Review by Greg Haymes
“Can we start with a folk song?,” she said as she stepped onstage, adjusted the microphone and strummed her Vagabond Travel Guitar.
And with that, sublime alt-pop singer-songwriter Jill Sobule launched into “When They Say They Want Our America Back, What the Fuck Do They Mean?,” a simple, catchy and politically potent little ditty about the Tea Party. And, yes, after a bit of coaxing, the crowd at Club Helsinki in Hudson sang along just like a Girl Scout campfire rendition of “Kumbaya.”
Sobule is an utterly charming and thoroughly ingratiating performer who steps into the spotlight armed with a songbag brimming over with stories that lure the listener into her world. She made her Hudson debut at Helsinki just about a year ago, as half of a duo with John Doe (of X). This times around she was all by herself, and that was just fine. That’s all she needs. Really.
She offered plenty of old favorites, including “Margaret,” “The Jig Is Up,” “Vrbana Bridge” and, of course, her lone hit “I Kissed a Girl,” which she cleverly wove into a medley with “Bitter.” (Katy Perry? “I Kissed a Girl”? “Bitter”? Get it?)
Sobule served up quite a few new tunes, too, including a pair that she wrote for a new musical stage production of “Yentl” (based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short story, not the Barbra Streisand film adaptation) and another from a second musical that she’s been working on, based on the 1980 movie “Times Square.” And she played a couple of selections from her brand-new, limited edition EP, “Junior Executive,” which finds her teaming up with folks like John Doe, Steve Earle and the string quartet Ethel.
She also conjured up an impromptu silly song about Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum and sang a heartfelt version of the Warren Zevon ballad, “Don’t Let Us Get Sick.” Just prior to “Big Shoes,” she phoned her mom, who chimed in with a rap section in the middle of the tune – via the phone. And for “Jetpack,” she stepped away from the microphone and off the stage as she wandered around the dance floor singing and playing completely unamplified.
All in all, it was a most entertaining evening of uncommonly smart, slyly comical and sometimes melancholy music by an artist who has certainly risen above the “one-hit-wonder” label.
JILL SOBULE SET LIST
When They Say They Want Our America Back, What the Fuck Do They Mean?
Last Candle (from “Yentl”)
Oh Shit, What Have I Done? (from “Yentl”)
The Jig Is Up
Don’t Let Us Get Sick (Warren Zevon)
A Good Life
Where Is Bobbie Gentry?
25 Cents (from “Times Square”)
Rick the Dick
Somewhere in New Mexico
Medley: Bitter/I Kissed a Girl/Bitter