Friday, January 26, 2007

La Winehouse

Speaking as a rock snob, we do not compare female singers to "classic Aretha Franklin" lightly. I've had both Frank and Back to Black on near constant rotation for the past week. Amy is unbelievable. Go buy them now already.

(And Hova and Mos were there. Nice, girl).

Live Review: Amy Winehouse, Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, New York, 1/16/07

“Mr. Bartender, can I get another amaretto sour?”

UK soul singer/quote machine Amy Winehouse is on stage for her second sold-out show Tuesday night at New York’s Joe’s Pub and looks slightly nervous. Or slightly drunk. Or most likely both.

While currently holding down the #1 album in the UK with Back to Black, Winehouse marked her live debut stateside with a brilliant set that showcased a singer who seems to thrive on contradiction. Her demeanor is equal parts uneasy and confident. Her personality, depending on when you get her, ranges from innocent angel to vulgar devil. And her soulful, resonant vocals, recalling jazz legends Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, belie the oftentimes hysterical, irreverent lyrics. (Her album is probably the first #1 album to include the word “Fuckery,” and a chorus about refusing rehab for alcohol abuse.) In stark contrast to her lyrics, the music backed tonight by deep funk & soul group The Dap-Kings, conjures up images of both a Phil Spector production and the musical lockstep of a house band that sounds like they’ve been playing together for decades.

Despite the inevitable comparisons Winehouse will receive to contemporaries like Norah Jones or Diana Krall, it’s doubtful either singer will write songs dedicated to Nas, as Winehouse does on show highlight, “Me and Mr. Jones.” “I don’t take my Nas or my Mos Def lightly,” she tells the crowd, the latter of which took in the early show along with URB cover star Mark Ronson. On slower tracks like “Just Friends,” Winehouse recalls classic Aretha Franklin and, if her nervousness was evident between tracks, it was nowhere to be found in her melismatically-enhanced singing voice.

Dressed in a slinky, black cocktail dress, with hair in bouffant, 1960s girl group style, Winehouse performed virtually the entire Black album and, while singing, currently has three moves:

1. The shifting, if not slightly awkward, alternating of weight from one leg to the other while lifting up one side of her skirt

2. The crouch into a “baseball catcher” position

3. The slight bend of her knees while looking upward

Regardless of her actions-- singing, sipping amaretto sours and chewing gum between (and sometimes during) songs all were equally employed -- her presence was undeniable; A goth girl meets 50s pinup who, despite claims of nervousness bolstered by stutter-heavy banter between songs, always warranted the attention.

“Anyone here from Universal, get me more gigs,” she yells mid-set to no one in particular. “Just wheel me on stage.”

If the states embrace her like her home country, she’ll get her wish.

Set list:

1. Addicted

2. Just Friends

3. Cherry

4. Back to Black

5. Wake Up Alone

6. Tears Dry On Their Own

7. He Can Only Hold Her/Doo Wop (Lauryn Hill Cover)

8. F**k Me Pumps

9. You Know I’m No Good

10. Rehab

11. Me and Mr. Jones

11. Love is a Losing Game

12. Valerie (Zutons Cover)

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