Ghastly gear masks vocal subtlety
MUSIC: Madeleine Peyroux
Michael Fowler Centre, Sunday
I know that artists of the stature of Madeleine Peyroux and her group bring all their own instruments, so why was such a poor microphone used and why could I never hear Peyroux's guitar?
The microphone was my biggest bugbear. In this age of equipment sponsorship I'm surprised she hasn't found one that picks up the subtle nuances of her voice.
I lost count of the number of times her middle register was lost by singing just inches away from the mic.
OK, minor quibble aside, the audience went away suitably impressed by the choice of material: three Leonard Cohens, a couple of Bob Dylans and several from her recent album The Blue Room, inspired by Ray Charles' bold experiment of covering country and western songs.
Starting with Take These Chains (From My Heart), I was immediately struck by the sage use of three violins, and a cello alongside double bass, drums, guitar and assorted keyboards.
The sound fleshes out Peyroux's repertoire admirably, though it must be said by the time I heard Warren Zevon's rarely heard Desperadoes Under The Eaves it had occurred to me how samey the arrangements were.
Here was a song desperately crying out for a hint of Latin to reflect the song's salty margaritas.
In this performance there was a concerted effort to move away from Lady Day.
Her take on I Hear Music was perfectly rendered in an Ella Fitzgerald style, but spoilt by possibly the worst double bass introduction I have ever heard, and not helped by the group members stretching their chops in a less than stellar fashion.
This cocktail bar sequence was the low point of the evening, in which none of the musicians made a musical statement.
Personal highlights were La Javanaise, a nice tribute to Phil Everly with Bye Bye Love and the Leonard Cohen/Anjani Thomas Half The Perfect World.
The latter proved how a light, airy samba-like treatment can change a Cohen song for the better.
A promising start to the festival with the full house sign posted.
The Dominion Post