"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Concert Review: Nellie McKay

“I didn’t know the world was like this/If I had known, then I’d be psychic”

It doesn’t take Nellie McKay long to start her crusade against society’s self-appointed thought police. It takes even less time for McKay to pick her first target: feminists. “Feminists don’t have a sense of humor,” McKay admonishes straight away, no refrain. “Feminists just want to be alone/Feminists spread vicious lies and rumor/they have a tumor on their funny bone,” from Nellie's latest CD, Obligatory Villagers. We, the listeners were put on immediate notice that the next 1 1/2 hours would be a different type of experience.

Nellie McKay appeared last night at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. The singer-songwriter is like a young Bob Dylan: hard to categorize, impossible to imitate and subversive, as are all independent thinkers.

She was cyncial, yet also hopeful about our world of violance, corruption and grand stupidity. And she's on a journey of discovery she sometimes shares with the public and sometimes doesn't.

Her music, an unusual mix of cabaret-style songs, rap and jazz, is understandably challenging. If the blonde bombshell can avoid alienating broad cross-sections of the people she depends on to buy her albums, she has the charm, the skill, and the pedigree to make noise in the music business.

At first listen, she’s folksy, talking more than singing. McKay keeps her part of the deal by bringing consistent quality. Perhaps the best descriptor of McKay’s unique sound comes from the starlet herself, who deems her music “schizophrenic voodoo,” a phrase that fits so well.

Did I like the concert? I have to admit "no". I didn't get her type of humor or satire. The good size crowd (mostly the NPR set) laughed at her lyrics or giggled when she went got on her soap box about the election, Columbia University, and her sermon on being a vegan. I personally think they were just being kind and considerate. However, I do have to admit she was a master on the piano. If she just would have played the piano and left the vocals out, it would have been an enjoyable evening, at least for me.

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