Storm Large wows the Mercury Ballroom

03.25.15
Teddy Abrams, Storm Large
Louisville.com

Granted, it's hard for people (who have jobs) to get all that motivated to go out on a Tuesday, especially on a chilly, drippy spring night. We've only just started to settle into the work week and it's not yet hump day. Tuesdays are not a thing. And yet, if you're the hardy sort with your ear to the ground, you might just catch a really great show. Flying undeservedly under the radar, Storm Large and her band, Le Bonheur, delivered a bold and memorable set of songs that you would be highly unlikely to hear anywhere else from the same singer in the same show -- The Rolling Stones, Cole Porter, Jacques Brel, Johnny Cash, Bad Brains, The Pixies... well, you get the idea. 

Large kicked off the evening with her friend, collaborator -- and Louisville Orchestra Music Director -- Teddy Abrams on keys, covering the Stones' Dead Flowers and followed by Tom Waits' Saving All My Love for You. Abrams and Large have a dynamic that reminds me of that Key & Peele shtick of President Obama and his Anger Interpreter. All the musical passion and emotion that remains dammed up just behind the round eyeglasses of Abrams, who plays brilliantly but with reserve and stillness, finds its channel in Large, who dramatically interprets classic jazz, rock, and punk songs with her body, her eyes, her devilish smile, and a truly remarkable voice. 

Large is a natural when it comes to Porter's sly sexiness, just as she's commanding when belting out a Sinatra tune, even one as iconic as My Way, which she'll be singing for a celebration of Frank's 100th birthday in a few weeks at some little joint called Carnegie Hall in New York. 

Her mercurial spirit and flexible voice inhabits songs as wildly diverse as Brel's wrenching Ne Me Quitte Pas and the dark Cash ballad, Long Black Veil, making them hers.

Large is backed up by a fine band of her own, the four-piece Le Bonheur, enhanced even further in the second half of the concert by Abram's reappearance and the addition of a string quartet from the LO -- violinists Caitlin Kelley and Rob Simonds, cellist Nick Finch, and violist Jonathan Mueller. Trust me, you don't know what a string section can add to Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart (which she introduced as a lost work of Haydn), not to mention a Storm original, her tongue-in-cheek feminist anthem, 8 Miles Wide: "My vagina is 8 miles wide / absolutely everyone can come inside." By the time we got to that one, everyone in the cozily-sized crowd was securely strapped into the Storm Large bandwagon. And as the song says, there's plenty of room for you, too.