At the Copeland-cabana

Uwww-weeee!  I feel like screaming like Sharon Jones at the start of “Nobody’s Baby.”  I recently saw Shemekia Copeland perform live for the first time in way too many years… and everything about her is more sophisticated.  She is sexy, sassy, and cute as a pixie!  Bob ‘do and three inch red heels?  Perfection!

She’s been getting decent coverage on the latest album and, indeed, my radio aired a live mini set from her on the morning of the concert.  And though that was dazzling enough for me to get my butt over to the box office for rush tickets, it was nothing compared to the epic experience of actually hearing her live.  The last time I heard her she was supporting a blues harmonica player at an uncomfortable jazz bar somewhere in the East Village.  She made such an impression that I’ve completely forgotten who was headlining.  Everything is gone, but the memory of her backup singing.  Her voice has only evolved and matured and grown more persuasive since then. 

“Never Going Back to Memphis” is a moody series of evocations.  With its swampy guitars and half-formed observations (“dog pulling on a chain”), this is one sticky number.  And Shemekia’s voice is the sound of suspicion tucked inside a trench coat.  She plums so many different voices with her new batch of songs that I’m only beginning to appreciate her versatility.  She does everything from ‘burnin’ down the church’ to Joni Mitchell. 

More convincing than anything was her live rendition of “Ghetto Child.”  Here, she walked away from the stage and looked her audience in the eye for every new effort with the painfully sad chorus.  You could look around the room and see hearts melting.  You could listen to Shemekia and hear her heart breaking.  I suppose she is nothing short of an ambassador or a prophet: showing a roomful of strangers a roadway to righteousness.


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