Keren Ann, Somerville Theatre, June 2, 2007
It’s difficult to say what we gained by seeing Keren Ann live at the Somerville Theatre last Saturday night as opposed to listening to her on record. Maybe it was the thrill of being in the physical presence of the person on the CDs — a slim, pretty, 34-year-old woman in a simple, short-sleeved knee-length black dress with plunging neckline. Her band was just her on guitars, Avishai Cohen on trumpet, and Jason Hart (who also opened the show with his own trio) on keyboards; they approximated the minimal but precise orchestral production that Keren Ann has perfected on her three Metro Blue releases. Hart’s understated keyboards suggested a bopping vocal chorus here, a couple of plunked deep concert-grand-piano notes there, a glockenspiel elsewhere. Cohen deployed three mics — one for his more effects-processed sounds, one for his “open horn” and Harmon-muted jazz tones, the third for his vocal harmonies. Keren Ann strummed an acoustic or played a hollow-bodied electric that she used for low-volume dirty-rock and blues effects, or for the tremolo-laden atmospherics of Angelo Badalamenti’s work with David Lynch and Julee Cruise.
The mostly folk-based songs were all slow-to-medium tempo, all beautifully played and sung. In an hour and 20 minutes she did 15 numbers from the Metro Blue albums, plus “Tennessee Waltz” as a final encore. And as songs, they held up. Keren Ann often sang the first couple of lyrics with just her guitar, so “Not Going Anywhere” was still striking: “This is why I always wonder/I’m a pond full of regrets/ I always try to not remember rather than forget.” And the band imitated the sampled handclaps of the Velvetsy “Lay Your Head Down” from the new Keren Ann — with the audience joining in for good, humorous effect. But over the course of the show, the barely differentiated tempos turned to torpor, and Keren Ann’s diction often lost focus. Why play folk music this way if we’re not going to be hanging on every word?
: Live Reviews
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