BWW Review: Lucille Carr-Kaffashan Shows The Guys Some Love in HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN at Don't Tell Mama
Before Lucille Carr-Kaffashan is able to get from the door of The Brick Room at Don't Tell Mama to the microphone, the band has already had a chance to make it completely clear that this is going to be an hour or so of good music. There are bands and there are bands and this one is a band. With Jeff Cubeta on piano leading the way, Matt Scharfglass adding the bass, and Sean Harkness bringing the guitar, by the time Lucille takes the mic, the whole room is jamming. And why not? How The Light Gets In is all music to jam too, and Lucille Carr-Kaffashan is ready to go.
Explaining her new show, LCK remarked that her previous acts had focused on the works of female singer-songwriters and that she felt like it was time the men got a little love, too. This is no cabaret of crooning Cole or serenading Sondheim, this is a program of rock music. And LCK is equal to the task, compiling a setlist of songs made famous by singer-songwriters like John Legend, Cat Stevens, Darius Rucker, and Ben E. King and then delivering them all with a gorgeous alto voice that sometimes dips into buttery low notes and, on occasion, floats into high notes that take one by surprise, and surprises are awesome. Thanks to the artistry of the musicians working on strings, there is a strong sense of rhythm without a percussionist, and the inclusion of electric guitar in the proceedings really makes an audience member long for more cabaret shows of rock music, with all due respect to Kern, Berlin, and Herman. Thank you, Lucille Carr-Kaffashan, for bringing the Boss to The Brick Room. With How The Light Gets In, you have proven yourself to be the badass chick of cabaret. Oh, I know. Women don't like being called "chick." It is not feminist and it is not politically correct. I have always championed and cherished women. Nevertheless, I am calling Lucille Carr-Kaffashan a badass chick because every one of my female friends who sings rock and roll digs being a rock and roll chick, and they've told me this. When I say that Lucille Carr-Kaffashan reminded me of a rock and roll chick, I am being completely serious. She may have been on the stage at Don't Tell Mama in black slacks and a sequined top, her tidy hair perfectly coiffed and her face beat for an awards show, but when her dialogue between her first two songs consisted of the words "Let's have some fun," my image of LCK changed. In that moment, I was no longer in a darkened room on an autumn day in Manhattan. I could actually see LCK and her band playing a dunes party in Manhattan Beach, she in blue jeans and a white t-shirt, minimal makeup and tousled hair, guests with glasses of sangria, maybe some grass, listening to her sing rock and roll with a cabaret voice, and it WORKS. It works because she's cool, she's real and her band kicks so much ass with song arrangements that would make you set your sangria down. It was a damn beach concert on 46th street.
And that's cool.
The show itself is a mixed bag of serious rock and roll (hello, Springsteen), country (Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings), disco (The Bee Gees) and honest to goodness rock and roll poetry (Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan) with the Leonard Cohen song "Anthem" definitely showing LCK at her vocal best, with much depth and range and a lot of emotional connection. Still, the mash-up of "Staying Alive" and "Dancing In The Dark" is a dark and brooding slice of heaven from her arranger, Jeff Cubeta, and Lucille handles it with the kind of ease that makes cutting an ice cream cake with a hot knife look difficult. In fact, just about everything Ms. Carr-Kaffashan does on the stage looks effortless, at times funny, others rather sexy, and always with thought behind it (I mean, quoting Isak Dinesen? In a rock show? Sexy and smart, all at the same time). And amidst all the musical pleasure, David Hilder directs the entire event to move. There is no wasted time, no idle prattle, Carr-Kaffashan knows what she wants to say and she says it, then gets back to the music, which is what we rock and rollers want: music. And this is some damn fine music.
Now the but. As the entirely enjoyable show neared its' close, came the moment of thanks, and in this moment Lucille Carr-Kaffashan offered a thank you to her musical director for helping her take all these songs and piece them together into one story. That's when the left eyebrow went up, and I thought to myself "There was a story?" Ooops. I thought I had been paying attention, but I may have been so caught up in the music that I missed the memo. The evening's entertainment felt like a rock and roll setlist to me. If there was a story being presented in How The Light Gets In, it failed to present itself to me; and it's fine if that's what happened because I was happy when I thought this was a rock and roll setlist. I like rock and roll. I like Billy Joel. I like Dylan, Stevens, The Boss, I even like Willie Nelson. And I like Lucille Carr-Kaffashan. So whether How The Light Gets In had a linear story, an abstract story or no story at all, I'm happy I saw it. I'd see it again. Because it's cool - just like Lucille Carr-Kaffashan.
How The Light Gets In has ended its current run at Don't Tell Mama. If it returns, BWW will make sure all know.
Photos by Stephen Mosher