The second of two of Portland’s emerging talents, Nicole Berke, continued the dual CD release celebration with Chance Hayden, and entertained the sold out crowd at Jimmy Mak’s. Berke had also spent over a year conceiving, writing, producing and funding her debut album, The Bright Before, along with the help of generous Kickstarter endorsements. Though Berke had released previous EPs on her own, tonight was her official full length release.
Berke ignited her set with a sleek jazz fusion number, Subconscious Heart, with pondering thoughts of what if. The energetic singer keyboardist was just getting started as she, and her eight-piece band, kept a brisk pace throughout the evening.
Berke and company dove into the syncopated jam, Palindrome, before easing into the danceable pop of Set Me Free. The versatile singer then swung into a haunting bluesy number, Black Moon, airing her smoky soulful pipes and backed by sassy horns and gospel backing vocals.
Finally taking a few minutes to catch her breath, a very excited and grateful Berke expressed thanks and gratitude to the crowd, sponsors, and friends for their support. She announced they were going to continue to play the album in its entirety, and in order. Next up were two heartfelt R&B numbers Another Word and Heartbeat. Both songs explored a personal search for contentment and belonging, allowing Berke to feature her range of sultry tenderness to passionate longings.
Shifting up tempo, Berke broke into a spirited syth-driven dance beat of Wait It Outs that was charged by techo-fusion keyboards. She then eased back into her sultry tenderness, singing That Ain’t Me before sliding into her album’s title track, This Bright Before, softly reminiscing about her travels, having never seen a sunrise so bright before. The song crescendos into the sunburst of feeling, her expressive vocals shining brightly to the end. The evening concluded with the final track, a reminiscent soulful piano ballad, Those Days, accompanied beautifully by the multi-talented Josh Lava.
Berke’s performance was a dazzling showcase of her singing, writing, and playing talents, a testament to the passion and efforts she poured into her debut. The crowd was the fortunate recipient of her debut release, and Portland is fortunate to be graced by the talents of Nicole Berke and Chance Hayden. Reward yourself by catching their next performances.