LIVE: Ana Popovic @ Club Helsinki, 9/22/17

Review by Steven Stock

A mere four months after her triumphant performance at Cohoes Music Hall, Serbian-born axe slinger Ana Popovic returned to Greater Nippertown, her band newly augmented with sax and trombone, for a tasty set at Hudson’s Club Helsinki. Although her repertoire still relied heavily on last year’s three-disc Trilogy, the horn section helped illuminate Popovic’s range and versatility, revealing her to be far more than just a pyrotechnic blues guitarist.

“Love You Tonight,” for instance, was a slick slice of up-tempo rhythm & blues, while the horns served to class up the gritty funk of “She Was a Doorman.” She seems increasingly confident in her vocals as well, as illustrated by a compelling version of the Tom Waits’ chestnut “New Coat of Paint” that also deployed the horns to good advantage.

Of course, Popovic’s guitar playing was still the main attraction. The horn section left the stage altogether for an epic rendition of “Johnnie Ray.” While her core band of bass/drums/keyboards turned the heat down to just a simmer, Popovic unleashed a teasing flurry of notes that had the audience on the edge of their seats, some oohing and aahing, others whooping and hollering to express their appreciation. It was a bravura performance demonstrating her mastery of tension and release.

The horns returned for a fiery rendition of “If Tomorrow Was Today.” Albert King’s “Can’t You See What You’re Doing to Me” showcased the band’s strengths, a lengthy sax solo followed by a guitar/sax cutting session and finally a chance for the drummer to stretch out. “We’re gonna funk it up a little bit,” said a smiling Popovic before launching into “Show You How Strong You Are.” As at Cohoes Music Hall, the band finished with a nod to Jimi Hendrix in the form of “Crosstown Traffic,” which sounded even better this time thanks to additional seasoning from the sax and trombone.

LIVE: Ana Popovic @ Cohoes Music Hall, 5/23/17

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