn’t sure about the veracity of the backstory about the song he wrote about his sister. Then I heard the song. OK, the backstory was true. Only a brother could write that sort of song about his sister and get away with it. That’s Dan for you, always pushing things to the edge with both his songs and his stories, mixing humor and some sarcasm with some cold hard truth. The humor is the sugar that helps the truth go down, though not without catching in the throat from time to time. An example is his classic song “Marilyn”. He takes the idea of what Marilyn Monroe’s life might have been like if she’d married Henry Miller (instead of Arthur Miller). The lyrics are at times brutal, but leaves you considering the point of how a life can turn out very different with a seemingly trivial change of direction. That’s what makes Dan one of those songwriters whose lyrics will outgrow his personal fame.
With a 3 minute song, he can take the world and turn it around like he’s examining an apple for a worm, and the apple may either tastes better or worse for the effort. If you missed Dan’s shows, you can still catch his artwork, on display at CSPS Hall for the next few weeks.