Palmer & Tara MacLean
A Concert Review
April 24, 1997
The Park West
|A Review by
Paula Cole impressed the shit out of me when I saw her open for
Barenaked Ladies a few months back. It was then that I learned that
she could not only work over a piano but also an audience.
Seriously, the crowd was there to see BNL, but Paula owned them
while she was on stage and left them applauding to her parting words
"I'm Paula Cole and don't fucking forget it!"
Well Paula… I didn't forget. When I heard Ms. Cole was
returning to Chicago I begged my editor to do anything he had to do,
and I meant anything, to get me a ticket because this was one chick
I had to see headline. He must have had some nimble lips, or pulled
some pretty big favors, because a day before the show (after I had
already given up because every scalper in town was dry) he gave me
not one, but two, tickets. Score! I was jumping for joy thinking
about getting to see that wacky waif Paula Cole, but still wondering
just what my editor really had to do so I could have fun. I was
slightly disgusted thinking about it, but didn't really care because
I was going to see Paula Cole!
So, the next night I picked up my friend Daisy, who I call
Maggie, but should have nicknamed Serena (it's a Duncan Sheik thing
- you might not understand), and we burned rubber to Chicago's
inconveniently located Park West Theater. This was the first time I
have ever seen a show at the Park West and I must say I really liked
its rotunda-like intimate atmosphere.
Simply put, Paula impressed me again, and as much as I'd like to
think it was the company, Maggie said she enjoyed the night also.
Maggie wasn't alone because the whole theater was entranced by
Paula's performance and were still buzzing about it upon exiting
that night, but we'll get to Paula in a minute. Unfortunately,
Paula's opening act, Holly Palmer, didn't fair as well, but Tara
MacLean, who played before Holly, was warmly received.
From what I gather Tara MacLean is an up and coming artist from
Canada, aye. I'm told that if you listen late, late at night to your
way underground, way alternative, and way willing to take chances
radio station you might catch her single "Evidence." It's
no toe-taper but I could see it on the play list for tortured
romantic souls. To simply say Tara has a sweet voice would be
unfair, to simply say her stage presence was charming would be an
injustice, to simply say she needs a better producer to fine tune
her potential would be an understatement.
Having only been only able to hear her perform four songs I had a
hard time trying to form an opinion/impression of Tara MacLean (Hmm,
when have I had that problem before?). But since she had the balls
to sing her last song acappella and because she was so stinking
charming I give Tara MacLean ONE THUMB UP!
After only about 25 minutes the stage was set for the night's
second act Holly Palmer. If I recall correctly, Holly opened for the
BoDeans last time they were in town. Due to a mix up at Will-Call
for that show, I only got to see Holly perform a few songs so it was
hard for me then to form a good opinion/impression (Deja vu). This
time I was ready.
The first impression I got this night about Holly Palmer was
"Sha-Wing!!!" "Bonerville!!!" Holly pranced on
stage in an iridescent silver and blue sleeveless top and pant
outfit that complimented her… Oh… So well. After the blood rush
below the waist was over some blood got to my brain and I got to
thinking that, well, she may be cute, but her music isn't doing a
thing for me. Furthermore, I was actually put off by her
artsy/pretentious mannerisms on stage. I'm sad to say that four
songs into her set she lost me. Maggie pointed out that we weren't
the only ones not paying attention. I'd estimate that about
two-thirds of the audience were carrying on personal conversations
and not paying attention to the stage. I realize the people were
there to see Paula Cole, but not since the Geraldine Fibbers opened
for Joan Osborne have I seen such poor audience response. Shit, I
heard people laughing. I'm sorry, but sexy or not I can only give
Holly Palmer A SHRUG and hope that she gets her head out of the
clouds and starts playing to her audience and not to herself!
Time to Rock! Right? Not just yet...
When Paula Cole took the stage at 9:30 I was ready to ROCK because
the first two artists were a little laid back. Unfortunately I would
have to wait to put on my dancing shoes because Paula got off to a
slow start doing an emotional song dedicated to her mother. Hey, it
was a song for her mom so I won't complain. But then, for her second
song, she totally reached out and grabbed the audience and my
attention, especially when she sassily sang the line "call me a
bitch in heat!" Yikes! I usually have to pay $3.99 per minute
to get turned on by such words, but Paula did it to me for free. As
she continued on with her set, Paula sustained some notes that would
have turned me blue and passed out on the floor. This girl has a set
of lungs and I'm not talking tits. But, as long as I'm talking about
her body I will say Paula has the flattest and skinniest stomach
I've ever seen on a person outside of Ethiopia.
Anyway, I had a lot of thoughts that night about Paula's
performance, but I'm having a hard time organizing them. Oh well,
I'll just take the lazy way out and spit them out. You can paint
your own mental picture of Paula's show from them. Here we go:
Song "Me" is a self proclaimed "long deep
depression" song? This song rocks!
Unlike Holly I am not finding Paula to be artsy or pretentious.
She is TOTALLY in tune with her audience and they with her.
Finger cymbals? In a rock song? Oh how sexy. This chick has a
great belly button and she's not afraid to show it.
Quote "darkness is often our greatest teacher in life"
which led into the song "Bethlehem," which is a deep, dark
song recalling high school memories. The audience is TOTALLY
entranced by Paula now.
Song "Bethlehem 2." Paula is funky, she's soulful,
she's alternative - she's got it all going on!
Not since I last saw Peter Gabriel have I seen an audience so
captivated by a performer.
Maggie grabbed my notes and scribbled something I can't make out.
I guess the bottle of wine was not such a good idea.
Hmmm, I don't know the name of this song but I'm reminded of the
theme from "Chico and the Man."
I was impressed by Paula's incorporation of finger cymbals into
her music but now she's whistling? What won't she try?
1st off stage break. The crowd is going nuts!
Holly has joined Paula for the first song of her encore set. Two
great asses on stage but only one is touching me with her singing.
A song dedicated to Dolly Parton???
Paula rocks with her version of "Joline." This song
totally caught me off guard. P.C. has left her mark on this classic.
Standing/Screaming ovation! Show over 10:47pm.
Call me lazy if you will but there is no way you can say that
about Paula Cole. The girl is in her element on stage and she brings
her audience for a long, soulful, rocking ride when she performs.
Paula is an audience pleaser and should not be missed when she hits
your town. I wholeheartedly give Paula Cole TWO FUCKING HUGE THUMBS
UP WITH AN EXTRA APPENDAGE (my highest praise), and I'm a happily
exhausted by a terrific show Stu Gotz! 'nuff said!