Harper Simon takes baby steps in kickoff show



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As coming-out parties go, Harper Simon’s could have used an exploding cake or something. The singer-songwriter, celebrating the release of his self-titled debut album on Wednesday night at the Echo, gave a performance that came off as tentative despite his aw-shucks charisma and oh-so-sweet material.

The 37-year-old son of pop great Paul Simon seemed a bit overwhelmed fronting a nine-piece band of ace players – yes, that was Benmont Tench on keyboards – and never really found his comfort zone until the set got jammy at the finish. A couple of L.A.’s leading ladies, Eleni Mandell and Petra Haden, lent vocal assists, with Mandell joining for the lap steel-flavored ballad “Shooting Star.” Maybe things will gel by tonight’s performance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Simon embarks on a nationwide tour Oct. 30 in New York.

Mandell performed with the Bird and the Bee’s Inara George in their incarnation as the Living Sisters to start the night. That was followed by a delicate but enchanting acoustic set by Haden (vocals) and Jim Bianco (guitar). The pair, who have not named their project yet, have been working on an album for the past several months.

Photos by Laurie Scavo