Theresa Andersson @ Hotel Utah 1/13/09

Swedish-born songstress and self-described one-woman-band Theresa Andersson played San Francisco’s Hotel Utah on 1/13, charming and moving the audience absolutely, and in my opinion making a great case for the continued ascension of her solo career. With a great voice, an athletic juggling of instruments and an extremely skillful use of electronic looping equipment, Andersson does more than I would’ve thought possible for a solo musician, and she does it all well. Her album Hummingbird, Go! is an effortless pleasure, rhythmic, lush and beautiful. Better yet the listener, who hasn’t seen her actually play, could be completely unaware that each track is also a minor miracle of staging and execution.

Andersson lives up to her one-woman-band self-description through a precise and absolutely innovative use of electronic looping and layering. She’ll play a riff on one instrument, record it, and loop it back later while she’s playing a different instrument, using the pedals of a huge, and what looks to me extremely confusing, looping machine. This requires timing, athleticism, musical chops, and, according to Andersson, dance lessons. I kept expecting her to lose a thread somewhere, or to sound distracted while she’s searching for the right pedal or dropping her guitar for her violin, because remember, she’s also singing at the same time. But she never did. She looked like she was in complete control and was having a great time, and she sounded like it. Beyond her instrumentalism she’s also got a lovely, expressive voice, and, like her array of instruments and contraptions, she knows how to get every last inch of musical contribution out of it.The crowd, larger than average for an opener at Hotel Utah, dug it wholeheartedly. Andersson’s sound is an interesting hybrid of 80s euro-pop, soul and Motown, as much influenced by her home country as by the years she’s spent with the greats in New Orleans, where she’s lived and played since 1990. You can hear the Southern Jazz and Cajun colors in her beautiful “Waltz,” and she samples NOLA drummer Smokey Johnson on Hummingbird, Go’s premier song “Birds Fly Away,” a rousing, rhythmically compelling track that I think would do as well on the radio as any new song this year. Her rendition of the folk song “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep” (absent from the album, unfortunately) holds its own with some of its best interpretations.The LA Times called her one of 2009’s “Artists to Watch,” and after the Hotel Utah show and then listening to her album I can understand why. She’s a one of a kind musician, and she’s really friggin good. After plugging along as a back-up instrumentalist and relative unknown on the regional New Orleans circuit for years, the release ofHummingbird, Go!, her first significant foray into a solo career, has exponentially bumped her exposure. If there’s any justice or taste in the listening public it’ll keep going that way.

[This review originally appeared on MyCrazyMusicBlog, and cannot be reproduced without permission. Thank you.]

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