By Ed King
Remember, remember… I forgot. But as I make my way into town, breathing wood smoke and sulphur, I am still childishly excited.
I’m going back to The Glee Club, for the first time since April, to see ‘US chanteuse’ (their word not mine) Ingrid Michaelson, on the first UK date of her ‘Human Again’ album tour. Someone get me a sparkler.
Reassuringly full for a Monday, The Glee Club settles in as Michaelson’s support act – a towering red headed man from Dublin, or Gavin James as it says on his CD, stands, sings and thrashes his six string. Suitably warming up an initially reticent crowd, James even persuades the room into a small, albeit reservedly quiet, “sing-a-long”; before Ms Michaelson walks onto stage and breaks everything. A battery here, a guitar strap there; I wait patiently for Stan and Olly to finish us off with a step ladder.
But not to be defeated, Michaleson and her two vocal/guitar accompaniments go “off mike” to deliver a stripped back acoustic version of ‘Palm of your hand’; the scratchy rock riff album track from ‘Human Again’.
And whilst the technical problems jump between a delay pedal and Michaelson’s head, ‘Solider’ gets a three tier acoustic and fully miked delivery, before ‘Parachute’ – a song written by Michaelson but made famous by Cheryl Cole, rolls on and off stage without thunder.
Explaining the nuances of her Christmas film schedule (Chevy Chase in September, Jimmy Stuart in December), Michaelson sits, for the first time, at her keyboard for ‘Men of Snow’; a dutifully depressing ballad about loss. Or a snowman, I’m still not 100% sure.
A slightly self deprecating invitation to “embrace the cheese” prefix’s ‘Blood Brothers’, Michaelson’s latest single, before she returns, alone, to her keyboard for ‘Ghost’; a melancholic string free delivery of the first single off ‘Human Again’.
Glasses of wine and her accompaniment enter the stage for ‘The Way I Am’, with Michaelson returning to her ukulele for the signature track; before “another depressing song” that was co-written with Sara Bareilles (whom the Birmingham Review may well owe royalties or an apology to) – ‘Winter Song’.
Giggle fits, considered harmonies and the obligatory Mary Poppins references pad out the rest of the set; with Michaelson’s on stage confidence – even as the tour debut cracks open up around her, infectious and endearing.
A chronological spectrum of songs are played, with the lack of production and back line allowing the melodies a more honest outing. Michaleson has remained fiercely independent over her decade long career, releasing everything through her own Cabin 24 Records (alongside Mom+Pop Music with ‘Human Again’), and this campfire with keyboard is how I hoped to see her on stage.
A dubious summary of encore etiquette closes the show, before a couplet of Michaelson standards – the bizarrely infectious ‘Be OK’ and cocaine chorus of ‘You & I’, send us back into the flame peppered night.
Michaelson sticks around to meet ‘n’ greet anyone who wanted to; appearing genuinely enthused about her next UK dates and posing for more photographs than is possible (for me) to smile through.
And whilst I find the gems in ‘Human Again’ sometimes hidden by big production (oddly from the man who kept Regina Spektor alone on a piano), I would probably ditch Christmas to see her perform live again.
Ingrid Michaelson’s latest album, ‘Human Again’, is out now on worldwide release. For more info and music, visit http://www.ingridmichaelson.com/
For details on other events at The Glee Club, visit http://www.glee.co.uk/birmingham-music