Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button
Youtube button

Archive for April, 2009

Etta James

Austin, Texas, April 27, 2009

Etta James live at the Austin Music Hall, April 2009, photo by Laura Lea NalleEtta James live at the Austin Music Hall, April 2009, photo by Laura Lea Nalle

Etta James, the 71 year old legendary soul singer performed this past Friday at the Austin Music Hall.  James, a three time Grammy Award winner with two songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and a 2002 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, commanded the crowd’s attention with a combination of her electrifying personality, raunchy stage antics, thinly veiled sexual innuendo, and saucy banter.  The star, who needed to be helped on and off stage, took swigs of cognac in between every song, and at the end of her set ranted “Beyonce!  Beyonce!”

James, backed by the great Roots Band which includes two of her sons, opened with “Come to Mama,” leaning back in her swivel chair in between verses to strike suggestive poses and feel herself up.  The crowd roared wildly, a mixture of laughter, cheers, and gasps of disbelief.  Towards the end of her set, James performed “Take Another Piece of my Heart,” made famous by Janis Joplin.  The crowd sang the chorus with her, and a number of people in the audience got up from their chairs and danced in the aisles.  James encored with the obligatory performance of “At Last,” her trademark song.

There were moments when James’ legendary soaring and warm vocals shone through brilliantly, the vibrato of her contralto voice commanding cheers from the crowd.  But there were also moments when James’ voice seemed harsh around the edges, lacking the complexity and warmth we have come to know from some of her better recordings and performances.

I have to confess, even though I’ll probably get in all kinds of trouble for coming out and saying so, but Etta James’ performance left me rather unsatisfied.  Her performance lasted just under an hour, ending just as it seemed she and the crowd were getting warmed up.  Her set list omitted some of her most notable songs, and her presence on stage seemed contrived and unnecessarily explicit, to the point of distracting from her music.

James is a notoriously complex character with a long history of personal and professional ups and downs, surviving a very long drug addiction on one end of the spectrum and releasing some of the best songs in the American blues and soul catalogues on the other end.  In spite of delivering a performance that left many people wanting, she deserves nothing less than her legendary status and garnering great respect even from a less than fully satisfying performance.

See the full gallery of Etta James photos here.

written and photographed by Laura Lea Nalle, all rights reserved

 

Arc Angel’s at the Continental Club

The Arc Angels live at the Continental Club, April 23, 2009.

Doyle Bramhall II & Charlie Sexton of the Arc Angels live at the Continental Club, May 2009, photo by Laura Lea NalleDoyle Bramhall II of the Arc Angels live at the Continental Club, May 2009, photo by Laura Lea NalleCharlie Sexton of the Arc Angels live at the Continental Club, May 2009, photo by Laura Lea Nalle

See more of Laura Lea’s Arc Angels photos here.