Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Jonatha Brooke. The Egg, Albany, April 12, 2007.
In the early 90's my girlfriend played the tape, "The Angel In The House," by The Story in her car. I expressed my admiration, but she said I couldn't appreciate it because it was "women's music." I felt a bit awkward, as if I had stumbled by accident into some Mary Kay party and said, "hey that's a really cool lipstick," before realizing my comments were completely unwelcome.
Anyway, she was wrong. Fifteen years later, I am still a huge fan of Jonatha Brooke. All of her records with The Story and afterwards are on my iPod.
Jonatha played the Egg here once again without her band. Her records are filled out with the whole rock ensemble sound, drums, keys, electric guitars, backup vocals. I was thrilled to hear her again play solo, for two hours, no intermission. Solo, we can really focus on her vocal subtlety, especially the way she pushes and pulls the phrasing of songs we are familiar with from her recordings. Her guitar playing is especially fascinating to hear live. She uses different tunings for almost every song, so she interjects friendly and amusing patter between them, "you're so nice, can I take you to Madison?" Jonatha used two amplified acoustic guitars. She plugged them into a jam-packed effects pedal system that added distortion (so NOT folky!), and sometimes a rich chorus of delay signals that sounded like a synthesized string ensemble. Jonatha's guitar playing is filled with a variety of musical gestures, strumming, harmonics, little riffs, all in a vocabulary of open strings and acid tinged harmonies that Ravel would have admired. She has a new cd, Careful What You Wish For, but she played for the most part familiar favorites. Although her songs deal mostly with tragedy and disappointment, Jonatha smiles throughout her performances and flashes flirty looks into the audience, as if she really wants and needs to connect to us. She needn't worry about that.