LIVE: Rasputina @ Club Helsinki Hudson, 2/17/11
“It’s 1844. What are you waiting for?,” wails Melora Creager as she leads the revolt against the oppressive Hudson Valley land-baron bastards, the Livingstons. Later on in the evening, her beautiful, haunting voice and dream-like cello playing convinces you that giants did exist… but eventually killed each other off. In fact, she is so convincing and heartfelt, painting musical portraits that drift between historical fact and dream-like fantasy, that she takes you there.
Founder of the cello-driven, classical power-trio Rasputina, Melora is from another place and time. A place and time where the past, future and present all collide in a maelstrom of soaring voices, magnificent twin-cello gun-play, mesmerizing sonics and lyrical folktales.
At Club Helsinki Hudson last Thursday, the latest incarnation of Rasputina showcased selections from their new album “Sister Kinderhook,” wowing the hometown, opening-night-of-the-tour audience with classical finesse, hard rock histrionics and avant-garde soundscapes. Newcomer Daniel DeJesus fused with Melora like he had been in the band forever. His dandy, turn-of-the century threads and “Babes In Toyland” make-up made for a perfect visual compliment to the ladies’ vintage garb, and his extraordinary playing matched “top-dog” Melora, as they playfully dueled, trading churning rhythms and shredding, white-hot licks.
Percussionist Dawn Miceli anchored the mix with a big, booming, primal, yet subtle drum sound combined with tasteful percussive flourishes. Both she and Daniel added dynamic vocal accompaniment to Melora’s rich, vibrant voice. The set of Rasputina originals was interspersed with cello-fied renditions of “Wish You Were Here,” the most rocking version of Heart’s “Baracudda” and a take on a Smiths tune which actually made me like the song. Classical, Goth, punk art and glam rock of the highest order. Extravagant, yet down to earth.
Putting her shoes on only when she plays banjo, Melora strikes a humble yet commanding presence onstage. Asking what people wanted to hear for an encore, and then being pleased that the band knew the songs requested, she graciously played them all. Her between-song banter was hilarious! Paying homage to Rose Kennedy… recalling partaking in a ménage à trois with albino abominable snowmen… petitioning Billboard magazine for a sea shanty chart… and thinking she had a hit with a song about a historic battle only to discover the battle was not that popular after all.
Her deadpan delivery made you believe, believe that what she is saying is not a joke. She takes you there, takes you to a place you have never been before, a place where the past and the future are all captured in the moment….
Voltaire fit what one might expect of an opening act for an old-world traveling show. A European style vagabond/troubadour warming up the audience with dirty, light- hearted tunes and lots of low-brow humor. One of a few artists who offers handcrafted toys at the merch table!
Review and photographs by Tim Livingston