Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Battered Young Bird

What can be said about Madeleine Peyroux that hasn't been said about any car crash. But unlike car crashes, from which we can't turn away as the morbid is our calling, we rarely see the crash as it happens. With Peyroux, her concerts are the crash in slo-mo (ok, at least the one tonight, but go do the Lexis-Nexis and tell me this isn't more than likely par for the course), something stately and dignified and inch-by-inch horrific, as filmed by someone like Cronenberg. And it's not just that her voice is a dead ringer for Billie Holiday, which naturally invites other unhealthy comparisons. It's the haunted look in her eyes, the way her jaw clenches, the way her guitar seems more like a prop than an instrument. It's the langour, even in the swing, even with a band that can play. It's her trumpet player turning into FX sound man enough times it becomes a bit of schtick. It's that in her patter she tips her cap to Rimbaud for absinthe, Elliott Smith for bar talk. It's realizing that prior to Souixsie Sioux goth chicks had to turn elsewhere with their darkness, plumbing bell jars and Bessie Smith blues. It's the way a note will escape Peyroux and it's like she's back busking and sometihng off-key only cost her a quarter. It's the note she nails, and the coffin lid of a song caught dead to rights stays shut.


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