Paula Kelley - T.T. The Bear's, Cambridge, MA
Nov 7, 2002
It's always nice to see a songwriter branching out a little bit and spreading her wings. Paula Kelley, who has mainly been laying low while writing new material for her next record, is doing just that. Tonight, she brought out the full band (with new keyboard player Carlene Barous) for the first time in months to preview some of her new songs, and the strength of the material suggests that Kelley has not been sitting idle while away from the stage. The set began with "Friday Came," a slow, stop-and-start number that found the band in warm-up mode. The song sounded like it could've easily fit on her last album, Nothing/Everything, as did the next song, "The Girlfriend," which definitely reflected Kelley's love of Bacharach. The number was light and bouncy at first, but gradually the guitars came in more and the energy was kicked up a notch. The first real powerhouse song from this new batch was "Where Do You Go?" which began with a slow, harpsichord introduction. There was some very nice vocal harmonizing between Kelley, Aaron Tap, and Jeff Reston, and the song gradually grew heavier, until it shifted to a slower tempo. At that point, it took on a completely different, more dramatic quality, melting into a bluesier sound, and it was filled out with two trumpets and some stinging guitar work. For "The Rest of You," another exceptional number that also featured the horns, Kelley doffed her guitar and belted out the lyrics of a song that had several tempo changes, reaching for the high notes and letting her adrenaline take over. Also included in the 9-song set were two numbers from the last album, "Everything" and "Are You Gonna Make It?" the latter sounding more aggressively rock than the recorded version. There were two new rockers, including the fast, chunky "Why Won't People Change," which had many of the jangly guitar sounds and clever hooks that are Kelley's trademark. It sounded good to have the keyboards back in the mix, and it's a pretty sure thing that Paula Kelley's new record is going to be one of the highlights of the local music scene when it comes out next year.
- Neal Alpert