Club Review: Rachelle Garniez’s “Gone to Glory” Album Release Concert

July 19, 2021 | By | 1 Comment

Rachelle Garniez’s newly-released album, Gone to Glory.

Rachelle Garniez opened Gone to Glory by biting off a big piece of Killed by Death (Motörhead: Ian “Lemmy”  Kilmister, Würzel (Michael Richard Burston), Peter Gill, Philip Campbell). For the past five years, Garniez and Pangea have celebrated the legacies of recently-passed recording artists; it started in 2016 with the losses of David Bowie and Prince. This year’s album release concert was about a year late—due to our global year of grappling with even more disease and death—and the healing power of this show was needed even more than ever.

Garniez never took her material for granted, bringing sophisticated musical sensibilities to bear and teasing out humor and irony wherever she could find it. In the opening number her voice joyfully shifted from a growl, to indie pop-folk star, to human theremin. She sang the instrumental hook from “Careless Whisper” (George Michael, another 2016 loss) in her accordion-driven arrangement that made Mötorhead into a lurching, sorrowful New Orleans Second Line.

Due to a brownout the very hot evening of this performance, there were some technical issues with stage lights, sound, and projections at the beginning, and with music of this quality, I thought the additional production elements didn’t seem necessary. But then I changed my mind with Albie Mitchell and Amanda Homi’s stunning video of Garniez singing “You Can’t put Your Arms Around a Memory” (Johnny Thunders) as a wise, accordion-playing Mad Hatter emerging from unfolding flower petals.

“Pressure Drop” (The Maytals with Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, Henry “Raleigh” Gordon, Nathaniel “Jerry” Mathias) featured a gorgeous string arrangement with Garniez on guitar, Karen Waltuch on viola, and Derek Nievergelt on acoustic bass. Toots Hibbert, who we lost in 2020, was one of the artists who brought reggae into the mainstream. Garniez and her band covered the song with such an easy, steady pulse and she chose a light vocal quality to float into the mix…delicious.

Garniez, along with musicians Derek Nievergelt and Karen Waltuch, at Pangea.

There’s something oddly nostalgic about how we imagined our robot-driven future, and Kraftwerk’s “Computer World” (Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos) from the vault of early 1980s electronica was a great moment in the show. Its conspiratorial mentions of Interpol, Deutsche Bank, FBI, and Scotland Yard became an audience singalong—possibly the most fun and off-road audience participation ever. Garniez’s musical tastes are omnivorous, and her song choices for this annual event seem to include a “Check this out! This actually happened in our culture!” curatorial sensibility. Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” was especially strong; its zydeco-inspired arrangement featured Waltuch leading the way on viola, and segued into “Tutti Frutti” (Little Richard, Dorothy LaBostrie). The band handled it as if they’ve played it a million times on stage and might love it a little more each time. 

“Rhinestone Cowboy” (Larry Weiss) was delivered as a delicate ballad with Garniez on piano and vocals, taking out the bounce featured in Glen Campbell’s version, and zooming in on vocal texture and intimate storytelling. “Hello in There” was a tip of the hat to John Prine, a songwriter’s songwriter, who died in the Spring of 2020. I challenge you not to cry when hearing the lyrics “Old trees just grow stronger/And old rivers grow wilder every day/Old people just grow lonesome/Waiting for someone to say, ‘Hello in there, hello’ ”—and you definitely would’ve lost it during Derek Nievergelt’s bowed bass solo. There was a feeling of open space in Garniez’s arrangements, particularly in evidence in this song, and she worked with long phrases that played with push, pull, surge, and swell. A bittersweet encore, “Lemon Tree” (Will Holt), was a tribute to Trini Lopez. It featured  a warning not to be distracted by beauty, and Garniez threw in some fancifully-improvised lyrics as a direct address to the audience as the evening wrapped up.

In a time when pop music is particularly commercial and disposable, Garniez underscored the importance of these artists in our lives and our communities—offering her nuanced ear to make sure everyone got an appropriately soulful send-off, musician-to-musician.

***

Rachelle Garniez’s Gone to Glory, presented at Pangea on June 30 and July 1.

 

Category: News / Reviews / Commentary, Reviews

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About the Author ()

From Canada, Penelope Thomas came to NY to study dance with Merce Cunningham; then through a series of fortunate and unfortunate events, she wound up back in singing and acting. Credits include lead vocals with FauveMuseum on two albums and live at Symphony Space, singing back-up for Bistro Awards director Shellen Lubin at the Metropolitan Room, reading poet Ann Carson’s work at the Whitney, and touring North America and Europe with Mikel Rouse’s The End of Cinematics. In Toronto, she studied piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music and cello with the Claude Watson School for the Arts, and in New York she studied music theory with Mark Wade. She's taught in the New School’s Sweat musical theatre intensive and taught dance in public schools and conservatories.

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  1. Avatar Barbara Connelly says:

    Wonderfully written review. It makes me sorry to think I missed this show.

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