Keren Ann at Lincoln Hall

June 13th, 2011: As seen on Time Out Chicago (PDF)

Whispering “Chicago” into the mic like some back-alley come-hither, NYC-by-way-of-Paris-by-way-of-Tel Aviv gypsy folkette, Keren Ann, sauntered upon Lincoln Hall Monday night to supposedly tease this past spring’s 101, the artist’s first effort in four years, and likewise first unveiling of her full on toe-dip into more straight-ahead pop. But as the smoke machine ceased to billow and the only accompaniment to her ethereal pipes revealed themselves to be an acoustic guitar and a melancholic trumpet man in the corner, she was quick to stick to the same singer/songwriter quirk that earned her moments in the spotlight five albums ago.

On the record, 101‘s loaded hook gun is the snarky “My Name Is Trouble,” but those hooks come in Ann’s signature almost cabaret delivery contrasted with a playful Casio finger-dance throughout. Same story for throw-away A-sider, “Sugar Mama,” a sardonic finger-snapper at the end of its three-minute tale, but two minutes too long with a walking bass line. When these tunes did hit the PA at Lincoln Hall, Ann painted them her favorite nouvelle vogue shade of blue, delicately plucking out their backbones to give languid charm to a lyric about loving to the point of death and letting her trumpet man Avishai Cohen burn out the end like the last drag of a hand-rolled smoke in a Montmartre café.

It wasn’t all jazz romance all night. Ann threw an aggro punch here and there with theKeren Ann album cut “It Ain’t No Crime” swapping in an electric guitar to crunch out some PJ Harvey-esque snarl. She down-strummed some sloppy distortion punches on the eerie set-opener “Strange Weather,” in place of its overdub studio string and choral swirls. But she night-capped the set with a stiff pull of her cocktail and the only French tune of the evening, “Le Chien D’avant Garde,” a sultry snapshot of Serge Gainsbourg suave Parisian past, Cohen wailing on the horn as Ann cooed “J’attendrai, J’attendrai” (I will wait) in the softest voice possible without a fur collar. We suppose we will, too, Ann, if you continue to blossom so.

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