Laura Vecchione has an animated presence on stage. Always in motion, Vecchione rocks to her rocking music and she never runs out of energy. That’s a necessity, as she’s an artist whose songs move with the manic motions of something that could last forever. Everyone in attendance at last Saturday night’s show at Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts seem glues to her every move.
Vecchione and her vivacious band opened with the Peggy Lee popularized oldie “Hallelujah, I Love Him So.” She lead her band into a frisky, uptempo version, her enthusiasm making itself abundantly clear in each measure. Vecchione’s ear for arrangements showed itself well during her funked up version of “Lady Madonna,” leading the band with her soulful, R&B-ish vocal in her Stax like interpretation. There was clearly a spiritual ebullience among Vecchione’s vocal strengths. Her voice didn’t just go up high, it also made one feel good, inspired, like listening to a choir.
Vecchione next went into a cover of Kim Morrison’s “Rockin’ A Baby” which she has included on her latest CD Love Lead. She displayed here even more flaming hot vocal prowess. Whether leading her band mates through the belty lyrics or punctuating with her rhythm section, Lady L kept all eyes on her with her simmering, passionate delivery. Her band killed it too during “Rockin’ A Baby,” especially guitarist Hunter Burgamy who grinded out a smoking hot phrase.
In a nod to one of her most important influences, Vecchione sang the Aretha Franklin hit “Baby, I Love You” by sharing the lead vocals with her backing singers, Jodi Heights, and Maureen Murphy, two singers who also possess enormous range and talent. The trade offs in lead vocals were perfectly timed, passionate bursts of oomph.
Burgamy’s guitar take on “Better Man,” a Vecchione original also from her new Love Lead album, pulled one into its mysterious qualities with an eerie allure. It was a song that asked a question of someone about their relationship. Vecchione’s steady build up, laced with nuanced shifts in her voicing, filled the song with motion and verve. And once again, Burgamy’s guitar phrase was on fire.
Taking things down to a mid-tempo pace, Vecchione went into her original “Light Of Day,: her soulful voice waving with self-restrained energy while leaving a lot of open spaces for a much fine vocal interplay between herself, Heights, and Murphy. One could feel the breezy, gliding motions within this song.
Vecchione made her voice travel with a melodic breeze on her original “Traffic Light.” Mostly sung in her lovely falsetto, rising above a tuft of easeful groove, the entire piece felt like a cloud moving on a summer’s day. Vecchione then, generously, let her backing vocalist Jodi Heights take over for a few songs. Playing piano and crooning an ethereal lead vocal, Ms. Heights sang her original “Insignificant Other” with an uncannily soft, smooth timbre while making her voice shine ever brightly as she moved through her verses. With Vecchione and Murphy on backing vocals, Heights continued her mini set with an empowered, very melodic tune that benefited from a mountainous, robust feel. It was impossible not to get caught up in the stirring emotions of it.
Vecchione soon regained control of her band to perform The Staples Sister’s soulful cover version of the Buffalo Springfield classic “For What It’s Worth. Keyboardist Larry Luddecke tinkled out it spicy, spiky melody with just the right touches beneath Vecchione’s soulful approach. Lady L and her choir like backing signers kept it lofty, emotive, and full of spirit.
As a light hearted jab at recent political developments in our nation’s capitol, Vecchione lead her band through The Beatles “Back In The USSR,” a sprightly, feisty musical spring. Jumping back into her own material, Vecchione entered “Judas Kiss” from her new Love Lead album with a bluesy, smoky vocal. She nailed the attitude she must have had toward the person who inspired this tale of betrayal, stabbing her way into the soundscape with sharp, emotive drive.
Vecchione’s hit single “Keep On Knockin’” found her belting with an Aretha inspired vocal romp, carrying it with an impressive yorp. It was also uncanny how well her vocal rode her band’s racing tempo without losing the groove, the passion, and the steadfast precision, belting a song with a lot of moving parts. Lady L’s consistent, disciplined vocal on “Brave” let her present this original, also found on Love Lead, with a persistent lift within it’s down tempo structure.
Without missing a step, Vecchione and her band made a sudden shift to the R&B classic “Shaky Ground.” Here, a stomping groove, courtesy of bass player Bill Kane and drummer Chris Georgeness, gave Vecchione a platform to launch her gutsiest, most guttural timbre of the night. She vocally mounted the number, her voice reaching up high with a thick layer of more gospel like oomph.
Vecchione performed Traffic’s “Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” before this reviewer had to catch the last Red Line train out of the city. She let the mystical lyrics roll off of her tongue with an easeful delivery few can manage. It was a night of high highs from the Laura Vecchione Band as they sustained the energy, precision, and finesse of a musical high wire act. A few times they got a rise out of the audience by pretending they were off key, off tempo, or playing different songs from each other, and it added more drama and suspense to a show in which every showman was walking a tightrope of talent.
Opening act Maureen Murphy, visiting greater-Boston from Nashville, blew everyone in the audience away with her jazz trained vocal prowess. Murphy reached epic levels of vocal power on tunes “Black Sheep,” “Stay With Me,” and “Freezer Burn.”