Yesterday was Lael Neale’s record release show at El Cid, and it was also my second time seeing her at this venue, however the first time, I may not have insisted enough on how beautiful her voice is! I have listened to her new record ‘I’ll Be Your Man’ a few times, and honestly, her voice shines even more when you witness it live. This thing is a pure bird, flying to amazing heights, without ever missing a note, while managing to nuance a lot of emotions in the same song.
She performed a few songs off her new record as well as a few others, a new one, and a Burt Bacharach cover (‘Don’t Make Me Over’), which did not surprise me at all. Didn’t I say last time that Lael’s voice reminded me a bit of Aimee Mann’s tonality? And Aimee has often covered Bacharach, is always praising him, so this is just a logical convergence of the universe.
With her 70’s-inspired folk music, Lael transports you in a very melancholic place, full of heartbreaks and loneliness. She often sounds sad, with her gaze lost afar, so that you would want to cheer her up as you wonder where all this sadness is coming from… Don’t get me wrong, Lael’s songs transpire a true authenticity that she embodies with a peaceful solemnity and a quietness that inspires respect, and, as it was the case last time, the crowd was captivated by her set.
Alone on stage with her acoustic guitar, or sometimes accompanied by a violin or a slide guitar, the strings were just reinforcing the melancholic beauty of her crystalline voice, bringing more emotions into her folksy-dreamy songs. She explained that her tune ‘Born in the Summer’ was about being a teenager; she grew up in a farm in Virginia, and there’s still something very bucolic in her lyrics, as she uses words like cinnamon and dust, seaweed and brine, or jasmine and rain…
She may have a shy stage presence, but she is luminous and her music sounds so natural, you have a hard time detaching your eyes from her tall and frail silhouette, long blond hair and piercing eyes looking at her surrounding as if she was daydreaming. Despite the melancholia, she is not asking for help, she just seems both resigned and determined. ‘I was born to lose,’ she sang during the first song of the night – also the first song of the album – ‘White Daisy, Lace Glove’. And this is one of Lael’s recurrent themes in her songs, ‘and I’m perfect as a scar/sunnier than the dark/but I’ve known from the start/i will lose/I will lose/I will lose it all’, she continued in ‘To Be Sad’. And I am still wondering, why such a pretty girl, with such agile vocal chords would get this idea? But darkness is almost at every corner of her songs, may be like a too-present consciousness that any life carries its inner doomness.
The mysteriously named trio Tashaki Miyaki played after Lael and brought even more dreamy music with girl on girl sweet harmonies. The trio sure has a retro sound, full of 60’s reverb and cover songs: their last album is entitled ‘Under Cover Vol.II’ and features cover songs from Top Gun theme (‘Take My Breath Away’) to the Buzzcocks (‘Ever Fallen In Love’) to the Flamingos (‘I only Have Eyes For You’)… Almost all the songs are performed with the same dreamy-psychedelia, slow-motion ecstasy, and sweet shoegazing.
The trio had surrounded itself with lights and flowers and they visibly wanted to bring back the glorious days of 60’s girl groups, as Lucy (on drums) shared vocals with Dora (on bass). They got into more action during certain songs with Rocky’s more aggressive and psychedelic guitar, bringing a few interesting solos and even a serious dose of distortion, but even then, they were executed with a slow-moving bliss. It was like listening to lullabies, with tearful and emotional guitar breaks. They may quote Neil Young as their main inspiration but they covered Whitney Houston and The Everly Brothers’ ‘All I have to do Is Dream’… it was all sweet-coated candy wrapped in a hazy psychedelia, and unfortunately I didn’t stay for the last band Willoughby, which played way past midnight, but now that I am reading about all their influences, I certainly should have!
More pictures of the show here
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