Katie Herzig: The Independent, San Francisco, CA 05/03/2012

Photo Credit: Joan Bowlen

Thursday’s show at the Independent in San Francisco was Katie Herzig and her band’s second time through the Bay Area while promoting her excellent fourth studio album, The Waking Sleep. Last year, Herzig brought Butterfly Boucher along to tour through the States for a late fall / winter tour, and there they played the Bottom of the Hill in SF, which is less than half the size of The Independent. So, by most accounts, this second leg comes with it bigger audiences from successful word of mouth and backed by an album that showcases Herzig’s musical growth and maturity. While the venue wasn’t sold out, the crowd that did come was heavily invested in the show and welcomed the band with enthusiasm.

While opener “Shovel” was somewhat underwhelming, the band really kicked it into high gear with “Wasting Time”– a great selection from The Waking Sleep. She then proceeded to play four more songs from the album in a row, which kept the energy up and the set buoyant. Most of the songs feature intricate arrangements, full of keyboard, guitars, cello lines, intriguing percussion and electronic runs and swirls. “Midnight Serendade” was downright ebullient, with Claire Indie’s cello anchoring the piece with its delightfully frenetic bowing pattern.

Herzig and her band re-imagined many of these pieces to fit the live setting, because on record they are deeply entrenched in “studio magic,” so many were concerned that they wouldn’t translate well when played in concert. Thankfully, the new versions from The Waking Sleep really dazzle on stage, and spread the spotlight out to Herzig’s four other bandmates. While this definitely benefits the songs, it sometimes demonstrated Herzig’s seeming discomfort with being a lead woman to her own show. Playing live and touring constantly is nothing new to her (she did open for Brandi Carlile for most of the Give Up The Ghost tour, which was a marathon excursion, to put it lightly), yet it’s clear that Herzig isn’t quite ready to assert herself as the voice to her own song and show. And it’s not because she’s lacking in ability; rather, the last few years have proven that she’s an incredibly capable and talented singer-songwriter and vocalist. But the fact that both of her main sidekicks (cellist Claire Indie and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Hamlin) stole the show with their candor, humor and palpable ease with being on stage is going to be something that Herzig will have to soon address, or worry about being somewhat subsumed during her own show.

The set was a healthy length, dipping into the back catalogue with just the right amount of prudence and insight. “Hologram” remains one of the best live songs she’s written, and it’s a surefire winner to get the audience dancing and singing along. “Hey Na Na” shows off her Grey’s Anatomy-ready aesthetic and “Wish You Well” is just the right ballad to help draw the set to a near close. One thing the band should consider in the future, though, is a different approach to cover songs, because their rendition of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” was by-the-book and uninspired. Instead, leave it in the hands of a band like Fitz and the Tantrums and choose a song that they can reinvent in a way that matches the style of The Waking Sleep and one that really showcases Herzig’s warm voice.

Closing with “Way To The Future,” though, was a brilliant move, and left the audience with a definite aftertaste of mirth and satisfaction. Should Herzig and her band bring the show back through the Bay Area for a third leg, chances are she’ll play to an even larger audience, and one that will continue to welcome the ten songs from her last record with even more of an embrace.

Photo Credit: Joan Bowlen

Photo Credit: Joan Bowlen

Wasting Time
Make a Noise
Midnight Serenade
Oh My Darlin’
Free My Mind
I Hurt Too
Holding You
Hey Na Na
Lost & Found
Closest I Get
Daisies & Pews
Wish You Well
Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics Cover)
Way To The Future

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