a selection from the drop-down list.
“Welcome to the séance!” the singer, songwriter and performance artist Carol Lipnik exclaimed to a packed house on Sunday evening at the East Village restaurant and cabaret Pangea.
The sly grin that flickered across her lips rarely wavered as she and her pianist, Matt Kanelos, performed a far-reaching set of songs organized around the theme of spirituality and emptiness. Her choices of outside material — Harry Nilsson’s Life Line and Talking Heads’ Heaven, even of Moon River, evoked long-distance perspectives, from above and below. A typical Lipnik original song, Crow’s Nest, looks down from a treetop on which a bird is perched.
Outfitted in a fringed black dress, her hands crusted with rings, Ms. Lipnik caricatured the kind of medium who is invited to preside at party rituals in which the spirits of the dead are summoned, and objects may levitate. With her bright red hair and deep blue eye shadow, Ms. Lipnik clearly relished impersonating a witchy Halloween priestess with diva-like airs, while not taking it too seriously.
Conveying a hide-and-seek sense of mischief as she vacillated between comedy and mysticism, Ms. Lipnik played the role of visionary convincingly enough to suggest that she might possibly have an inside track to the supernatural.
What separates Ms. Lipnik from every other conjurer of the otherworldly is her phenomenal voice. With a four-octave range, impeccable pitch and several distinct personalities within that voice, Ms. Lipnik evoked singers as disparate as Diamanda Galás, Maude Maggart, Yma Sumac and the yodeling Joni Mitchell. Her instrument is, in a word, phenomenal.
She was at her most playful leading the audience through canine howls during Michael Hurley’s Werewolf, which recalled Warren Zevon’s performances of his classic bad-boy singalong, Werewolves of London. The most avant-garde moment was an atonal, fragmented version of The Twist. To perform Mr. Kanelos’s plaintive song Nonviolent Man, she forswore any vocal flamboyance to sing in a plain folk-pop style. Her comic rendition of Moon River featured a solo on the kazobo, an oversize kazoo.
Through it all, I wondered how Ms. Lipnik would come across without the theatrical trappings. Pretty well, I imagine.
Carol Lipnik performs on Sunday evenings through to January 31 2016 at Pangea, 178 Second Avenue, Manhattan, with Matt Kanelos on piano.
Buy tickets here
We encourage shopping:
Why our CD prices are so low
What you get in packaging
Why CDs sound better
Why you get almost instant satisfaction: wait just three days for REAL quality
We give away HUGE chunks of music so you can REALLY check it out