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Paula Cole
with Holly Palmer & Tara MacLean

A Concert Review

April 24, 1997

The Park West

Chicago, IL

A Review by
Stu Gotz
First Impressions...
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.

Mixed Impressions...
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. Sorry Holly…

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!


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