Dark queen of cabaret leaving her mark: Taken By Storm

10.31.14
Storm Large
The Boston Herald

By Jed Gottlieb 

Storm Large almost became a certified rock star. Well, VH1-certified.

The Southboro-raised singer nearly won VH1’s “Rock Star: Supernova” in 2006. Thankfully she didn’t — the ­Supernova group featuring Tommy Lee, Jason Newsted and Gilby Clarke stiffed.

Failing to explode out of the California rock scene, Large moved to Portland, Ore., and slowly, steadily built a diverse career as a modern cabaret queen — Large brings her show to the Paramount on Sunday.

“I’m a total weirdo,” Large said. “I wanted to be a Nina ­Hagen, a punk rocker, but I didn’t have that voice. So I had to find my own twisted path ­using my strengths.”

Large should know she does have some Nina Hagen in her — and Marlene Dietrich, Lena Horne, Amanda Palmer and Karen O, too.

Carrying her strange aesthetic to the end of that twisted path, she arrived at new album “Le Bonheur,” a set of 13 standards, originals and rock tunes re-imagined as torch songs. The most awesome and unholy example is a version of Black Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” done as mariachi lounge jazz. No joke, the song breathes fire as hot as Ozzy’s dragon screech.

“I’ll play that some places and ask if anybody knows who did it originally,” she said. “People will shout out Shirley Bassey, Burt Bacharach. I even had one tell me Shakira. I said, ‘Ooh, Shakira, don’t ever let Sharon Osbourne hear you say that.’ ”

Large’s unique style began with her childhood, or the rejection of her childhood. Growing up in tiny Southboro, Large didn’t fit in.

“My musical education was singing along with my dad’s 8-tracks, Johnny Cash, John Denver, the Beatles, the Kinks,” she said. “Then came my brother’s Aerosmith and KISS records, and then running away from home in seventh grade to see shows at the Rat and hang out in Harvard Square. After high school, it was right to New York.”

Large never found her scene, but her vocal skills allowed her to fake it until she made her own.

In Portland, she’s finally become a star. Her autobiographical, one-woman show, “Crazy Enough,” became a hit. The show became an album, the album a memoir.

As part of the Northwest scene, Large became friends with Pink Martini founder Thomas Lauderdale. When Martini singer China Forbes had voice troubles, Lauderdale recruited Large.

“I asked, ‘You want the big, blond, slutty looking chick in the band?” Large said. “But China was in a tough spot so the band, God bless them, was so patient with me. And the fans were, too. I still go out with them and love it.”

It’s no tour with Tommy Lee, and thank goodness for that.

Next up? She’s writing a musical about a turn-of-the-century, women-run brothel in Chicago. Yup, that sounds about right.