PHILADELPHIA, PA–There’s a fine line between audience interaction and talking too much, and Ingrid Michaelson crossed that line on June 1 at the Theater Of Living Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Although Michaelson’s wit and charisma are characteristic of the Staten Island singer/songwriter, performing just eight songs people knew off of her albums in a nearly two-hour-long set was disappointing for those who paid $25 to see a string of improvisations and unknown material.
Kicking off the show with “Die Alone,” fans exploded into a group sing along, with Michaelson leading on acoustic guitar in the center of the stage, while her four backing band members provided ample energy to fill the small South Street venue. Following with Girls And Boys tracks “Breakable” and “Overboard,” the show seemed promising, even with Michaelson’s occasional self-deprecating remarks and quirky responses to audience members’ shouts. Michaelson also began interjecting stories here and there, noting that she had been waiting tables until October when her musical career took off.
For new song “The Chain,” which has only been released on Michaelson’s MySpace page, the artist invited a couple of girls on stage to help with backing vocals, which was actually pretty special considering their assistance appeared to be unplanned. After playing “Far Away,” it was a different sort of show from then on. It started with Michaelson’s admitted love for performing show tunes and her rendition of “Edelweiss” from The Sound Of Music. Singing filled the room as Michaelson’s apparently unplanned performance of the song turned into a chorus of voices. “My Tour Song” and “I Just Wanna Be Okay” followed, two songs which Michaelson had written in the few weeks leading up to the tour. Both included Michaelson’s signature poppy melodies, similar to her older material.
One highlight of the show was Michaelson’s performance of “Giving Up,” which had premiered just three days earlier on the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Michaelson took a moment to explain her frustration with the song being used as the background of scene with someone dying, when she meant for the song to have a different meaning of just being content with where you are. Nonetheless, Michaelson performed the song live for the first time with precision, giving audience members a dose of the same emotion which started off the night
“The Hat” and fan favorite “The Way I Am” attempted to bring back some of what was lost with Michaelson’s long breaks between songs where she would tell stories and go on tangents, but it was short lived. Opener Greg Laswell, a singer/songwriter who has gained popularity with songs premiering on shows like Grey’s Anatomy and The Hills, joined Michaelson on stage for a cover of Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting,” a cute rendition of the popular ’80s song.
Michaelson’s love for show tunes came full-fledged when she took requests from audience members and performed the theme songs to Who’s The Boss and Full House, both of which I found to be annoying and unnecessary. While some audience members seemed to be delighted with Michaelson’s silly comments, others like myself were frustrated with the lack of more known material. “Keep Breathing” closed the set, reminding audience members that Michaelson does have a serious side.
Expecting to hear songs she had not yet played as the encore, Michaelson played her own version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” with nothing more than a ukulele and her soft voice, followed by brand new song “Something More.”
While Michaelson’s shows have become known for their intimacy, it went a little too far. As the first show of a five- week-long U.S. tour, maybe Michaelson was trying out a different sort of show–one where audience members see more of Michaelson-the-person, rather than Michaelson-the-musician.
Failing to play songs such as “Starting Now,” “Empty Bottle,” and “December Baby,” I was disappointed with the amount of time spent playing songs I had no intention or desire to hear. Having seen Michaelson perform before, where the bulk of her show was material off her two albums along with several covers, I was expecting a similar set. In order for fans to get their money’s worth, I think Michaelson needs to go back to her old ways—less talking, more playing.