Nov./Dec. 2004

Madeleine Peyroux
November 10, 2004 The Phoenix Concert Theatre Toronto

Madeleine Peyroux, (pronounced, in the media, 'Peru') is a folkrootsbluesjazz diva-in-the-making. She sings like Billie Holiday and in her eight-years-in-the-awaiting second album Careless Love, covers Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, includes W.C. Handy, Bessie Smith, Josephine Baker, and Jesse Harris (who wrote the Nora Jones hit "Don't Know Why").

Born in Georgia, busked in Paris where she was discovered and signed to a contract, reviewed by Time Magazine, where her voice is described as "a bittersweet, brokenhearted alto [that] lingers and slides off notes, finding emotion in the slow, sad, fade," Ms Peyroux's music in Careless Love is haunting. The uniformity of mood and tempo raises in me the question about the line between monotonous and haunting. Still, after more than a week I can't get her "Dance me to the End of Love," out of my head.

This Wednesday, November 10, Ms. Peyroux came to the Phoenix in Toronto, a spacious hall with stage, balcony, and many bars which served reasonably-priced drinks to a crowd of 500 people. Jackie Greene, a California-based 23 year old with a pokemon hairstyle opened for Madeleine, and as it turned, stole the show.

Madeleine Peyroux

Alone on the stage, strumming his Gibson acoustic furiously, sucking on a mouth harp and shouting to his lover "I ain't interested in the clothes you wear," well, you can't help thinking--Bob Dylan. OK. But. Greene plays a better guitar than Dylan did-- finger and thumbstyle blues--and a great whorehouse piano as well, while his songs are done in tones that include the whisper of Tom Waits, the plaintive moan of Lyle Lovett, and the romantic wail of Van Morrison. He's also a blues shouter.

Madeleine came on late, missed her entrance, which was taken by a tech who adjusted her mike, and after she sort of wandered onto the stage, nothing went well. Admittedly, her vocal renderings are uncannily like Billie Holiday. But she acted like she wasn't into performing for us, sang some sour notes here and there, gave her keyboard player some sour looks when he went off, and you couldn't really hear her guitar.

If I had to invent some reason why she gave such a poor show, I'd say she was tired of imitating Billie Holiday's style for a living, as perhaps her handlers require her to do. Otherwise, I can't think why she'd be up on stage giving out the feeling she didn't want to be there.

Report by Stanley Fefferman Photo by Roger Humbert
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