Madeleine Peyroux informed the audience at the onset of her Palladium concert Sunday that she was suffering from a bad cold. And that may have well been the primary reason for her less than satisfying performance, but thanks to the exceptional musicians who accompanied the singer/songwriter, the evening was not a complete disappointment.
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Peyroux is an American of French descent who was once a busker on the streets of Paris. Possessing a distinctive husky voice, Peyroux is noted for her ability to fuse jazz, blues, country and rock into her own unique musical sound. Often compared to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, Peyroux’s vocal style sounded derivative as opposed to merely suggestive of her idols. Her set list for the concert featured songs by many of her musical influences.
Peyroux, who was raised in New York City and Paris by parents who she once described as hippies, projected an eccentric, laid back demeanor during sometimes awkward banter that, though meant to be funny, fell flat or came off as simply condescending. One comment had to do with a reference to “Gooey Carmel,” and another during which she asked the audience “Are you [Carmel] in the north or the south?” Audience response indicated that plenty of Peyroux fans were present but judging from those individuals who left the hall throughout her concert, one might reasonably conclude that their expectations were not met. One thing was clear, Peyroux’s low energy commentary slowed down the pace of the 90 minute concert.
Fortunately, neither energy nor dynamism was an issue when it came to the exceptional musicians who performed with Peyroux (who played guitar on many of her songs). They included John Herington on guitar, Darren Beckett on drums, Barak Mori on bass and Jim Beard on keyboards. Also performing was a string section consisting of Sylvia D’Avanzo, first violin, and three local musicians—Margaret Jones, second violin; Amy Brandfonbrenner, viola; and Marjie Hanna, cello.
Favorite program selections included Peyroux playing guitar and singing a solo rendition of Ray Charles’ “Born to Lose”; “La Javanaise”, a French language love song by Serge Gainsbourg; “I Hear Music”, prefaced by an outstanding solo by bassist Mori; Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire”; and “Careless Love” by Bessie Smith.
There is no question that Peyroux, who marches to the beat of her own drummer and takes her music very seriously, is gifted, but it’s unfortunate that her humdrum, lack luster stage presence detracted from her music and prevented her from successfully connecting with her audience.
For tickets and information about upcoming 2013-2014 season performances at the Center for the Performing Arts, call (317) 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.
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