Julia Fordham returned to SOhO on Monday night, sounding as radiant as ever, but this time she brought along family and friends. Her daughter, her sister Claire (author of a very funny memoir, Plus One), and about twenty other friends were all having a wonderful time, and the mood was contagious. Fordham began her set with a few songs from Porcelain, her best known album, and then introduced a new member of her circle, Paul Reiser. After years of success in film, television, and stand-up comedy, Reiser has become Fordham’s partner in songwriting and performing. Together, they accomplished something marvelous and new. They took on themes rarely attempted by even the most adventurous songwriters—war, children, independence, and personal transformation, to name a few—with confidence and clarity.
Their collaboration works beautifully. Fordham seems genuinely pleased to have Reiser on stage with her, and Reiser gives off a sense of deep happiness and appreciation for his new role. His story of hearing Fordham’s music for the first time rang true for many in the audience: “I was driving in my car, and one of her songs came on the radio, and I had to stop and weep. Weeping and driving sixty-five miles an hour; they don’t go together. So I had to stop and listen, and I’ve been listening ever since.” He also fits in well with her long-time collaborators, bassist and guitarist Colin Ryan, singer Celia Chavez, and drummer Jason Harrison Smith.
In the same way, the new songs fit in with old favorites and added an interesting feeling of energy and fun. Fordham’s daughter and three of her friends danced to several of the songs, as did many in the audience, most of whom knew every note and work from her twelve albums. These same fans got to sing along with a new version of “Happy Ever After,” a song that began as a protest against apartheid twenty-five years ago and now has words of encouragement for victims of the tsunami in Japan. But there was even more: Fordham had created a medley of songs her fans had requested on Facebook. “And if they weren’t all in the same key before, they are now,” she said as she began. She was right. They all fit together seamlessly, with Fordham moving the tempo and melody gracefully from one to the next until she ended with a joyful flourish on “Love Moves in Mysterious Ways.” It’s still true—and Fordham’s music still celebrates it, in wonderful, mysterious ways.