Concert review and set list: Ingrid Michaelson had us in the ‘Palm of [Her] Hand’ at the Pageant, Monday, July 16
It’s not fair to compare two musicians merely because they both happen to be female singer-songwriters and both happen to wear big, dark glasses and both seem riddled with angst and both have odd four-part names (Fiona Apple McAfee Maggart / Ingrid Ellen Egbert Michaelson); and it’s definitely not fair to compare them simply because they played in succession in the same town (Saturday then Monday).
So let me not go on and on, on a long tangent about how I unfairly expected any female singer-songwriter act that followed the mind-blowing Fiona Apple show a few days prior to pale in comparison — no matter how much I love the latter performer’s albums; and please let’s don’t even address how I unfairly presumed that though similar, Ingrid Michaelson or any other lady singer couldn’t compete with her “extraordinary machine” predecessor. Because it would not just be unfair, but also it would be wrong.
Ingrid Michaelson is no lesser-than, no follow-up, no Monday-night-at-the-Pageant to Fiona’s Saturday-night-at-the-Peabody (well, that last one is true, but only in a very factual sense). Perhaps she’s no “extraordinary machine,” but she’s also no “Shadowboxer”; and Ingrid is most definitely not a mere “ghost / haunting these walls” of all who played before her. On the contrary: Ingrid Michaelson proved at the Pageant last night that her feet have indeed found “the solid ground” and her “tongue has finally [FOUND] its sound.”
But just for kicks, since we’ve already dipped our toe into the comparison pond, I can’t help but wonder what if Fiona Apple did not slip into semi-consciousness when she performed, and did not leave her eyes unfocused, blind to the surrounding stimuli, and did not retreat into hibernation only to emerge once a decade? Instead, what if she left on those big, severe glasses, faced the world and all of its disappointment and heartbreak with clear sight, then called her girlfriends, had a good cry, and just started singing?
And when I wonder something like that, I can’t help but think that she would be something like Ingrid Michaelson — still phenomenally talented and possessing the same remarkable ability to capture one’s attention and emotion, and, yet…
Forgive me, Ingrid, for even briefly entertaining this exercise in dialectics, because as I said, on a very fundamental level, it’s not fair and it’s not right. But forgive me, too, because the comparisons are just too uncanny and I can’t let go of that belief that this exploration will lead to some interesting nugget of truth! As you shrieked last night, dear Ingrid: “Who wears glasses here? MY PEOPLE! I must live here with you and ‘not see’ as God intended!” Indeed — what if we all lived with our glasses ON?
I don’t have the answer to that question. But here’s what I do know about Ingrid Michaelson: she’s got a powerful, beautiful voice. She can work a crowd as good as any Vegas headliner with her silly anecdotes and impromptu sing-alongs and dramatic arm flair. And she’s pretty freaking normal.
Of the 21 songs she sang last night (including two duets with husband and opener Greg Laswell and Rhianna and Bon Iver covers), all of them were about love: she’s so “into you, into you, into you,” or “oh boy… you got me,” or “just hold onto me, I’ll hold onto you,” or “you ask me to dance and then walk away,” or you and me and us and we, etcetera and so on. When she jokes (mostly about Lady Gaga), there are lines about being “just me and me,” but in her set last night (and truly, in all of her songs) – she’s just “talking about nothing, oh, we’re talking about us.”
Normal, yes. Love songs are standard fodder for any lady-singer’s repertoire. But boring? Not for a second. Pedestrian? Absolutely not.
Ingrid Michaelson does nothing if not prove that you need not be overwhelmed by lost lovers in order to produce beautiful music. “I just wanna be OK, be OK, be OK,” and well, honestly, “it feels so good just to feel something.” She’s human, and perhaps that’s the gist of her remarkableness (with that in mind, “Human Again” is quite the apt title for her 2012 release).
Yes, she’s your classic girl-meets-boy, girl-falls-for-boy, boy-breaks-girl’s-heart, girl-picks-herself type of gal. But she’s also a girl-picks-up-not-only-herself-BUT-ALSO-her-ukulele-and-writes-awesome-songs type of gal. Which is to say, she’s great.
Add three good-looking dudes in two fashion hats, plus two back-up harmonizers, a sexy musician husband, plenty of Lady Gaga (“Lady Gaga, she enters my world in some way every day!”), and as I’ve always said, I’m a sucker for a ukulele, and BAM. Ingrid Michaelson, I “take [you] the way [you are].” “I won’t tell anybody that your voice is my favorite sound.” Awesome.
Palm of Your Hand
Corner of Your Heart
Do It Now
You See the Light (with Greg Laswell)
The Way I Am
Skinny Love (Bon Iver cover)
In the Sea
This Is War
Black and Blue
Hopeless Place (Rhianna cover)
You and I