By Chelsea Spear
TT The Bears, Cambridge MA
June 17, 2012
It’s no surprise that Theresa Andersson is drawn to aviary lyrical imagery. Live, the singer/songwriter cuts a figure like the birds she evokes on her breakthrough album Hummingbird, Go! A flurry of activity, she plays several instruments and loops her vocals, arrangements, and samples before a live audience, swirling about like a blur in a diaphanous bat-wing blouse.
The thrush had come north to TT The Bears, a careworn bar tucked away on a side street in Cambridge, on a tour to support her latest album, Street Parade. This show marked her first live performance in our fair city, and her hour-long set served as an introduction to both her music and her unorthodox live show.
On taking the stage, Andersson gestured towards the myriad of pedals and microphones around her, which she introduced as her band. She began the show by recreating the one-woman band performance of “Na Na Na” that became an Internet sensation three short years ago. Between songs, she spoke with great humor of her experience as an American citizen and the contrast of New Orleans culture compared with her childhood on the Swedish island of Gothenburg.
The set list relied heavily on songs from her previous album. While the melodic, major-key tunes of Hummingbird, Go! have a more immediate appeal than the moody, slow-burning songs from Street Parade, they are also easier to recreate live with a solo performer. The ever-game Andersson piped in with vocal recreations of the saxophone that punctuates the staccato new song “Listen to My Heels.” On “What Comes Next,” recorded as a duet between Andersson and Peter from Peter Bjorn and John, she solicited the audience’s help in recreating a key backup vocal.
Andersson rounded out her Boston debut with a pair of well-chosen covers. She treated “Find the Cost of Freedom” (Crosby Stills & Nash) with the reverence of a hymn, layering her vocals so that the chilling lyrics echoed through the club. If “Freedom” brought out her serious side, her Allen Toussaint cover of “On Your Way Down” allowed her to loose her silly side. She looped all of her vocals, which allowed her to give her “back-up girls” a chance to shine in the spotlight.
Opener Jenn Conley warmed up the crowd with a hypnotic take on folk and country. Her minimalist guitar playing was ably backed up by a Tom Waits-esque slide guitarist, and the sob in her voice and the poignant lyrical subject matter recalled Neko Case.