CONCERT REVIEW: Keren Ann @ Yoshi’s – 06.21.11

Keren Ann by Jan Welters

In the tradition of French-pop chanteuse, Israel-born singer-songwriter Keren Ann’s warm, raspy voice and introspective, poetic lyrics are a magnetic force. Having been a fan since her English debut in 2003, I finally had a chance to catch her live at San Francisco’s Yoshi’s Jazz Club on Tuesday. Yoshi’s in San Francisco is the second location of Bay Area’s prominent jazz club by the same name in Oakland. One could almost imagine time-traveling back to the Jazz Age in this carbaret-style venue for Keren Ann’s performance.

承繼了French pop的傳統,以色列出生的唱作歌手Keren Ann一把清麗舒服、帶點沙啞的嗓音一直如磁石般吸引著知音。加上幽幽的歌詞更是久聽不厭。在剛過去的週二終於有機會在三藩市的Yoshi’s Jazz Club(灣區屋倫同名老牌爵士俱樂部的分址)看到她的演出。在Yoshi’s這個舊式歌舞廳格局的表演場地欣賞Keren Ann幾乎可以幻想著時光倒流回到二十年代的爵士盛世。

Keren Ann’s raspy but solid voice and the electric vibrations from her guitar came on before the red curtain was even completely raised, as if, like the title of the song ‘Strange Weather’ suggests, a storm was about to arrive. The lights changed from time to time from red to green and back to red again. Keren Ann’s usual understatement of head-to-toe black hinted we should pay attention to something else.

She played for almost two hours, mostly songs from the new album ‘101’ (inspired by Taipei 101), released in March, with earlier songs in between. From the Karen-O-esque blunt haircut and the pistol she held up in one hand on the cover art, we could tell she meant to evolve from the shy, endearing chanteuse she was known to be. Her voice toughened; and sweetly melancholic introspections became a dark humor beneath a sugar coat of electric French pop. Such as the story reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde in ‘Blood in My Hands’: the bloodshed in the life of a girl about town as she becomes attracted to a mysterious stranger. The improvised line “There is blood in San Francisco” received welcoming cheers from the crowd.

Bidding farewell to the acoustic ballad, the electric arrangement in ‘101’ is surprisingly a bit reminiscent of Charlotte Gainsbourg, but the focus is still on Keren Ann’s voice. It appeared, initially, both Keren Ann and the audience needed some time to get used to this new-found boldness. But the music and affecting performance soon took over, and gradually, a hollow echo of electric notes consumed the atmosphere. Though sweet and humorous in the few times she interacted with the audience, you could tell Keren Ann would much rather sing.

Keren Ann by Jan Welters

And although she is working hard to immerse in the new phase of her music career, some things haven’t changed: At times she became again the chanteuse in soft long tresses who told stories with a voice from the heart. ‘Songs From A Tour bus’ was an especially heartfelt portrait of a life misunderstood by many. A running thread through the set reflected the accumulation of her creative trajectory thus far and revealed an urge to express from a young woman who, beneath layers of experience and poetry in the lyrics, just wanted to be loved as she loved. However, as far as live performance goes, there was still an uncomfortable distance between herself and the maturation of experimenting with more pop elements.

Switching to the familiar acoustic guitar in the middle, she returned to a few songs from earlier albums such as ‘Chelsea Burns’ and ‘You Were On Fire’, and ‘All The Beautiful Girls’ from ‘101’. We also caught a glimpse of a rare, blithe side of her when she covered Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. Richard Cohen’s accompaniment was the most pleasant surprise of the night. From jazz- to funk-inspired arrangements, the ever-changing effects added musically inspiring aspects to the otherwise similar performance with that of the studio album. Though some solos became redundant at the end, especially in the acoustic encore, it might have been sweeter had Keren Ann played alone.

Just when one began to wonder whether there would be any French songs, she presented ‘Le Chien d’Avant Garde’ from her second album ‘Le Disparition’. Under the gradient of purple and red lights, the combined elements of electric guitar, trumpet improv solo and the typical chanson francaise performance was the highlight of the night.

After the last song, Keren Ann only disappeared behind the curtain for a quick moment before coming out again under the audience’s cheers and applause. It was clear that even she herself hadn’t had enough. Encore was almost obligatory at this point. She picked up the acoustic guitar again and began strumming a familiar chord progression. It turned out she saved the best for (almost) last and finally played ‘Not Going Anywhere’, to the delight of the entire audience. She went on and played two more songs to end the night. It seemed as though she also agreed that the small acoustic portion in the earlier set hadn’t completely satisfied her (and our) appetite. But in spite of the encore, no one would have minded to stay if she didn’t mind keep playing.

鮮紅色的幕簾還未完全升起,已聽見Keren Ann沙啞但沈穩的嗓音和電子結他的震響,彷如歌名《Strange Weather》所言, 一陣不尋常的風暴正要掀開。燈光由紫紅換成藍綠,偶爾又轉回紫紅。Keren Ann一身低調的黑色打扮是說明要人專注在她的音樂。

這 晚演出接近兩小時的歌曲多是來自今年三月推出的新碟《101》(意念來自台北101),並間隔著早期的作品。從封套上不客氣的短髮和單手舉起的手槍可以見 得Keren Ann有意一改以往恬靜的形象。不但唱腔硬朗起來,從前幽幽的心事變成現在糖衣包裝下冷不防的黑色幽默,和暖場嘉賓Chris Garneau的苦中作樂凝成對比。“Blood in My Hands”說的便是生活突然被神祕陌生男人闖進的故事,原本萬千寵愛的女孩變成殺手,周遭頓時熱血四濺。即興的一句“There is blood in San Francisco”更換來全場喝彩。

告 別acoustic民謠,玩起電子編曲的聲線效果竟有三分令人想起Charlotte Gainsbourg,但焦點仍在Keren Ann的嗓喉。未習慣這樣壯膽的Keren Ann的觀眾,和甚至她本人起初還有點拘謹。但隨著音樂和感情起伏,她的嗓子和電子結他浮游的回音逐漸完全屏住了大氣。 雖然不多話,偶爾和觀眾交流的時候她還是流露出不經意的幽默感。不過看得出她寧願唱歌。

儘 管她正努力投入音樂上的新階段,好些東西還沒有改變:台上的她偶爾又回到了那個留著微卷長髮、用結他說心事的女孩。如”Songs From A Tour Bus”便由衷地描述外間看不到的巡演生活的另一面 。整晚的選曲反映了Keren Ann從出道至今的創作歷程。瓣開歌詞中的意像,只看見一個不過渴望簡單地愛與被愛的年輕女子。然而就新碟歌曲的現場演繹來說,和完全沈澱於這個更pop 的路線仍有一段距離。

表 演中段換上了熟識的木結他演出了兩首早期的作品和新碟中的”All The Beautiful Girls”。及後翻唱Joni Mitchell的”Big Yellow Taxi”亦讓人有幸一瞥Keren Ann罕見活潑的一面。Richard Cohen整晚的喇叭伴奏是這次演出最驚喜的地方。從爵士到funk,變幻無窮的效果把原本和大碟中相差無幾的演出加添了許多音樂上的趣味,雖然到了後期 某些即興獨奏有點畫蛇添足,寧可Keren Ann一人自彈自唱。

正惆悵究竟會否有法語歌演出的時候,Keren Ann隨即送上第二張大碟”Le Disparition”裡的“Le Chien d’Avant Garde”。在紫紅漸變的燈光下,揉合了電子結他、即興喇叭獨奏和典型法語歌曲的演繹是當晚的高潮。

唱 畢最後的“In Your Back”後,喝著一口水消失於幕後、但明顯意猶未盡的Keren Ann在觀眾的掌聲下很快又回到台前。Encore環節似乎已成了指定動作。她隨即拿起木結他奏起熟識的前奏-全場未有出現的“Not Going Anywhere”原來是留待此時壓軸!和Richard Cohen的和音太令人陶醉。最後還有”End of May”和”The Hardest Ships of the World”。似乎她也認為之前acoustic的曲目未能盡興。事實上,她要是願意繼續彈下去,觀眾也絕對樂意聽下去。

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