Review by Fred Rudofsky
“It’s not like opening a can of Pringles,” quipped Chuck Prophet, toward the end of a high-octane, two-hour rock and roll set in Hudson on a recent Saturday night. “You never know what you’re going to get!” Indeed, it was a night of welcome surprises for the sell-out crowd, which got to see an inspired double-bill at Club Helsinki.
Sarah Borges, a Club Helsinki favorite dating back to the club’s original site in Great Barrington, opened with a well-received solo acoustic set. Decked out in a fetching red floral dress and her trademark cowboy boots, Borges dipped into several songs from her days fronting the Broken Singles, one of the best roots-rocking bands from Boston. She introduced “I’m Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Song” as “an honest look at the hangover blues.” Featured on Borges’s 2005 Silver City album, this classic gospel blues by Thomas Dorsey offered a candid rumination on sin and salvation. “The Day We Met” from 2007’s Diamonds in the Dark brimmed with images of love and lust, and ended with a curtsey by Borges. Placing the capo a third of the way up the fretboard, Borges put a distinct Latin beat into “Me and Your Ghost,” and sang the highest notes with ease.
“I expect your rapt attention,” Borges told the audience, who needed no instruction, given the smoldering, insistent “Symphony” (from 2009’s The Stars Are Out) that followed. Played at a slower tempo than usual, “Daniel Lee” sounded like a John Prine song, full of longing and images of driving at night. “Travelin’ Man” may have seemed like an out of left field choice, but Borges owned Ricky Nelson’s tender ode to wanderlust with her compelling soprano. “Here’s a song about a bunch of hookers,” announced Borges, who played an uptempo “On the Corner.” A sustained, heartbreaking “Oh!” for a half minute by Borges acted as its own chorus in the middle of the song, and earned her major applause.