Doe Paoro is one of those performers that you may not realize how good they are until you see them live. In the case of this Brooklyn-based chanteuse, her Bandcamp gives an idea of her vocal ability, but her live performance at Glasslands Wednesday night was jaw-dropping. Paired with live drums, the slight vibrato of analog organ, and the warm, organic texture of a cello, her voice rung out and echoed off the walls. She didn’t need any extra reverb or delay. She infuses her songs with deep soul and honest emotion, and her unassuming but strong stage presence conveyed that. She wasn’t just singing empty lyrics – I believed every word.
Paoro began with a room-silencing a capella, immediately showing off her range and showcasing techniques from studying Lhamo (Tibetan folk opera) in the Himalayas. It was a meditation, it was a mantra, it was a call to gather and listen. She then gently beckoned the crowd to move closer, softly saying “come, come.” Everyone immediately moved forward without hesitation, as if literally being moved by her musical force. She encouraged singing along as well, and even though many people seemed to already know the words, anyone who didn’t could catch on easily, as there is chant-like repetition of meaningful phrases that serve as solid reinforcement in Paoro’s songs. On “Born Whole” the crowd really lit up, especially when the beat dropped in the song – that was solid badassness, and there was no way to not feel awakened by the pumping bass.
The repetition and the singing along created this air of togetherness, and Paoro made sure to point it out, remarking, “There’s a really good vibe in here!” She was right. There was just something about the raw feeling in her delivery. Some of her high notes came out rather grating to the ears, but it felt meant to be, just like how many life experiences can be startling and uncomfortable. It was something to behold, and it was something to remind us that we were born whole. After the last song the crowd pleaded for an encore of “One! More! Song!” but Paoro and her band had to load offstage to make way for the final act of the night.
That was Cold Specks, the project of London via Canada-based singer/songwriter Al Spx. Spx has a great raspy, bluesy vocal approach, and her songs have poetic verse lyrics. As Cold Specks set wore on, however, the music, rhythm, and melodies seemed to wear on as well. The songs started to blur into each other, all sounding much the same with little variation between the vocal inflections and the finger picked guitar lines. After the awakening force of Doe Paoro, Cold Specks was like the dark night to sing us back to sleep.