Brodsky is going strong after his "50 in fifty" trip

September 23, 2003

There are gauntlets, and then there are Gauntlets.

Philadelphia singer/songwriter Adam Brodsky limped home Sunday night to play his 50th concert in 50 days, one in each of the 50 states. It was the penultimate show of his 50 in Fifty tour. (A 51st show was tacked on as a coda of sorts Monday in Washington, D.C.; pictures and a tour journal are available at .)

Brodsky, a Jewish solo artist who performs - like the young Bob Dylan - with an acoustic guitar strapped to his back and a harmonica around his neck, was attempting with his mammoth trek to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the first solo performer to accomplish such a feat.

This homecoming show, played to a 100-plus audience at Old City's cozy Tin Angel, saw the often potty-mouthed Brodsky weary but clearly energized by the home crowd (which sold out the show six weeks in advance). He performed an hour-plus set of raunchy, punk-inflected folk sing-alongs, politically edged protests, poignant tales of Jewish tradition and oddly touching love songs.

Appearing somewhat worse for wear, Brodsky began his set by asking humorously, "Where am I?" before launching into "The Feel Like I'm Gonna' Cut My Head Off Blues," an up-tempo rant from his new album Hookers, Hicks and Heebs, that reflected the giddy exasperation inherent in the event.

Brodsky often punctuated his songs with stories from his 50-state jaunt, a fact that did not seem to bother the devoted attendees, who sang along despite the frequent asides.

Though this show marked the end of the road, more or less, for Brodsky's tour, he seems to be at something of an artistic crossroads. Crowd pleasers from earlier in his career - the riotous if sophomoric "Hookers and Blow" and "Diesel Dyke" (which Brodsky performed with opener Mary Prankster to conclude his encore) - resonated, but felt somewhat at odds with more recent songs.

Chalk it up to growing pains. Though still lyrically acerbic, newer material performed this night, such as the almost uncomfortably up-tempo concentration camp tale "Talkin' Warsaw Ghetto," the political screed "Uncivil Rights," which openly contests the Patriot Act with barbs such as "so we must give up our freedom to preserve our liberty," and the heartrending "Some Girls," reveal Brodsky has more up his sleeve than clever lyrics and dirty words. He's got something to say and says it well.

A new, as-of-yet unreleased song called "Stuff on the Lawn," about a woman who comes home to find her common-law husband has kicked her out ("It's hard to feel nothing but wrong/ It's like living a Hank Williams song"), was a touching character sketch that was met with a few scattered, inappropriate laughs. "Drinking in the Synagogue" featured a typically ribald chorus - "And the rabbi's wife has great big knockers" - but revealed itself as a slyly touching remembrance of a mother's funeral.

For a guy who'd spent the last 50 days in clubs and in transit, Brodsky delivered a performance that was surprisingly energetic and fresh.

Adam Brodsky is scheduled to perform with Sean Altman, Rob Tannenbaum and Cynthia Kaplan Sept. 25 at Doc Watson's Pub, 216 S. 11th Street, Philadelphia, as part of an evening of Jewish songwriters called What I Like About Jew. The performance starts at 8:30. There is a $10 cover. Visit for information.

by Brian Howard, Courier-Post