It was a hot day on Saturday – so hot that Erin Harkes’ set was interrupted by a woman in need of emergency medical assistance due to the heat and sun. (Harkes’ Celtic rock finale – complete with a guest piper – was worth the wait.)
And alt-pop singer-songwriter Paula Cole turned up the heat a couple of more degrees with a passionate, smoldering, 85-minute set to wrap up the 2010 River Street Festival in Troy last Saturday.
Her compact band – just drummer Tony Mason and sublime guitarist Ben Butler – sounded much bigger than they were on nuggets like the opening “Comin’ Down” and the empowering “Watch the Woman’s Hands,” Cole’s magnificent voice was even bigger still.
While her personal brand of art-pop draws from Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Laura Nyro and Annie Lennox, Cole is very much her own woman. Her music is brave and sometimes altogether fearless, plumbing into dark psychological and emotional recesses.
She sat down at the Yamaha grand piano for about half of her show, offering a radically reworked and undeniably funky rendition of “Tiger,” as well as the old-school soul affirmation “I Believe in Love.”
She offered a sneak peek at new material – “Music in Me” and “Something I’ve Got to Say” – from her upcoming album, “Ithaca,” which isn’t slated for release til September.
And for her encores, she offered her biggest mid-’90s hits – “I Don’t Want to Wait” and “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” – before wrapping up the concert with a fierce, dramatic reading of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene.”
At that point, yeah, I was in need of some emergency medical attention myself.
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
You can also read my review for The Times Union.
PAULA COLE SET LIST
Watch the Woman’s Hands
Music in Me
I Believe in Love
Something I’ve Got to Say
I Don’t Want to Wait
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?
Jolene (Dolly Parton)