Sings Like Hell presents Shannon McNally and Kris Delmhorst.
At the Lobero Theatre, Saturday, May 20.
Reviewed by Hannah Tennant-Moore
There was a refreshing dorkiness to the gaiety that filled the Lobero last Saturday night. When Kris Delmhorst coyly introduced her last song as having “bad words in it,” and several rowdy whistles rose from the audience when she actually sang the word “fuck,” the show’s good-clean-fun vibe was abundantly clear.
New Orleans rising star Shannon McNally opened the show with her guitar and commanding set of pipes. The self-consciousness of her between-song banter (“There’s a reason I don’t do stand-up,” she said, but continued telling awkward stories) was forgiven the second she unleashed her soulful voice. But after a half-hour had passed and McNally was still alone with her guitar, I began rubbing my eyes. Her riffs were tight but simple, and I was left longing for a rocking country/folk band to back up that spine-tingling voice.
Fortunately, that is exactly what we got when Kris Delmhorst took the stage with her new band. The sound was perfectly suited to the Lobero, filling the space completely without demanding a more dance-friendly venue. Loyal followers called out song requests with such insistent abandon that Delmhorst jokingly asked if there was any wine left outside. She was mostly obedient, playing the oldies “Waiting Under the Waves” and “East of the Mountains” when asked, but no one seemed disappointed that the evening’s primary focus was her newest recording, Strange Conversations. Given the album’s premise — the songs are Delmhorst’s responses to various poems — the music came with a hefty dose of entertaining intellectualism. She often had us cracking up even as she referenced Virgil, Robert Browning, and “19th-century Venetian dudes.”
It was impossible not to notice Delmhorst’s joyful glow, which the New Englander attributed to being somewhere she could put her feet in “actual sand” and “actual water,” but she was clearly also in the throes of her new band’s honeymoon period. Drummer Lorne Entress, bassist Paul Kochanski, and guitarist Kevin Barry played generously, frequently exchanging genuine smiles and nods of encouragement.
Their joy was contagious and the audience left feeling that it was momentarily in on happiness’ big secret. When Delmhorst disclosed the purpose of life — as told in a “long, trippy” book she recently read about Virgil — it actually seemed to make a lot of sense. For the curious, check out the track “The Drop and the Dream” on Strange Conversations, in stores June 20.