A quick review of a wonderful show:
Nellie McKay performs music that defies labels: it’s part jazz, part hip-hop, part rock, bart croon, part primal screm, part rap, all blended into a crazy and intoxicating whilrwind. At the helm of it all, Ms. McKay is alternately smiling, scowling, laughing, weeping, and above all keeping the audience engaged.
Last December, after months of bickering, she split with Sony Records, thus leaving her new album, Pretty Little Head, in limbo. The dispute: Sony wanted to release a 16-track version (which I have, thanks to Sam), Nellie wanted a 23-track version. Whatever the case, she’s now free to choose a new label.
That said, her show at The Birchmere was simply wonderful. After a bizzare (and entertaining) opening by the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Nellie took the stage with a small backing band, launching into one of my favorite songs, “David.” She continued to move through songs from both her new album and the critically-acclaimed Get Away From Me.
She showed her human side, as she would occasionally miss a cue in a song, making the band start over again and laughing the whole thing off. She’d forget lyrics, and the audience would help her along. Her piano chops are incredible, and she makes use of every note on the keyboard as she jams with her fellow musicians in a musical dialogue.
For a little over two hours, Nellie McKay played almost every song from Get Away and 12-or-so songs from Pretty Little Head. She’s still unsure where she’ll land for her next recording contract, though she’s quite sure of her next project: starring with Alam Cumming, Jim Dale, Cyndi Lauper and Ana Gasteyer in Wallace Shawn’s retelling of The Three Penny Opera.
Who knows when Nellie McKay will next grace the stage as a musician? Whenever it is, I’ll make sure to be there – she’s great!