Friday, July 1, 2011

Coby Koehl: The songs are all for you

Coby Koehl turned Dixon Place's downstairs theater into an intimate cabaret last evening as the talented neo-soul singer and his accompanists, Ken Kincaid (piano) and Leo Santino (percussion), performed before a handful of merry friends and associates. Maybe the impending holiday weekend kept everyone else away, but everyone else missed a pretty sweet show.

The flute-y, sultry, sometimes edgy Koehl, more than upholds the right of gay white boys to sing like the brothers--I heard elements of Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Luther Vandross and more--and turns Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" several shades sexier.

Boy George regards Koehl as a male Amy Winehouse, and Koehl dares to walk on the Nina Simone side. ("I can't breathe without her. She's everything to me," he says.) I was hoping for "Wild is the Wind" but certainly couldn't turn down "...A Little Sugar in My Bowl." From the Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael jazz standard "Skylark" to Stephen Trask's "Midnight Radio" from Hedwig and The Angry Inch, Koehl luxuriates in music like a cat rubbing its velvet fur against a velvet pillow.

Here's Koehl--spare and cool, this time, even spiritual--interpreting Yoko Ono's "Death of Samantha," a song from Ono's Approximately Infinite Universe (1972). And because this song is infinitely delicate and heartbreaking, let's hear it again, this time with Ono doing it.

A deft, supple vocalist with a good ear for scene-setting, character and attitude in lyrics, Koehl deserved cleaner sound than the muddy reverberations he got at the start of his show. Happily, that cleared up some as the performance went on. No doubt, he can fill the room next time. He deserves that, too.

So, here's to Patti. And Tina. And Yoko. Aretha. And Nona. And Nico. And...Coby Koehl.

Hot! Festival 2011--Dixon Place's 20th Annual NYC Celebration of Queer Culture--continues through August 6 with a mix of "theater, dance, music, burlesques, performance art and homoeroticism for the whole family." Find out more and make ticket reservations here.

Dixon Place
161A Chrystie Street (between Rivington and Delancey Streets), Manhattan
(map and directions)

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