mon 22/07/2024

Krystle Warren, Soho Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Krystle Warren, Soho Theatre

Krystle Warren, Soho Theatre

Blue music and a blue joke from this charismatic Missouri-born singer songwriter

Krystle Warren spoke her mind last night: 'I am so fucking happy that Romney is not my President'

The last time we reviewed Krystle Warren on theartsdesk one reader responded by suggesting that it couldn’t be long before this Missouri-born singer-songwriter was as big as Beyonce (although he didn’t use that exact phrase). Yet even a 2009 performance on Later with Jools Holland didn’t have the effect it sometimes has in being the first big step up for both an artist’s sales and credibility.

Having said that, in the current climate Warren is probably just happy to still be making records (this year’s Love Songs – A Time You May Embrace being both her most accessible and accomplished to date), supporting Rufus Wainwright and playing before enraptured punters like those at the sold out Soho Theatre last night.

And talking of Jools, Warren in her usual endearingly spontaneous way, told us that she had been reading an interview with the man in which he was asked whether he was a glass half empty or half full kind of guy. To which we were told he responded that it didn't matter as long as there was something left in the bottle. This was one of many asides during her 90-minute set, sometimes to give us something to think about while she retuned her guitar, and sometimes, it seemed, just because she felt the need to share a favourite joke (or which more later).

It was an angular, angry, pleading, mercurial version closer in spirit to Nina Simone’s 'I Put a Spell on You'

Her quick wit and general bonhomie (which on a couple of occasions brought to mind a young Steve Martin of all people) was something of a relief, given that when she first came on stage she had a thick woollen scarf wrapped double around her neck, she didn’t exactly look like rock ’n’ roll personified. It was apparently for “throat problems” and not because she was cold, but things didn’t look promising. However, Warren is clearly the kind of musician for whom music is a healing, energising force. For as soon as she began to involuntarily sway to the clipped jazzy chords of “You Can Take Me With You” from the new album, it was if her guitar was playing her, charging her up and giving her the energy to get through the evening.

There is a whole raft of artists who Warren intermittently recalls; Cassandra Wilson, Joan Armatrading, Meshell Ndegéocello and Joni Mitchell, for example. Last night it was Paul McCartney at his most Tin Pan Alley, along with Imperial Bedroom-period Elvis Costello who sprang to mind. There was something about the melodic and lyrical structure of some of Love Songs tracks, as well as the alternately intimate and intense delivery, that suggested Costello. But it was Dylan (“as in Bob not Thomas”, she quipped) who got name-dropped and then briefly mimicked in “Forever Is a Long Time” which was played as the folk song it was originally conceived as, rather than the full-on Phil Spector production on the album.

Surely a covers album beckons? The very thought sends a shiver of pleasure down the spine

One of the highlights of the evening was a cover version of Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” which Warren almost apologised for, feeling unworthy of its brilliance. But she needn’t have worried. Lennon’s version is understated, resigned even. Whereas Warren grabbed it by the throat and almost acted out the song as a monologue to the loved one who has so possessed her. It was an angular, angry, pleading, mercurial version closer in spirit to Nina Simone’s take on Screamin' Jay Hawkins’s “I Put a Spell on You”. In other words she made quite a different song out of it, as all the best artists do when they are dealing with such transcendent material.

And then there was the joke. Brace yourselves: “What do you not want to hear after giving Willie Nelson a blow job?” Answer: “I’m not Willie Nelson”. Maybe it’s the way she tells ’em, but that one killed us. Only someone with Warren’s charisma and charm could, one minute, be pulling off a ickily crude joke like that, the next telling us how M &S didn’t have her favourite trifle, before then reinventing a Lennon classic. But really the show was about the music and that elastic, fantastic, unique voice. Surely a covers album beckons? The very thought sends a shiver of pleasure down the spine. Although the bar stayed open throughout her set, it didn’t attract a single customer. Which says it all really.

Krystle Warren is clearly the kind of musician for whom music is a healing, energising force


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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