The most fascinating thing about Ingrid Michaelson’s performance at Town Ballroom last Friday was the affable way in which she tore down the fourth wall and invited her mostly teen to twenty-something female admirers to join in the fun.
Instead of steering the evening in an obstinate, overly professional direction, Michaelson appeared to separate herself from the “I’m Better Than You Are” egoism that haunts other artists in favor of a playful humility that indicated she’s just one of the girls.
Whether she was joking about Netflix, aping Aaron Neville’s style, or leading the sold-out crowd through a chance rendition of the Oscar Mayer theme song, the air of gratitude never faded. She and her band wanted everyone in attendance to know that the respect was indeed a mutual sentiment.
Have I mentioned that Michaelson also happens to have a sensational set of pipes at her disposal?
Drawing from all stages of her career, she put those pipes to the test early and often on songs such as “Fire,” “Parachute,” and “Blood Brothers,” and they held up brilliantly. Seasoned fans probably find her material engaging at every turn, but I definitely think her latest album reigns supreme.
“Human Again” is her fifth studio album, so the depths to which she’s willing to go are much more resonant than in the past. While “Be OK” brings a smile to your face at the drop of the needle, “Ghost” grasps your insides until there’s nothing left to lose.
In a sense, Michaelson has grown up with this record, because its lingering gloom is light years removed from the innocence of 2006’s “Girls and Boys.” These tracks have meat on their bones, so I’m thankful to have experienced her live at a time when her voice and artistic command are at unprecedented levels.
It felt as if I were the only male in a sea of feminine faces, but I did see plenty of guys singing along when she broke into “The Way I Am” and “Maybe,” which I certainly didn’t expect. Then again, true music fans recognize excellence when they see it, and Michaelson fits that bill.
Her husband, Greg Laswell, opened the show with his own ominous singer-songwriter vibe, and the crowd greeted him with a rapturous ovation after every number. His version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” took many people by surprise, but the somber touch he put on it was perfect.
Although the hype surrounding this one was a bit muted, the finished product couldn’t have been better. Michaelson and Laswell make an endearing couple whose chemistry manifests itself in both a romantic and musical manner that one can’t help but love every minute of it.