Doe Paoro – Mercury Lounge – February 27, 2013
Doe Paoro began her Mercury Lounge show last night with a Tibetan “song for peace,” with her voice floating free range and exotic over the early crowd, as if cleansing the space for the music to come. That purification completed, she and her band dove into a batch of new material showcasing her self-described “ghost soul”—a one-of-a-kind indie R&B centered largely on Paoro’s bewitching vocals. In the live setting, that voice does indeed feel like an apparition, each lyric, phrase, syllable taking on a life of its own, lingering in the space surrounding the musicians onstage—keys, bass, drums and cello. In between songs, the band was in a good place, as cohesive as I’ve seen them, the new material appropriately fragile and fresh, the older songs feeling more fleshed out and confident.
“Give, Give, Give” and “Breaking Down” were indicative examples of the new songs: cello and keys interacting while her voice, flouting standard conventions, zigzagged over multiple octaves in nonlinear fashion. “Body Games,” off last year’s debut, Slow to Love, found fresh, different life with a new cosmic bass riff, feeling like the final missing piece fitting into place. From there, Paoro and her band seemed limbered, starting to move freely, literally and musically. The second half of the set was marked less by what she was singing and how, but more by from where the voice and the words were coming. On songs like “Live Again” it was clear that this music was coming from someplace real deep inside, the vocals and the band caught up in the emotive swell. The set finished with one more “old” song, “Born Whole,” a steady groove matching the mood perfectly. Short and sweet, spell broken, ghosts exorcised, for this night, at least. —A. Stein