Sometimes songs take on a life that moves on a tangent from the way a person composed it and that’s what happened to April Rose Gabrielli last night at Cafe Wha. The third song of the evening was the glorious “Do You” from 2021 – a romantic quest and question, at least that is what it had been. As the audience sang along it wasn’t that anymore, it was an anthem of requited love between a woman and her fans; at concerts the audience is always the fifth Beatle and one reason is because of something April must have noticed last night: they want to be seen, they want to be a part of it all and when April reached “You gotta know there’s a look in your eye, Oh do you, do you see mine” and the audience joins her they are not just watching but being seen, they are being embraced: they are being hand held for one of the transcendent moments between one person and many. They are being accepted.
“Do You” was April’s first release on Soho Records and it is a triumphant expression of what we could expect when she performed it (twice!!) at the Bitter End in 2021 (here) during her 40 minute set, and yesterday we got an hour, she dropped her EP Unreasonable Woman last week , in July she has promised her debut solo album to drop. She is building to 90 minutes and beyond at which point she might include more songs from her band The Rose Monarchs which we hope won’t get left behind, and even some from the astonishing Spotify playlist of 35 songs she composed herself.
After Haim’s tedious hurry up and wait at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (here), April was an exercise in absolute professionalism that put the denizens of Cafe Wha first. Opening act (Jake) Kulick, who seconds as her lead guitarist and, along with former Rose Monarch Kevin Eiserman, her often co-composer, has improved every time I’ve seen him.
April and Kulick have a neat double act going down, Kulick opens for April and April plays keyboards for him, and then April takes over as headliner and Kulick plays guitar in her band. The last time I saw Kulick was at letmehelpinc’s stacked deck 9-11 benefit last year where he managed to stand out in the midst of stiff competition. April is singer songwriter confessional, Kulick is hard rocking alt guy, tall in leather pants and wife beater with a neck tattoo and a handsome visage that has the girls swooning, imagine a member of the Aryan Nation after EST and you’ll get the picture. On stage, with a fuller band then we’ve seen before, not just April but also a bassist and drummer, his sound is filled out and his mix of indie rock and harder sounds explodes. He opened with “Necessities”, a gorgeous and catchy tune off his current EP Everyone I Know Will Die, the set was filled with bangers both the other worldly “Ghost” and the set closing, classic metalism “Color” where he jumped off the stage and ran around the club (when April did the same thing later she called it a Kulick). Jake should be bigger than he is, though perhaps he balks at selling himself as a pin-up, but one way or the other the man’s AOR is first rate, he is a charming performer and as energetic as Alex Kapranos or Damon Albarn on the Parklife tour, the man exudes personality and yet there isn’t an ounce of arrogance.
April isn’t arrogant either, or unreasonable. She is a singer songwriter confessional mining pop rock sweetness to tear apart her veneer. Last night she told us she was raised by her mother, that she had epileptic fits that landed her in hospital last year, she dedicated “Trauma Mama” to her mother who drove down from Georgia for the performance, she shouted out SohoJohnny, she thanked her manager John, she laughed with her best friend from college, and she opened her heart to us: the self-proclaimed loner changed by love, the professional musician in bands all her life yet who seems to personify the concept of band as family. She spoke to us as though we were a mix of therapist and best friend ever, it was both daring, emotionally fulfilling and a privilege.
Musically, she was at her best just about constantly throughout the concert, April performed “Breaking Back” , a power ballad, and her soaring vocals that should be pitchy isn’t, think Adele, or better, think Celine Dion, it was a towering vocal performance and not the only one, for singing the night belonged to “Low” – a slice of Americana. “Loner” is so self-revealing it is hard to know how she had the bottle to perform the road song that doubles as personal growth (“I never really partied much,” she claimed. “I don’t party now”). April positively glows in her leather pants and frilly pirate shirt (think of that Seinfeld episode, or the Unreasonable Woman sleeve cover), she is friendly yet rock star groovy, and she performed a set that seemed unstoppable, with a penultimate best in class “Need A Break” before concluding with the rough house “Bad Habit (Don’t Make Me Bad)” -which I claimed shouldn’t have been her next single back in the day and which outsold “Do You”. We didn’t get a second “Do You” this time but that’s my only complaint.
April starts her East Coast tour today (here) as we await the album. Her performance last night was both pure, honest and joyful. It was terrific, and when she looks you in the eye you know how full of love it was. A flatout triumph from a major performer.
some hooky and wildly inspired tune
Harry has the summer of his career!
“My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment.”
adds their 2021 release to the newbie in a 32 song, knocking on two hours
I bet Soho got some great tips!!
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – April 1975 (Volume 6, Number 11)
an interesting snapshot of the times
Luke knows his business well
Reimagining the Billie Eilish song