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Lael Neale At El Cid, Saturday, July 26th, 2014 Reviewed

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Lael Neale

Lael Neale is such a pretty face, you may not take her seriously at first, but as soon as she starts singing, her crystalline voice and the emotions it conveys automatically ravishes you and make you listen religiously. Surrounded by a full band, the Virginia native, now living in Silver Lake Los Angeles, played a really beautiful and serene set at El Cid on Saturday night.

But first of all, it was a video release show and we saw two videos directed Tyler Monsein, for her songs ‘White Daisy Lace Gloves’ (starring Erika Braukis and a lot of beautiful flowers) and ‘To Be Sad’ (starring many tattooed torsos of Echo Park locals) and these two films couldn’t have been more different, navigating between heartbreak, loss and humor.

A few minutes later, Lael took the stage with her band and I could tell she was not exactly a one girl with a guitar type-of-person, she wanted her songs to get the full layered orchestration, a bass played by Sam Thornton, drums played by Marlon Rabenreither (also adding backup vocals) and even a violin played by Erik Arvinder, injecting more emotion and sensibility in the music. Later on,  she even invited indie musician Rocco Deluca (who has worked with Daniel Lanois among others) on lap steel for two songs, bringing more extra twang alt-country/bluesy-eerie feel in the songs.

Lael has a very pretty voice, like pure crystal floating above the melodies, but also a shy presence on stage, which makes her even more adorable. She stands right in front of you tall and thin, strumming her guitar, with her long blonde hair on her shoulders, and she looks and sounds like the young progeny of Aimee Mann and Sharon Van Etten, with whom she shared this high-flying limpid and haunting voice. During the last song, the soaring and luminous ‘Still Life’, Rabenreither even used that same box accordion that I saw Sharon played, last time I saw her in concert.

But, beside the voice, the most impressive elements of Lael’s songs may be the melancholia escaping from the peaceful setting, as if a certain sadness could emanate from serenity… As the melancholia is reinforced by the strings, the boy-girl vocal harmonies with drummer Marlon Rabenreither bring a vulnerable beauty to the songs mixed with a lot of emotion. And behind the calm, you feel the heavy stuff, heartbreak, loss, regret, surfacing at each of Lael’s change of intonation. From what I read, she likes the great classics — she even recorded Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ with Waves and Waves — and grew up on a diet of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, and may be this could explain the term cinnamon in one of her song titles?

I was amazed how little information I could find about Lael on the web, how could such a pure voice be still almost unknown by people? Does she have a record deal soon? It is just probably a question of time, Lael’s quiet music sure managed to captivate the audience and the chatting stopped as soon as she started playing, which is not an easy thing to accomplish in a bar, but her apparition on stage had something from an angel’s and this can shut up a lot of conversations.

Pictures of the show here

Setlist

The Wrath
Static
To Be Sad
Black & White
Cinnamon and Dust
Sleep to Remember
Because It was dark
Still Life



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