Morcheeba at First Avenue, 2/23/11
Photo by Tony Nelson
"This show is already better than the last time I saw them because it's with their real singer," a friend said knowingly as Morcheeba launched into their set Wednesday night at First Avenue. The British downtempo trio's reinstated lead singer Skye Edwards floated across the stage during opening number "The Sea", enveloped in a tomato-red sequined jumpsuit.
"Do you like my outfit? I made it myself you know!" she exclaimed in her swoon-worthy accent with a hint of childlike insecurity that made her instantly likable.
Skye lifted her toned arms to show off a floor-length matching shawl made of the kind of fringe you see in graduation tassels or bad '60s curtains, Princess Leia-style buns positioned on her head. Her black false eyelashes opened and closed seductively as the beat from "Otherwise" (from '03's Charango) moved her in a controlled but soulful way.
Photo by Tony Nelson
The audience seemed rightly hypnotized but also like they weren't exactly sure how to react to this kind of chilled-out show. By the hazy wild west vibe of the fourth song, "Never An Easy Way", Skye got much louder on the mic and the crowd reacted with applause. It wasn't enough for her, and she cupped her ear in encouragement. "Did you like that one?" she asked, again seeking her fans' affection. "I can't hear you singing!"
Ross Godfrey, one of Morcheeba's two founding brothers, was to Skye's right on guitar and they barely spoke or interacted, something that felt slightly concerning since she has admitted (to CP this week) that she had been fired from the group after Charango and this is only their sixth-or-so Stateside gig since reuniting.
Finally mid-set, Ross leaned into Skye during a bluesy rendition of "Crimson" (from new album Blood Like Lemonade) and their heads touched -- almost lovingly. Even the stand-in DJ, flanked by a keyboardist and bass player, looked up with a half-smile. Afterward, Skye said cheerfully, "Ross Godfrey on guitar! He's pretty good, isn't he? It's the tequila, really. Maybe I should be drinking it."
Godfrey then took a second to thank "Conrad and the First Avenue staff for the warm welcome" back to the club, Skye asking everyone if they were here when Morcheeba opened for Fiona Apple in '97, who didn't actually end up playing. "It was our first ever headlining show in America," Skye told the audience, which erupted in proud cheers. "I guess we should be thankful Fiona had a sore throat that night."
Photo by Tony Nelson
And if the mention of Fiona's name didn't get the '90s nostalgics in the crowd going, Ross's dedication to "all the hippies" during the first chords of "Trigger Hippie" did. It's a song that smacked the trip-hop label on the group for years, something that Skye told City Pages she understands but never really thought should have stuck.
After some crowd singalongs that weren't entirely successful but at least helped pick things up from a set of slow jams, the appreciative audience started to wane slightly, some folks heading for the door as 11 p.m. neared. Upstairs, the Koncrete Jungle drum n' bass night raged. Walking into that bass-a-thon after the hour-plus of lovely mellow tunes downstairs was a bit of a shock.
One thing everyone expected, though, is that Skye would settle right back into her role even more so now as the Godfrey-supported face of Morcheeba -- finally embraced as she should have been years ago. While the chemistry between the group is a bit unclear going into Morcheeba 2.0, what's certain is that fans are ready for this new-old era.
Personal bias: I jumped aboard the Mocheeba train while reviewing Charango back in 2003 and worked backwards from there. Essential track on that album: "Women Lose Weight" guested by Slick Rick.
The crowd: A thick mix of men and women in their 30s and 40s. Some probably got into trip hop in college and were probably dragged to a rave or two back in the day but appreciate the softer side of EDM. By the way they were dancing it seemed many of the women in the crowd had perhaps taken a few belly dancing classes -- or maybe they were just inspired by Skye's moves.
Overheard in the crowd: A dude behind me yelled at the stage with an oddly robotic passion, "I'M VERY HAPPY TO BE HERE!"
Random notebook dump: Godfrey finally shows Skye some affection midset but it feels like the kind of moment between two people who have been through a lot and are uncertain of what's next.
Never An Easy Way
Part of the Process
Blood Like Lemonade
Beat of the Drum
Over and Over
Rome Wasn't Built in a Day (With "From Russia With Love" intro)
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