Review and photos by Seth Rogovoy
(HUDSON, N.Y., July 27, 2014) – I went to see Simi Stone again at Club Helsinki Hudson on Saturday night, just to see if what I observed last December was a fluke or if lightning could indeed strike twice.
It wasn’t, and it did.
In a better world, Simi Stone would be a star – maybe even a household name along the lines of Tina Turner, Sly Stone or Diana Ross. Maybe yet she may be; there’s still time, plenty of it, and she’s only just releasing her long-awaited first album now. She’s actually more talented than Turner and Ross – she writes her own songs, plays her own instruments (including violin and guitar), and leads her own band, which just happens to be one of the greatest rock bands in the world. This is no exaggeration – just ask David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, the B-52, Gang of Four and the Indigo Girls, all of whom variously engaged different members of Stone’s group at various points in time and in different combinations.
But getting back to Saturday night. While the element of shock and awe may have been lacking this time for me (but not for those catching Stone et al. for the first time – unfortunately there can only be one first time), I can report that not only did lightning strike twice, but it did so in different ways. This time out, Stone was a dynamo in action. She must have run close to a marathon by the end of the concert, constantly strutting, dancing, shaking it, and kicking it back and forth across the stage. She moves as well as she sounds (and looks), making me wonder if she also had dance training in an earlier lifetime (or earlier in this life).
A few other things about Stone’s singular brand of soul-rock struck me again or anew this time out. Stone’s music and her entire stage presence are inviting and inclusive – some of her songs veritably are odes to the common experience of enjoying music; others are about friendship and support. None of this is lost on an audience, and it instills a feeling of commonality in the room. Hers is a joyful spirit, and hers is a message of reassurance and hope.
Not that she’s insipid by a long shot. There’s earned merit in her songs – the hint of past or recurring struggles, of the experience of pain and heartache. But it’s never indulgent or self-indulgent, never adolescent or whiny, and the point is always transcendence, communal or otherwise.
And the experience is the same, a very metaphor for the point. The performance itself is transcendent, and was so on Saturday. Stone’s big entrance was marred by a technical malfunction, so she and her band had to work twice as hard to kick the show into gear. It took a few numbers, but once the band found its way, locked in together with each other and with Stone, it was like a jet plane taking off. Sara Lee’s impossibly musical bass lines propelled the tunes, giving drummer Zachary Alford the luxury of peppering the numbers with all kinds of textures and musical tones instead of mere timekeeping. Everyone else, including keyboardist David Baron, saxophonist Tony Aiello, and guitarist Danny Blume, were left to fill in the spaces, as Stone herself soared above it all, the pilot steering them through her Motown-like anthems of affirmation with her stirring vocals and exuberant personality, inspiring the crowd on the dance floor and listeners throughout the club.