LIVE: Ana Popovic @ the Cohoes Music Hall, 4/16/18

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Ana Popovic
Ana Popovic

Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
Photographs by Tim Reidy

The five-piece band laid down a smoking R&B funk groove with a slamming rhythm section, percolating keyboards and a punchy two-piece horn section featuring Jon Ramm on trombone and Brad Walker on sax.

After a few minutes, Ana Popovic took the stage. Wearing high heels, red leather pants and a red tank top, any misgivings that this might be more of a fashion show than a rock one were swiftly dispelled when she picked up her Strat and launched into the first of her staggering solos. Forget any of that “good for a girl” sexist nonsense, Popovic is a superb guitarist regardless of gender, and she’s paid her dues with many years of touring.

The Serbian native and her dynamite band put on an electrifying performance during their return to the Cohoes Music Hall last week. Her latest album is Trilogy, a triple-CD set each disc devoted to a specific genre – blues, funk and jazz. That eclecticism was on display at the Hall, with the emphasis on both blazing blues workouts and sinuous funk jams. Throughout, Popovic’s guitar whirled and swirled, often blindingly fast, but never sacrificed melody for speed.

Highlights were many; the strutting “She Was a Doorman,” a bluesy take on Tom Waits’ “New Coat of Paint,” a helter skelter, meet-you-at-the-end slalom through Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” and a tight as you could imagine version of Brooklyn-based ’60s funk band Mandrill’s slinky “Fencewalk.”

One minor gripe, at least from where I was sitting, was that Popovic’s vocals were often buried in the mix and overwhelmed by the powerhouse band, but her fretboard talents shone though.

Opening act was Albany’s own Girl Blue, the alter ego of singer-songwriter Arielle O’Keefe. She delivered an impressive and original solo set, utilizing just her electric guitar and a subtle use of loops. At times the fuzzy snarl of her guitar work evoked Lou Reed, while her strong and wide-ranging vocals had the quirky, conversational personality of such artists as Ani DiFranco and Suzanne Vega.

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 Ana Popovic
Ana Popovic
 Ana Popovic
Ana Popovic
 Ana Popovic
Ana Popovic
Girl Blue
Girl Blue
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