Keren Ann is a singular musical presence. On Saturday, she played a solo set upstairs at World Café Live to a crowd that treated each hushed tune with reverence. Melding Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and 1950s rock into a contemporary context, Keren Ann played a sublime 75-minute set.
Switching back and forth from an acoustic and an electric guitar, Keren Ann proved to be a doyenne of dynamics. Her words would linger in between her picking as nary an audience member could be heard; it was as if her words stuck to the air in the room. The only thing to bring you back to Earth from such songs as “Not Going Anywhere” was the applause or the boisterous noises coming from downstairs. Keren Ann deftly played off of the gathering below, spinning a tale throughout the evening about a wedding with arguments about the catering, dueling mothers-in-law and a stoned cousin.
Remarking on the rarity of her solo shows, Keren Ann expressed how in such situations it’s best to play them totally stripped-down, without loops. She excelled with this, whether playing to Americans’ fondness for French tunes (like “Que n’ai-je?”) or the stellar opening track to her most recent album 101 (“My Name is Trouble”). With knowing smiles, guitar flourishes and a finely tuned voice, Keren Ann was done, like a dream on a warm Philly night.
Bonzie, aka Nina Ferraro, opened. Playing Philadelphia for the first time, she showed off some raw rock talent in a solo form.