The upstairs of World Café Live on 3025 Walnut Street in Philadelphia is small, intimate, candle-lit, and reminiscent of a café in Paris if the front windows opened up to the streets outside. It’s not somewhere you’d expect to see Van Halen, but it is the absolute perfect setting to enjoy Lindi Ortega.
The small audience was fairly quiet, but eager with anticipation. Ortega was warmly welcomed with a room full of applause as she immediately opened with the title track from her latest album Tin Star. Tin Star is a slow-tempo autobiographical track beautifully arranged and written about a musician who has been around, seen some things, and probably collected a few bangs and bruises along the way. Despite of everything, the love of music keeps the protagonist coming back time and time again for more.
Ortega’s voice was in perfect condition as she nailed to perfection notes and inflections that other singers only wish they could pull off. Her distinctive look; the red cowboy boots, dress, and veil combined with a set of pipes easily comparable to what the sirens of Homer’s Odyssey may have sounded like make her one of the most unique and talented individuals in the music industry today.
Some songs were performed plugged in, some acoustic, some with her 2-piece backing band, and some alone. Each song has its own feel and personal message. It’s easy to connect to songs such as Cigarettes and Truckstops (which also contains a little lyric homage to Dolly Parton’s Island in the Stream) with the way in which she delivers them. Her level of emotion allows one to feel the story along with her.
One of the high points in the set was a bit of departure from what I’ve seen from her in the past. Ortega has become quite a piano player. As her band took a break she played her own version of the Eagles’ Desperado by herself on piano. Her vocal delivery was stellar and could give Don Henley as run for his money. If Lindi Ortega can figure out a slow piano arrangement of Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide World and perform that, then she can thank me for the tremendous idea.
Through the high level of emotion in some songs, Ortega also has a quite good sense of humor as well as apparently appreciates hot chicken (being from the south I can definitely appreciate that). Every musician at some point has some song somewhere about getting high, but very few pass an intangible fake “air joint” throughout the room for a little extra added visual effect and humor.
Ortega has a fearless stage presence, though she may be secretly a nervous wreck inside. As someone who has performed in the past, I know it’s tough to play to a quiet and non-rowdy audience. The level of her performance in an atmosphere such as the World Café when anyone could have heard any mistake showed her incredible level of talent and professionalism.
It takes a fearless woman to cover the likes of Bruce Springsteen or Johnny Cash, but she’s done them both very well in the past. October 17th was no different as she belted out a cut-time, somewhat vibrato guitar accompanied version of Cash’s Ring of Fire to a flurry of applause from the audience.
Ortega gave the Philadelphia audience a huge bundle of feeling, emotion, and raw talent that proves without a doubt she deserves more credit that she receives. The mainstream media is catching on to her music more and more recently since the release of Tin Star, however this column on Examiner has always been a huge advocate of her talent. Lindi Ortega is a must-see artist and those that are holding tickets for the remainder of her current tour are in for an amazing performance from an amazing artist. If you walked into a bar in Texas in 1956 to hear a country band, you wouldn’t get anything better than Lindi Ortega live.
Special thanks to the Media Relations team at World Café Live and the Lindi Ortega camp for allowing me to shoot and cover the show for this piece.
Dustin M Pardue