If I was John Velasco, April Rose Gabrielli’s manager, I would plot a tour of Europe as soon as possible. The Italian American rocker wouldn’t be the first person to get big in England first, Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, and Blondie, to name but three, all made that move, and her highly melodic pop rock would go down very well. In the 21st century US rock is a mix of grunge, emo, and screamo, but the UK have classic rockist significant others all the time, at the moment the Italian glam rockers Maneskin and Bono’s son Eli Hewson’s Inhaler, both are on similar chartered genres, are in the charts. It is waiting for her and anyway, The Rose Monarchs, her first band, had every reason on earth to crack the States big time and might have been better off in a smaller market that is also more rock friendly. My hometown, Manchester, England, would flip for her.
But that’s to start at the end of Ms. Gabrielli’s full on joyful performance at The Bitter End last night. April has somethings in common with Madonna and Lady Gaga: all three sold out their venues, all three are Italian Americans, and all three had me cooling my heels waiting for them. I’ve been going to The Bitter End for decades but I’ve never seen it like this, so packed out that they closed the door (I’ve also never, ever seen them allow time for a sound check in an empty room with the punters outside), and while April claimed she had the Gabrielli Familia in house, it wasn’t just that, there was a feel in the air of a major singer about to break big, big, big.
Opening act Kulick, who seconds as her lead guitarist and often writes with her, gave us forty minutes of singer songwriter confessionals on acoustic guitar with backing tracks. Jacob Kulick is a personable guy with what must be a cult following, a woman two seats down from me sang along to every song and she was the rule not the exception, Jacob’s lyrics are a touch prosaic but when he nails it, “Scatterbrain” made a mockery of my claim of literateness and the sublime “Rope” was a breathtaker for whom he should make a video of and release as a single, it stays nailed.
The last time April was on stage was June 17th at the Tribeca Film Festival, performing the theme from the documentary about four female scientist’s “Not The Science Type,” “Tameless”. But the last time she performed a concert was two years ago, as a twenty-six year old and not today as she can view her twenties in the rearview mirror, it was a big two years to lose for all of us but specifically for a woman on the cusp of pop stardom. She made up for it and how, bounding on stage with so much happiness and energy the entire audience was immediately enthralled and “Not Begging” (I think, I couldn’t find a setlist) opened the doors to a set where my only complaint was she should have given us 75 minutes, not 40. Whether dedicating “Trauma Mama” to her mother, wondering whether to release the full on rocker “Bad Habits” as her next single on rocknyc owner John Pasquale’s Soho Records (I say no – change “Leaving”‘s name to “Never Leaving” and go with that), and the “fall in love on the road,” “Firestarter”, the songs made the performance and the performance made the songs. The band, Kubick on (often rhythm) guitar, her drummer whose name I didn’t catch, and April who added keyboards for more than color, were tight as a drum, especially for a band that haven’t played live in two years -if ever. The rhythm section were dynamite, holding anchor all the way through, and April, solo on the last song of the evening, was a commanding, yet easy going and kindly presence. She is the sort of bandleader who never shows her hand, she manages from a distance, unseen by us. Dressed in leggings, a pirate shirt with frilly sleeves (“Did you see that Seinfeld episode?”) which she takes off towards the end and Kubick in leather pants and cuban heels (I didn’t catch the drummer’s wardrobe -I feel kinda bad, if anybody knows her name please forward), it was a glammy , rocky visage.
Right now I realize I haven’t heard a songwriter more adverse to pronouns since Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks in the late 1970s. I guess the reason is because it is a business of inclusion. Even in an interview about her gender preference (here), April is still deeply adverse to pronouns and there are no pronouns on “Do You?” which should rid itself of the question mark. The penultimate song of the evening before the encore, “Do You” got a well deserved, spontaneous standing ovation on her epochal, already on my best of 2021 list song: it is a hook monster, not just the addictive title lyrical hook, but the bridge “baby be mine” -either of which could have carried the song. I haven’t mentioned April’s voice, but she has a perfect rocker voice, from a whisper to a scream, fine in her upper range, but almost a growl when she goes down low. “Do You” must be licensed to any romcom you care to mention and April and her band know what they have here, she sings the song to a standstill and leaves us in a state of extended shock. If they have this take on track to track, they should re-release the song as a twofer recorded/live deluxe.
And then she was gone and though SohoJohnny asked if I wanted to go backstage (and I thought about seeing if they had a setlist), I saw no reason to have the God of Rock come back down to human size and left immediately. April is a personable, smart rockist gift to New York from New York, the antidote to all the sorrows we’ve been through and a major talent that will have me saying “I saw her when…” one of these days and probably lie about going backstage, though nobody will believe me.
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