LIVE: Paula Cole @ River Street Festival, 6/19/10

Paula Cole
Paula Cole

It was a hot day on Saturday – so hot that Erin Harkes’ set was interrupted by a woman in need of emergency medical assistance due to the heat and sun. (Harkes’ Celtic rock finale – complete with a guest piper – was worth the wait.)

And alt-pop singer-songwriter Paula Cole turned up the heat a couple of more degrees with a passionate, smoldering, 85-minute set to wrap up the 2010 River Street Festival in Troy last Saturday.

Her compact band – just drummer Tony Mason and sublime guitarist Ben Butler – sounded much bigger than they were on nuggets like the opening “Comin’ Down” and the empowering “Watch the Woman’s Hands,” Cole’s magnificent voice was even bigger still.

While her personal brand of art-pop draws from Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, Laura Nyro and Annie Lennox, Cole is very much her own woman. Her music is brave and sometimes altogether fearless, plumbing into dark psychological and emotional recesses.

She sat down at the Yamaha grand piano for about half of her show, offering a radically reworked and undeniably funky rendition of “Tiger,” as well as the old-school soul affirmation “I Believe in Love.”

She offered a sneak peek at new material – “Music in Me” and “Something I’ve Got to Say” – from her upcoming album, “Ithaca,” which isn’t slated for release til September.

And for her encores, she offered her biggest mid-’90s hits – “I Don’t Want to Wait” and “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” – before wrapping up the concert with a fierce, dramatic reading of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene.”

At that point, yeah, I was in need of some emergency medical attention myself.

Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Timothy Raab of Northern Photo also sent along a batch of great photos from Paula Cole’s performance. See them here.

You can also read my review for The Times Union.

Comin’ Down
Watch the Woman’s Hands
Music in Me
Dear Gertrude
Happy Home
I Believe in Love
Something I’ve Got to Say
I Don’t Want to Wait
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?
Jolene (Dolly Parton)

Erin Harkes and some admirers
Erin Harkes and some admirers

Ben Butler and Tony Mason
Ben Butler and Tony Mason

Paula Cole @ Troy River Street Festival
Paula Cole and Guitarist Ben Butler

Paula Cole @ Troy River Street Festival

  1. Scott C. says

    I saw Paula Cole on one of Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD shows at SPAC many years ago, and at one point during her set she free-styled a little “Human Beat Box”. One of the douche-chilliest moments of my concert going life! I still can’t think of her or see her without shuddering/laughing. To this day.

  2. Andy M. says

    Yes, I was also witness to her HBB technique…during the encore of “Jolene” no less. It was really silly. Erin Harkes’ set was the highlight of the afternoon…besides the drunk lady falling on her face and causing the band to have to drop two songs from their setlist due to the “medical delay”.

  3. Scott C. says

    So she’s still doing that, huh? I guess she knows what “works”, veteran performer that she is. It’s a shame that poor drunk lady had to miss it.

    “…and for an encore, I sing a cover of ‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton and I accompany myself on Human Beat Box.”

    “My God, what do you call an act like that?”

    “The Aristocrats!”

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