One of my good friends invited me out to see a home concert of Eliza Rickman on Sunday night up hosted by Dig Collective Home Concerts in Bountiful, Utah. He had given me her EP a few months ago and I fell in love with the orchestrations on the toy piano, poignant lyrics and Eliza’s unique voice.
That EP could not have prepared me for such an exceptional and charming performer.
First, let’s start with the opening act (because we can’t forget those): Your Meteor. Your Meteor is a Utah-based punk/indie/fusion band made up of three young men: Tom (vocalist/piano/guitar), Zeke (bass) and Andrew (drums). It took them a couple songs to really open up to the audience; once they did, they were utterly adorkable.
The musicality of the band was pretty impressive, especially with Tom, who showed some skill on the piano and guitar. Add on top of that his lovely tenor falsetto (I know, not the most masculine adjective) and the fact that he admitted that he was suffering from tonsillitis, you can’t help but be at least a little impressed with the 20-year old. Nothing too exciting on the drum front, but Andrew could beat a few impressive beats out whenever a song called for it. However, Zeke on the bass was quite good and their songs often featured cool bass lines. Both Zeke and Tom gave me a hug after they performed so… yeah, they were nice too. =)
As far as song-writing, it was really hard to understand Your Meteor’s lyrics with the small space and the amplified instruments. One of the songs I really liked of theirs was called “Master Plan”. Their music was a little eccentric with very dissonant chord and minor key choices, but Tom’s smooth vocals over the top balanced it out pretty nicely. Afterward, my friend said Your Meteor was a tad reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. So all in all, Your Meteor was a decent opener and helped set a dark discordant tone that both complimented and contrasted just enough with Eliza’s craft.
You can check out a couple of their songs on Your Meteor’s website.
Now to the main act…
Starting out on what she called the “big girl piano” then moving to the “toy piano” and even an accordion, Eliza Rickman couldn’t help but be disarmingly charming. She wore a pretty dress that recalled images of Victorian England and her black hair was knotted on top of her head with a braid trailing the side (as you can see above). Eliza did not face the audience for the first few songs, but that was totally fine since her presence just oozed through the piano and microphone regardless.
If I liked Eliza’s voice before, this home concert made me fall in love with it. Her Victorian-goth vibe could set someone up for a punk sound, but Eliza actually has a very pretty soprano voice. It’s like a lovely, lilting and seamless voice of an angel but with a very special black fire that makes her voice and vibrato incredibly haunting. Her voice seemed classically trained so I was stunned when I found out Eliza didn’t find out she could sing until after earning a composition degree. That blew my mind. Note though: her recordings simply do not do her voice justice. Eliza is definitely an artist to witness in person.
While Eliza did a couple covers of “Put a Spell on You” and “Ring of Fire” with her own arrangements (I actually preferred her rendition of the Johnny Cash hit to the original; and her cover of “Moon River” on her EP is my favorite that I’ve heard), she performed several songs from her EP and newly released album O, You Sinners along with a couple others that she wrote but weren’t published. Here’s one that got the audience involved and laughing that’s not on any of her CD’s — she said it was about Napoleon Bonaparte. Sweet right?
Play Song — PS: This is completely safe to download.
Eliza graced us with many of what she called “sad songs” including my personal favorites of “Cinnamon Bone” and “Black Rose”. She did say that her songs sometimes have a religious undertone, but I found it wasn’t overbearing. In fact, she adds interesting twists to them–case in point, the song “Devil’s Flesh and Bone”.
There was also a little loop machine action where Eliza essentially accompanied herself by singing or playing into a special microphone that would combine the sounds to be an instrumental beneath herself! It was quite nifty and she pulled it off with aplomb!
One song later in the concert, Eliza pulled out an accordion, telling us that she only ever took one lesson and learned “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and called it good! She only played the one side of the instrument, but man, oh man. I wish that song had been on her one of her albums, because I really liked it (and totally can’t remember what it’s called).
The great thing about Eliza Rickman’s music is that it doesn’t have a lot of the cliched notions that a lot of today’s music has. It may have similar themes, but Eliza injects very poignant, original and sometimes dark imagery into her lyrics that you may not expect (Crawling flat on broken glass to you, to you, to you. Scratch it up and turn, light a fire and burn for you, for you, for you– from “Cinnamon Bone”). Not only are her lyrics powerful and sometimes twisty, but her melodies are hauntingly catchy and have a habit of getting stuck in your head. Really. I have “Black Rose” stuck in my head right now.
One thing I loved about the home concert environment was the close-knit feel. It was awesome to talk to Eliza after the performance–you just wouldn’t get that at a normal concert! I asked her about her orchestral composition studies (since that surprised me but you can completely hear it in the execution of her songs) and she gushed, “I actually started out as a piano performance major at Azuza Pacific (University) but I got in trouble for playing ragtime so much. If that even exists. What I really wanted to do was write my own music, so I switched.”
So not only was Eliza an extraordinary performer as a sensational pianist, vocalist and songwriter as well as a single-song accordion player, but she was a really nice to talk to. She’s one of those people that I’d want to get to know more. Like I said, disarmingly charming sums her demeanor up really well. I’d highly recommend seeing her in concert if you can. You’ll fall in love with her voice too. Then get her songs stuck in your head. They are that good. 😉
A big thank you goes to Dig Collective for hosting such an awesome event. The house was truly lovely. Plus I signed up for their email newsletter so hopefully I will hear about more concerts to review!
And guess what? Eliza is not even close to being done with her tour yet! She will be touring for a couple more months! To see if she’s hitting a town near you, check out ElizaRickman.com.
Her EP and new album O, You Sinners are available for download on iTunes and BandCamp. You can sample them a bit and download them. I recommend downloading them. She’s also on Facebook so you can “like” her too.
You can stay tuned to musiCues… A little someone may have bought a hard copy of the album and wants to give it away in celebration of the official launch of the musiCues blog! More details coming later this week.
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PS: musiCues is in the process of setting up a YouTube account–we’ll announce when we have clips of Eliza Rickman’s concert online.