Chris Garneau Show - Madison, Wisconsin

God, what a show. Chris Garneau knows how to shut down a room.

It was impossible not be riveted to the stage at the front of Cafe Monmartre last night as singer-songwriter Chris Garneau whisper-crooned his way through a distinctive, sterling set on piano, backed by not one, but two cellists and a jack of all trades on drums and harmonium.

The audience, not too large, not too small, ate it up. Every song was tightly crafted, as characteristically and catchily "Garneau," much as a Billy Joel or Elton John piece belongs indisputably to its author. It was open, it was honest, it was mesmerizing. Even when called back enthusiastically for an encore - only to stumble - Garneau's candor bridged the gap.

You could almost hear heartstrings snapping as people called out to help. And Garneau proceeded to nail the closing with "Halloween." It was almost as good as his rendition of my favorite, "Baby's Romance" or the spine-tingling "Not Nice." Or even, sitting behind his eccentric lampshade, his strange, short tune that appeared to be a shout-out to Jeffrey Dahmer.

At one point, someone's Oasis ringtone went off and it was as if someone was interrupting an eloquent lecture. Or inexucusably destroying the silence in a church. Garneau held the evening under a spell. People at my table agreed that if a night timeline of appropriate music is divided into courses like a multi-course meal, Garneau is the final item to be served.

It was great to see Chris again. I met him randomly several years back on a flight into LaGuardia. Yesterday, I ran into him before the show outside Monmartre as I was carring my accordion back from the farmers' market. After the show, he said he was thinking of heading down to Paul's Club for a drink. One of the cellists said the crew was driving overland to Seattle starting today. Yikes. And good luck.

Madison blogger and show organizer Kyle Pfister was making the rounds of the cafe during the show. He deserves all the kudos he can get. In fact, go out and plant a field of praise, harvest it, put it in bushel baskets and place at his electronic doorstep. The venue was perfect. The opening band, Track a Tiger, wasn't terrible. And an incomparable musician put on one hell of show, saying Madison is a city he'd like to come back to...