Sarah Slean with Neville Quinlan at Lee's Palace, September 27. Tickets: $12. Attendance: 250. Rating: NNNN
the toronto live club scene isn't really conducive to cabarets, but give it up for Sarah Slean for trying to create the atmosphere at Lee's last Thursday. Before Slean's set, winged angels wove through the audience bearing gifts of chocolate in the shape of ladybugs from Slean's parents' chocolate store. And they were first-rate.
Then Slean emerged alone, clad in a long black dress, to perform her first song solo, though she had no qualms about getting right into the groove. Seated at a Roland keyboard, bouncin' on her feet here and there and gettin' a wee bit damn provocative with the keys, her voice transcended her small size.
When the full-band musical stylings of the Night Bug Orchestra came out, with violin and cello, the vibe was only heightened. Slean departed from her keys just once, for a rendition of Lenny Kravitz's The Difference Is Why. Admittedly, Kravitz isn't my bag, but she won me over.
The between-song banter made the performance less than awesome. Does anyone really care about her views on the fashions in Welcome Back Kotter?
Hawksley Workman's influence (Slean sang accompanying vocals on his The Delicious Wolves album, and he's done production work for her) is evident. The roller-coaster melodies and pitch, and the fact that you never know what her voice will do next, are definitely Workman-esque, as is the theatrical way she uses her body.
Slean could find worse guys to emulate.