Alela Diane – Paradiso – 04.05.2011

Alela Diane has a special voice – plaintive and strong, but sweet and gentle too. I quite like her album To Be Still, the only one with which I was familiar before last night’s gig. I was expecting lots of banjo and steel guitar, over acoustic fingerpicking and haunting melodies. What I got was Wild Devine, the band she’s touring with, that includes her husband and her dad (if I heard correctly). And frankly it was all a bit boring.

There were, for sure, one or two highlights and some definite low points. The lowest was a really terrible song about pirates with lots of yo-ho-ho-ing (which was strangely popular with the audience). The high points were mostly when the band left her alone on the stage with her guitar, and also the song Dry Grass and Shadows from To Be Still. Otherwise it plodded along with songs badly in need of a lift, and between-song-chat badly in need of an injection of humour. It felt like Sunday school at times, all very prim and proper. (Mr. Alela Diane took over some of the banter duties, but the best he could manage was to say that the Heineken here tastes so much better than in the States. Um….okay.)

Support came from Dylan LeBlanc who wasn’t a happy camper as he left the stage. He didn’t seem too bothered about having to stop for two minutes silence at 8pm (something to do with the national memorial day), but he was really annoyed by the ever-increasing level of background chatter. He even changed his lyrics here and there to point out that “nobody will shut the F*$k up”. I don’t think anyone noticed. I’ve written before about noisy Dutch crowds, but, against the issue of having the basic politeness of not chatting at the top of your voice during a gig, there’s also the need for the artist to win a crowd over. I’m afraid LeBlanc’s songs and performance were just too dreary and downbeat for my taste. And I was listening.