Words and pictures by Duane Clawson
Surprises were the order the day as I found myself at the Sheldon Concert Hall on a May night in St. Louis. I chose to cover Madeleine Peyroux because, first and foremost, I have been a fan for a few years now. First being introduced to her music through her song, “It’s Alright”, I was immediately struck by her smooth voice and the overall jazzy feel to her music. Madeleine’s voice and style falls somewhere between Patsy Cline and Ella Fitzgerald. One of the first surprises of the evening was the Sheldon Concert Hall itself; a venue that has the feel of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. The Sheldon was acoustically solid and a great match for Miss Peyroux and her band. Speaking of the band, they were a solid unit of veteran musicians showcasing the guitar talents of Jon Herington, current lead guitarist for Steely Dan. Being a fan of Peyroux, I was familiar with her music but her versatility in a live setting was the biggest surprise of the night.
This was Madeleine’s first venture to St. Louis and a large crowd did their best to make her feel welcome. Peyroux told audience she basically did three types of songs: Jazz songs, Blues songs, and drinking songs, and that sometimes it was hard to tell them apart. Madeleine introduced her new song and the title track of her latest album “Standing on the Rooftop” by explaining that standing on a rooftop in New York City was the best place in the world to view things. The band took to minimalistic instrumentation and performed “La Javanaise” with drummer Darren Beckett on a shoebox with a set of brushes and keyboardist Jim Beard on a key flute for a French cafe feel. Throughout Peyroux’s set there were bits of humor during song introductions, sometimes making the Sheldon laugh and sometimes not so much. A couple of the surprising highlights of the evening were the covers, including Leonard Cohen’s “Half the Perfect World” and Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain.” One last surprise was in store for both Peryroux and the Sheldon audience. Madeleine and the band were summoned back to the stage for an encore but there was some confusion as to what that encore would be. After some glances at the band, Madeleine began hearing calls from the audience as to what the encore should be. I believe Madeleine was truly surprised at the songs that were being called for and St. Louis’s knowledge of her vast musical catalog. Peyroux finally settled on her great cover of “Walking After Midnight”, a song that she makes her own. In the end, the applause and standing ovation were proof that Madeleine had won over St. Louis and hopefully securing a return visit. Pictures of the show are below: