If we were to show up an hour late at Madeleine Peyroux’s performance on Saturday at Lisner Auditorium, we still didn’t miss a damn thing. At 8:00, a white dude in flannel shirt and jeans opens the show for her. He strummed his guitar and sang about something that left me clueless for forty-five minutes. Peyroux and her band didn’t show up until 9:00.
With a guitar on her hands and a quartet made up of electric guitar, drums, bass (mostly electric) and piano (sometimes organ), she performed her original works from her latest album, Bare Bones, along with some previous hits including “Dance Me to the End of Love.” Vocally, Peyroux has proved that she is no longer in Billie Holiday’s shadow. Her phrasing marked more intricate. She toyed around with notes and abandoned the melody altogether at times. On slow tunes, she eases back to the point of sleepiness and the bad sound engineering, which cut in and out of her vocals and caused feedback, brought down her delivery.
On Serge Gainsbourg’s “La Javanaise,” Peyroux put on her hat and along with her band members scattered around her, she took us back to the street of Paris. Her French singing was sensational and the accordion solo from her pianist was exotic, yet the best part was her drummer doing his brushwork on an empty HP cardboard box.
Peyroux closed out the show with the cheerful “Instead” and she cleverly introduced her band members. The last bar of the song went, “Get happy / She’s waitin’ for you by the telephone / So get back home!” She would then pointed to the bassist and declared, “Let’s walk home.” The bassist would give a walking bass solo. The guitarist was gliding home and the pianist was simply skipping home. Peyroux returned for an encore with an Obama-inspired “Somethin’ Grand,” a perfect tune to leave the audience with.