Last Night: Mirah at Bimbos 365

Categories: Last Night, Music
mirah small.jpg
Liz Haley
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Bimbos 365
Review By Melissa Baron

Better Than: I mean, what else could you possible have to do on a cold and drizzly Tuesday night?

It's easy to forget that Bimbo's is such a classy venue. You walk through the doors and everything shines in gold and velvet. The bathrooms have vintage tiles, a foot pump flush, and an attendant waiting to hand you two nice, thick paper towels to dry your hands. It always feels like jazz bands or blues singers should play there, yet last night the stage held instead a synthesizer and a screen with a picture of french fries and the word "PEACE" in white block letters, in preparation for the opening act at the Mirah show.
Opener Tender Forever (aka Melanie Valera) took the stage playing with her wild, asymmetrical hair. At first the crowd seemed more inclined to continue circling the room in search of an open table than to pay attention. As soon as Valera started speaking, though, everything changed. In her charming French accent she stated that the previous night she'd played in Berkeley, but Bimbo's was an upscale venue and she felt the need to wear something fancier. From her feet she produced a knit cape with stripes of brown and green, "made by Value Village." She seemed comfortable conversing with the audience, and continued to do so for the rest of the show. In fact, she may have talked more than she played. Luckily her stories were charismatic and funny, her delivery spot on. When a woman shouted that she'd like to buy Valera dinner, the performer replied that the fan could buy her CD and with that money Valera could buy herself a meal---and then it would be like the girl in the audience bought her dinner.

Valera's songs were cute and poppy without being irritating. Her voice was commanding and strong, her songs danceable and sweet. They were the kind of delightful tunes you'd expect from an artist on Olympia, Washington's K Records (home to artists like Kimya Dawson). She played alone, using a synth for vocals. Later she played a small drum machine that looked somewhat like a Wii or a vibrator. She explained that they didn't have room for her drums in the van, and that while she liked playing the drum machine, it might be a little boring for us -- like when you go hang out with friends and watch them play video games and they never give you the controller.

The highlight of her set were two celebrity dedications. The first was a song for Beyonce. Valera lamented that she had attempted to get in touch with Beyonce, but just wasn't having any luck. As she started singing, the screen changed to show a series of photoshopped pictures of Valera and Beyonce together. There was a photo of them "in the club" dancing together, one of them at the beach, and another of them together in outer space. Later Valera picked up her ukulele and covered Justin Timberlake's "My Love." In the middle she stopped for at least five minutes and told a story about a 55-year-old queer goth woman she had never met purchasing tickets for both of them to see JT at the Tacoma Dome. The whole set was lighthearted, chatty and fun.

Unfortunately, the opening act was nearly impossible for Mirah to follow. After the excitement and personality of Tender Forever, Mirah's understated, jazzy voice and slow songs were exhausting, almost boring. Her delicate material makes for astounding recordings and often for stunning concerts, but by the time she went on at 10 p.m. it felt difficult to stay awake (especially when her beautiful voice is so calming). She started to play some of her faster paced and lively songs about halfway into her set, a welcome burst of energy after a series of quiet ballads. Some of those songs were from a new album released in March on K Records called (A)spera. Her voice resonated beautifully through the venue, the acoustics a perfect match for her classically-influenced sylings. The audience seemed thrilled to see her as they stood attentively in front of the stage. But after the long set of lullabies, we were also ready to go home and go to sleep by the end.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: Being from Seattle, I've seen Mirah play many times.

By the way: Tonight they take the show to Santa Barbara.
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