The Hotel Cafe Tour hit New York City Monday night to a standing-room-only crowd at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza. The night featured 15- to 20-minute rotating performances from Ingrid Michaelson, Cary Brothers, Joshua Radin, Meiko and Priscilla Ahn.
While Michaelson may have been the main draw, with her MySpace success and songs featured on “Grey’s Anatomy,” all the musicians featured throughout the night impressed the crowd. Whether it was Ahn playing the kazoo during one of her songs or all the performers accompanying Brothers on backing vocals for his song “Blue Eyes,” they kept the audience attentive.
I’ve never been to a concert that rotated performers every 15 minutes or so, but surprisingly enough the show ran extremely smoothly. Each performer played three to four songs every time they were onstage, sometimes bringing out previous performers to sing with them. For the most part, the musicians were a bit mellow — many playing acoustic guitars — but Michaelson’s set as well as Brothers’ livened up the audience.
Michaelson started out her first set of the night by playing “Breakable” from her latest album, Girls and Boys. The piano accompaniment throughout the song was strong but never overpowered her vocals. “Overboard” featured Michaelson’s falsetto singing range as she sang “To fall” — lyrics from the song — repeatedly, hitting a higher note with each repetition.
She explained “The Hat” as being her hoedown song, and at the end of her first set she joked with the crowd, promising that she’d be back after “one more of the whole buffet of singer songwriters” took the stage. “We’re going to make you cry tonight,” she said, alluding to the mellower, down-tempo sets of songs.
Ahn took the stage shortly after, with her light, airy singing style and guitar and strings accompaniment. She introduced her song “Astronauts” by saying, “This song is called ‘Astronauts’ and it’s about astronauts.” Another song, “Leave the Light On,” she told the audience, was inspired and written when she was 18 and living in Pennsylvania with her parents, practically in the middle of the woods. Coming home late at night, her parents would never leave the lights on and she was constantly scared that she was surrounded by “cougars, bears and rapists” in the dark.
Radin took the stage next with his guitar, and later Ahn came back out to accompany him as well as Allie Moss from Michaelson’s band. Solid and soothing vocally, Radin joked about one of his songs, which was inspired by falling in love on a train while in France. “This song gets tons and tons of airplay … on my mom’s iPod.” He had the audience singing along to “What If You,” a beautiful vocally driven song with his light guitar playing blending well with his soft vocals.
Michaelson took the stage again awhile later, playing a few more from her latest album. “Die Alone,” she told the crowd, was inspired by her constant fear of dying alone. “I know everyone feels that way sometimes,” she said. While her voice in the song sounds pretty lighthearted, the guitar accompaniment portrayed a feeling of anxiousness and fear.
Crowd favorite of the night seemed to be Michaelson and her radio hit, “The Way I Am.” With classic lines such as “I’d buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair/Sew on patches to all you tear/‘Cuz I love you more than I could ever promise,” she had practically all in attendance singing along. At times she seemed like a choir teacher directing those in the audience who helped her out by clapping along during certain points in the song.