Ingrid Michaelson (photo: Joshua Huver)
Even when Ingrid Michaelson is feeling under the weather, her snarky sense of humor and her survivor’s spirit shines bright. The New York-based multi-instrumentalist was at The Fillmore on Monday, October 24. Originally slated for a single show, Michaelson added a second show on Tuesday to accommodate the demand.
Micahelson’s Hell No! tour comes on the heels of her seventh full-length studio album, It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense, which dropped in August. The name of the tour comes from the album’s lead single of the same name that was released ahead of the album late in April.
Opening the show was AJR, a New York-based DIY pop trio of brothers Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met. They are on tour with Michaelson until it wraps in Washington, D.C., just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
The brothers admitted they got their start busking in the NYC streets and subways, often incorporating Michaelson’s work into their performances. They let her do her own music on Monday night, and the high-energy, nearly slapstick mannerisms of Jack and Adam (especially in juxtaposition to the stoic bass playing of eldest brother Adam) were a hit. They ran through about eight tracks spanning their short but vibrant career: Highlights included “Infinity” off of 2015’s Living Room, an infectiously upbeat and catchy song that feels like something The Lumineers might have written, and “The Green and The Town” from the same album. They tested out a track from their latest EP, What Everybody’s Thinking, called “Weak,” and as catchy as it was, it was too poppy for my taste. Still, the crowd soaked it in.
Just after 9:15pm, Michaelson opened her 19-song evening with “Light Me Up,” a deep cut from It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense that she wrote less than a week following her mother’s passing. Next followed “Time Machine,” the first of three cuts of the evening from Lights Out.
Michaelson’s work provided an emotional contrast to AJR without losing the quirky quality of (at times) outright silliness. Michaelson’s new record comes after much loss, and overall it continues to build on the sublime melancholy that has marked each of her studio albums. The most tumultuous two years of her life followed the already-aching sentiment behind 2014’s Lights Out, but she has since dealt with divorce and the death of her mother.
“These are fresh, in-the-middle-of-the nightmare vocals,” Michaelson said. “This song came from a place of wanting to see her again; not really understanding where she’s gone. But I’ll never write a song that I don’t want to sing over and over again.”
She held a very authoritative pose throughout the show, as if she were directing a lecture or speaking at some kind of high-level assembly. She joked about not being able to raise her arms over her shoulders due to a constraining one-piece, but also seemed to use it to aid the delivery her subtle-yet-operatic vocals through what she perceived to be a developing cold.
Fortunately, most fans know all of the words to her songs, allowing Michaelson to take a back seat to fan accompaniment on the sing-along choruses, while maintaining her ability to bellow and build on her melody without missing a step. “Maybe,” the only song from 2009’s Everybody, and “Parachute,” a song she wrote and gave to Cheryl Cole in that same year before releasing her own version in 2011, led into “Another Life,” the next track from her new record.
After 30 minutes, Michaelson’s band left the stage and she donned her ukulele for absolutely breathtaking solo renditions of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” (the lone track from 2008’s Be OK) and “The Way I Am,” two tracks that helped the most in propelling Michaelson into the national spotlight.
To say Ingrid Michaelson is prolific is an understatement: In just a decade, she has released six albums (five of which have charted) and 10 singles (eight charted). “There are heart-wrenching songs on it, but some are just fun for fun’s sake,” she says. “You can choose the path of darkness or you can choose the path of light. The record reflects a positive motion.”
I will be the first to admit that Ingrid Michaelson is a musical guilty pleasure of mine — but when people talk about that mystical quality of music’s erasure of pain, that’s something I get out of Michaelson’s poetic symphony of raw human emotion. She has yet to fail to deliver on that, both live and in the studio.