“I don’t have a reputation for happy songs” said Madeleine Peyroux Thursday night at the Wyly Theatre. That may be true but I wouldn’t have her any other way. Before she began she said, “I sing three types of songs…sad songs, love songs, and drinking songs. Sometimes I don’t know which is which.” This set the mood for her first song, Dance me to the end of love…a love song.
She breathes in life through her melancholy storytelling lyrics; so much so that when listening to her, you step into a dreamy place that is as relaxed as her body language on stage...head thrown back, hair in her face, mouth open as she danced immersed in her band members solos.
Frankie says relax, but Madeleine has magical powers that make your body naturally “relax” as if you’re on top of feathery clouds and drinking cool sips of honey wine. She gives you that “Summer time and the living is easy” kind of feeling. Seeing Madeleine Peyroux live was the perfect beginning to summer. When she sang Standing On the Rooftop the audience was easily transported to a sultry night on a New York City rooftop.
Madeleine Peyroux (pronounced Peru) grew up in Brooklyn but says she really belongs in Paris, and that was evident. She seemed like a character out of the movie, Midnight in Paris. I could see her stepping back in time like Owen Wilson did to hang out with Hemingway and Gertrude Stein…she would fit in perfectly with that unique social circle.
She is special… très special! She has a true bohemian style that is moody and soulful and has a lulling effect on the body. I found myself breathing along with her as she added extra syllables to her words singing my favorite, This is Heaven to Me. She drew the audience in like we were old friends.
She’s been compared to Billie Holiday; while their voices are similar, Peyroux has a confidence and style that is all her own; performing her “three types of songs” meshed with her relaxed style…jazz, French and bluesy numbers too. Love in Vain would have made Bessie Smith say “yes child!”
Before singing her third song, Peyroux spoke comfortably to the audience about Bob Dylan love songs always being bitter. She joked about her next Dylan song being a love song imagining Sylvester Stallone playing Rambo as the French poet Rimbaud. When she sang Dylan’s song, You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome, I couldn’t help but feel the exact thing she sang…”I could stay with you forever and never realize the time.”
The highlight of the evening was when Peyroux said she was going to take the audience to a street corner in Paris. The band pulled in close together (unplugged) and performed Serge Gainsbourg’s beautiful La Javanaise. The graceful drummer, Darren Beckett used a cardboard box and Jim Beard (the pianist, organist and Wurlitzer) played my favorite instrument, the accordion…for a short while the Wyly Theatre was transported to a 1920's street corner in Paris and it was magnifique!
Peyroux’s French gypsy spirit was a throw back to Django Reinhardt, Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith updated...Peyroux style. Sad songs, love songs and drinking songs…it didn’t matter as long as it was Madeleine Peyroux singing.