Karen Jacobsen

January 23, 2015 | By

Karen JacobsenNewly minted American citizen Karen Jacobsen (born and raised in Australia) celebrated by bringing her pared-down but classy act to Stage 72 recently. Effortlessly charming, Jacobsen is an accomplished singer, pianist, and songwriter, and on this particular night it was just she, playing and singing and sharing colorful stories.

One such story was how, as a seven-year-old, she saw fellow Aussie Olivia Newton-John on television and decided she wanted to grow up to be just like her. Today, Jacobsen displays strong songwriting and piano-playing skills in her arsenal, talents that Newton-John often keeps under wraps, and vocally, in her softer moments she bears a resemblance to that Scottish songbird of the ‘80s, Sheena Easton. However, with the sheer strength of her voice when she lets it fly, as she often does, Jacobsen could overpower either of those more famous singers.

Jacobsen took a bit of a risk by opening with an eleven o’clock number, “Here in My Heart,” about a breakup. However, her open-hearted delivery pulled the audience in. Most of the set, in fact, showcased her own songs. Because Jacobsen writes mainly for herself, and she’s such an accomplished vocalist, she really knows how to compose gorgeous, sweeping melodies that show off her voice to full effect. Best of her own songs was the defiant “Melting Moments,” a song about keeping the faith no matter what obstacles get in the way. The ballad “I Miss New York” is a small jewel about our magical city.

Her bluesy cover of “Stayin’ Alive” (Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb), preceded by a story of how she almost became the opening act for Barry Gibb’s American tour, was a catchy diversion, and her pairing of “America the Beautiful” (Katharine Lee Bates, Samuel A. Ward) and “God Bless America” (Irving Berlin) to commemorate her new citizenship, was quite touching, as was her recollection of what happened the day she got it. This was one-upped by an encore of a song that was apparently a big hit in Australia, “You’re the Voice” (Andy Qunta, Keith Reid, Maggie Ryder, Chris Thompson). The lyrics seemed especially apt given recent terrorist attacks in France, as well as the protests about police shootings here in the United States.

Oddly (as Jacobsen, herself, said), although she’s pursued music her entire life and has lived in New York for fifteen years, she’s found her biggest claim to fame as “The GPS Girl” (Australian version), having auditioned and recorded hours and hours of material back before the GPS had even been marketed. Two years later, a friend called her, saying that she and her husband had heard Karen’s voice on their new GPS. Jacobsen’s voice has since been heard on hundreds of millions of GPS and smartphone devices around the world. This was yet another fascinating tale in Jacobsen’s life.

Jacobsen is, indeed, a very engaging storyteller, and every song was preceded by a story from her life. If I had a suggestion, I might challenge her to try some patter that is not autobiographical. Or perhaps to trust her songs a bit more, and find some spots where no patter is needed so she can just pull us into her musical spell.

Although many of the songs presented were about life’s disappointments, Jacobsen found balance in the act through her warm, ingratiating stage presence and easy way of conversing with her audience. She’s like the best day of April: just as winter has threatened to wear you down, the sun bursts through and life blossoms with hope once again. Karen Jacobsen embodies the beautiful ache and promise of springtime.

Stage 72  –  January 13

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Kevin Scott Hall performed in cabaret clubs for many years and recorded three CDs, including “New Light Dawning” in 1998, which received national airplay. He also worked at the legendary piano bar, Rose’s Turn, and has taught cabaret workshops and directed shows since 1995. Kevin earned his MFA in Creative Writing at City College of New York. He is an adjunct professor in the Theatre and English departments at City College and Borough of Manhattan Community College. His novel, “Off the Charts!” was published in 2010, and his memoir, “A Quarter Inch from My Heart” (Wisdom Moon), in 2014. Kevin writes a monthly column and entertainment features for Edge Media Network, writes reviews for BistroAwards.com, and freelances for other publications.

Comments (1)

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  1. robert lashambe says:

    hello, i have known karen for almost ten years now and knowing her is a gift . she is such an inspiration. her batteries never die and they never will. she can manage speaking engagements all over the world , is a wife, a friend, and best of all a MOTHER. she wrote a song years ago titled STRONG WOMAN. she must have been sitting in front of a mirror when she wrote that song. karen alwasy has time to answer or acknowlege every comment written to her on facebook. she defines that you can add 10 hours to every day if you just recalculate……knowing her is definately a gift. be well dear karen…….. bleib wie du bist……….german for stay as you are!!