Last week I had tickets for M Ward at Webster Hall and the Avett Brothers at Terminal 5. Since both then booked outdoor shows for Celebrate Brooklyn and SummerStage respectively, I decided to sell those tickets. I was especially happy to not have to go to T5. I hate that place. But here I was at T5 anyway to see Ingrid Michaelson. As much as I dislike the venue I wasn’t going to give up an opportunity to see one of my favorite artists. I was especially interested to see how the new songs would sound live with a full band instead of the half-band she had at Joe’s Pub earlier this year.
rtb and I weren’t able to get the good spot on the second level but we did score two seats on the third level. The sound was much better than it had been for shows I’ve seen in the past and I noticed that they weren’t using the house board but instead Ingrid is now traveling with her own system and they were set up on the floor taking up some valuable real estate. The show was sold out and I’m sure the venue would have rather had extra bodies in there.
There was a paper taped near the box office and I noticed that there was an act before the opening act but I walked by too quickly to read it. On the way in we were offered glow sticks as a surprise for Ingrid but said no because neither of us were sure what the woman was saying.
Even if you didn’t know the woman walking on stage the tremendous applause that greeted her would have clued you in to the fact that this was no ordinary opener. It was Ingrid’s bandmate, Allie Moss. Allie sang a song solo with acoustic guitar and then another bandmate, Bess Rogers, came out to sing and play on two songs with Allie – “Melancholy Astronautic Man” and “Water and Dirt.” Then Allie left the stage while Bess performed solo and then Ingrid joined Allie and Bess on “Bye Bye Love.” There was a funny moment at the end of the song where Ingrid missed a cue. The song felt a bit sadder than the pop original but keeping more with the lyrics. Allie and Bess both sing beautiful harmonies and fit very well with Ingrid. They don’t have Ingrid’s slight quirkiness or exuberant personality. And even where everyone was on their side, the songs were still a bit too quiet for the crowd.
Scars on 45 was another good fit with Ingrid. They’re an English indie rock band who have released two EPs that contain songs featured on CSI: NY and Grey’s Anatomy. The band is Danny Bemrose (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Aimee Driver (vocals), Stuart Nichols (bass guitar), David “Nova” Nowakowski (keyboards, backing vocals), Chris Durling (drums, percussion), and Matthew Baxter (lead guitar). The songs were all pleasant but I can’t say that I remember any of them. The band was hawking their cds like crazy – going through the crowd, coming upstairs, and standing outside while the crowd left the venue.
Ingrid Michaelson is an indie pop sensation who figured out how to sell out rooms without signing with a major label. Her songs can be heard on TV soundtracks and commercials. They are funny and witty with great music but what makes her special is her just this side of unique voice and powerful stage presence. She can fill a big part of her set with new songs and her fans will pay attention. So I was disappointed that I did not enjoy her latest album as much as everything else she has put out. And this is not a case of ‘I liked her better before she became famous’ or anything like that. I want an artist to grow and explore. Some things work and others don’t. But the cd feels overproduced to me and much darker than her previous work.
And Ingrid looked overproduced also – she was wearing a leather halter, pants, and high-heeled boots. The halter had strips of leather hanging down and her hair was this modern version of a bar mitzvah/Italian wedding hairdo – big rolls going from top to bottom as if she was wearing those big curlers that girls wore in the 1960s (making sure the color of the curlers matched their outfits).
For the first song, “Fire,” each member of the band was beating on a tom and then Ingrid made her entrance. Next was “Palm of Your Hand,” “Soldier,” “Parachute,” and “Corner of Your Heart.” Ingrid played guitar or ukulele for these. Allie and Bess were on either side of her singing harmony and playing guitar. Behind the women were Chris Kuffner (Mr. Bess Rogers) on electric bass, Saul Simon-MacWilliams on keyboards, guitar, percussion, and Elliot Jacobson on drums.
Ingrid now travels with an upright piano instead of an electric keyboard. She then sat at the piano for “Do it Now,” “Blood Brothers,” and “Ghost.” “Blood Brothers” got one of the classic Ingrid treatments with a story about her performance of that song for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. When she performed “Ghost” I thought it was kind of cool how her shadow appeared on the white backdrop.
The band then left the stage and Ingrid and the crowd all sang “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which she says she’s performed so often that it feels like it’s her song. For “The Way I Am” she used to instruct the crowd on how to clap along but she couldn’t since she was playing ukulele. As the crowd started to clap she asked them not to because it’s now a much quieter song when she does it solo.
Allie and Bess joined Ingrid for a new song, “San Francisco.” And the rest of the band came out for “In the Sea,” “This is War,” “Overboard,” and “Black and Blue.” Old or new, the crowd sang along for every song. A surprise cover was Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” The disco ball spun and the house lights came up while everyone sang and danced. It would have been nice if the song had been dedicated to Donna Summer. Even better if Ingrid had learned a Donna Summer song for that night.
The band left the stage (although Ingrid assured us that it would all happen as we expected – we would keep applauding and they would return to the stage.) We were told to take out the glow sticks in order to surprise Ingrid so that she came out this –
Ingrid was delighted. It was the last show of the tour and everyone seemed happy to be in NYC. They performed “Come Back” and “Be OK.” Then Ingrid asked Scars on 45 to join them on stage for “You and I.” Everyone left their instruments behind and most of the people on stage took a turn at a lyric. For the “baby how we spoon like no one else” everyone on stage spooned together and kept the position long enough that there were plenty of flashes going off.
The evening ended with probably her best live song, “The Chain.” I can’t say it was the best version I’ve heard but even not the best is better than a lot of what you hear out there.
So not my most favorite Ingrid experience but then I had the pleasure of seeing her in Joe’s Pub earlier this year. And even if I’m a bit disappointed I know that won’t last. I’m sure she’ll delight me soon with new songs.
By Carene Lydia Lopez