’Til I Get Over Michelle Branch
Wellesley Audience Not Left Empty-HandedBy Petar Simich
Michelle Branch, Rooney, Joe Firstman
Keohane Sports Center, Wellesley College
April 25, 8 p.m.
The Virgin College Mega Tour, headlined by Michelle Branch, landed at the Keohane Sports Center in Wellesley College on Sunday night. The sports center, a huge space with terrible acoustics, was an odd place to hold the performance, as the crowd could never fill it and the sound echoed and reverberated the daylights out of everyone. If the tour came to MIT, La Sala would have been more than enough.
It was announced that the performance was dedicated to Katie Palmer, the Wellesley student that died this past week. A moment of silence was held, and then the show began.
Joe Firstman was the first man up (pun intended). Singer-songwriters seem to be the thing these days, and Firstman was no exception. He jumped between playing the piano and acoustic guitar on his upbeat and laid back blend of pop and rock, which would fit in well on the airwaves. On one piano solo, it seemed as if it was going to be another one of those emotional, sappy love confessions, but Firstman took an unexpected turn with the lyrics, throwing in humorous in-law bashing.
He probably made a poor choice for the final song, doing a cover of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” where he obviously couldn’t hit the high notes and resorted to a crazy falsetto. The set wasn’t musically ear-opening but was entertaining at least, and Firstman received approval from the screaming girls.
Much more screaming welcomed Rooney. It was somewhat baffling watching them. It was as if they were a band that looked like they were from the 70’s, went in a time machine to the 80’s to pick up a synthesizer, and then zipped back and forth between decades getting bits and pieces of songs from those eras. If I hadn’t cut my hair recently, I probably could have applied to be the tambourine player.
The synthesizer gave a very strong new wave tilt to Rooney’s music, and both a hint of the Beatles and a surprising 50’s doo-wop style song made their way in. Unfortunately, none of the songs were successful in making the couple next to me stop making out and enjoy the music instead. Guitarist Taylor Locke’s smooth and effortless lead solos were rather fun to watch as he took a skilled command of the instrument.
Finally, the reason I had gone to Wellesley for the second time in my life (damn psets) appeared on stage. Michelle Branch took the stage to much fanfare and, armed with her acoustic guitar, opened the set with the title track off of her latest album Hotel Paper. She apologized to the audience for her singing, telling us that she was recovering from a sinus cold.
Her singing wasn’t actually that bad, and although it was noticeable that she didn’t hold some of the high and powerful notes as long as she was supposed to, she did a pretty darn good job under the conditions. Most of the beautifully done songs that night were off of Hotel Paper, but she unfortunately didn’t play “Breathe,” one of the best off of that album. She did play her new single, “’Til I Get Over You,” which sadly didn’t have the touching French background vocals in the chorus.
It was a much more intimate and quieter affair than listening to one of her albums. Gone were all the studio effects and overdubs, and all that was present were Branch, a guitarist, bassist, drummer and backup singer. The result were songs that were more relaxed, and in two extreme cases, quieter and slower. Branch made everyone do a double-take when she played her two most popular singles off of her first album The Spirit Room, “Everywhere” and “All You Wanted.” Instead of the familiar speed and intensity, both songs were slowed down, and “All You Wanted” was even in a lower key, transforming the busy pop songs into powerful ballads.
Other highlights of the performance were a duet between Branch and her backup singer singing a song they had both composed (Branch played the harmonica!), and a cover of Oasis’s “Wonderwall,” one of the most energetic songs of the night, which, according to Branch, “makes me want to get drunk and cuss at everyone like Oasis does.”
The set ended with an epic version of “Empty Handed,” the guitarist proving himself to incredibly proficient at his craft. No encore followed due to Branch apologizing that her voice had had it for the night. I walked out of the sports center scintillated by the pop star. I can’t wait to see her perform again, and I’m ready to be blown away when I hear her singing with 100 percent of her voice.