Pop Music to Warm the Soul

January 23rd, 2014

Diane Birch – The Bowery Ballroom – January 22, 2014

Raised in the church, the daughter of a preacher man, singer-songwriter Diane Birch infuses soul into everything she plays. Her debut album, Bible Belt, introduced an artist with a resemblance to Carole King, but on her sophomore effort, Speak a Little Louder, Birch employs shadows and dance beats against her newer compositions. It’s as if she’s morphed into Kate Bush’s or Florence Welch’s little sister. The ’80s have undoubtedly influenced her follow-up: “I’m supernostalgic,” said the 30-year-old to the New York Daily News. “I have a hard time with things that are new. I actually used to think I was from another time, trapped in the modern world.”

After postponing shows in Boston the night before due to Winter Storm Janus, the Brooklyn-based singer played The Bowery Ballroom last night as her first performance of 2014. Coming from a Late Night with Jimmy Fallon taping, Birch donned gold hot pants, which warmed up those in the crowd who had braved the wintry elements. Opening with “Pretty in Pain,” she set the venue back in time—straight to the era of Flashdance. Birch played largely from her sophomore album, including its title track, but she did offer one off her debut, “Nothing but a Miracle,” delighting longtime fans.

Birch continued with a pair of covers, Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” For the latter, the lady of the evening requested the lights be dimmed in order to set the proper mood. She dedicated “Superstars” to her fellow singer-songwriters that have yet to reach the limelight before ending her set with the dance-beat-heavy “Lighthouse.” With the audience begging for more, Birch returned with “It Plays On” before sending everyone off warmed with soulful pop. —Sharlene Chiu