HOW TO DRESS WELL at the Great Hall, Thursday, October 4. Rating: NNN
Joni Mitchell once sang that laughing and crying are the same release, a lyric that might be helpful explaining Tom Krell's comportment on stage. During the inaugural gig of his fall North American tour, the lanky R&B belter - better known as How To Dress Well - often cracked a goofy smile before unleashing a heartbreaking wail.
A Janet Jackson fetishist (his tour shirts are inscribed with lyrics from her ballad Special), Krell's vocal range runs the gamut of classic ‘90s R&B touch points, from feathery whispers to shrieking falsetto -a feat that contorted his face into an expression of pained intensity and served to remind that, unlike Janet, his vibe is anything but effortless.
The set's first half drew heavily on the stripped-down ballads from his Total Loss LP, ensuring a subdued mood among the modestly-sized but rapt crowd. This tour features two band members on synths, samplers, and violin plus a visual guy projecting movie clips, but Krell's voice is the main attraction. He dazzled on the finger-snapping & It Was You and affecting Set It Right before stirring the audience to life with throwback jam Ready For The World and finishing with an a capella rendition of Decisions.