A dramatic reveal factor emerges early in the hour-long performance by the artist Mendeleyev kicking off the enticing new streaming “Virtual Concert Series” from the historic and intimate Marjorie Luke Theatre. Mendeleyev, a soulful pop-folkie singer-songwriter, handy with piano and guitar, opens his Luke set with jazz-colored piano musings, lost in the moment before a grand piano. It could be anywhere, for an audience of 500, or one.
For the second song, however, the barefoot baritone commands his steel-string acoustic guitar with syncopated, percussive gusto, and the camera angle is from deep onstage, looking out on an eerily empty Luke Theatre. We’re quickly reminded — as if needed — that life is far from normal: The lovely Luke is yet another prized venue gone dark.
Enter the streaming option, thankfully taken with this new series (Next up: Jackson Gillies and Tariqh Akoni, all free online at luketheatre.org). Mendeleyev, whose résumé includes a stint on TV’s The Voice (on John Legend’s team), is an ideal series-launcher. Unlike COVID-era staged concerts by Kenny Loggins and KT Tunstall at the Lobero, this series is crafted from pre-produced video shoots at the Luke (beautifully done by veteran image-maker David Bazemore).
Mendeleyev boasts a bold, wide-ranging vocal power, now intense, now subtle. He musters up his muscular folk/rock/pop aesthetic on “Show Me the Way Home” — with an animated component on screen and band backing tracks in the wings — and opens with a quasi-throat-singing drone on the gothic “Send Me Down to the Sea.” From the piano, he channels as much as sings “Beautiful Life,” a chant-like anthem of hope, valid anytime but tinged with life-under-COVID relevance on the line “all my friends are drifting away / I’ll see them again someday.”
Cover-wise, he moves easily from Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” to a caffeinated take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” with Sly Stone’s “Everyday People” tapping the singer’s soulful side. Poignancy wins out at the end, with “Until Forever I Go,” from a new EP, Songs for Mom. He pays touching homage to his mother, who died of cancer in May 2019, with footage of Bristlecone Pine terrain behind the singer onstage, in a heartfelt ode.
Mendeleyev didn’t win The Voice, but, as heard from the Luke, this local proudly boasts a voice very much worth knowing.
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