Guests who expected Ingrid Michaelson’s sold-out show at the 9:30 Club to be an array of pop songs about sweaters and puppy love were likely disappointed. Clad in long black cloaks, Michaelson and her five-piece band stormed the stage Thursday evening to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” much like Zeppelin themselves would have. What about the cute Rogaine song?
Michaelson – best known for her ode to all things romance, “The Way I Am,” a song that has taken weddings by storm since its release in 2007 – made it clear on Thursday that she had more to offer than bubblegum lyrics and a crafty ukulele. Her show was a patchwork of creative instrumentation, a capella verses, clever witticisms and a self-deprecating humor that won even the stiffest audience members over.
At 30, Michaelson is unassuming at first glance; her red waves and thick-rimmed glasses elicit an inevitable Lisa Loeb comparison, and her demeanor is freshly modest. She wore casual black jeans and boots, or “shit kickers,” as she called them, “because I figure, this is a rock club, after all.” Pass her on the street and you might presume she was a theater major, idly pioneering anti-establishment. Hear her through amplifiers and you’d think she’d had classical training. Of course, all are true, and this is all part of the package.
Throughout the evening, Michaelson balanced out her signature folksy ballads like “Girls and Boys” and “Be OK” with new, heavier songs like “Parachute” and “Annihilate,” tracks she admits are a step out of her comfort zone.
She also gathered up her bandmates for an a capella arrangement of “You and I,” and went on a particularly humorous tangent about playing hard-to-get via Twitter. The show-stealer, though, was her serious rendition of REM’s “Nightswimming” which she sang masterfully over a looping track.
At one point towards the end of the evening, Michaelson let it be known that despite her sunny persona, she is actually “very dark, mysterious and troubled,” to which the crowd laughed, unconvinced. Flatly addressing the audience before wrapping up the show, she got to the point:
“Listen, you guys have jobs,” she said, poker-faced. “We don’t have time to go off the stage, wait, come back on and shockingly agree to play two more songs… So, we’re going to hide on stage while you clap and then quickly do this surprise encore. Sound like a plan?”
Fittingly, Michaelson closed with a punk-rock rendition of “The Way I Am,” a reflection of the shit-kicking, geek-chic starlet that she is.