LIVE: Girl Blue Rocked The Hollow, 08/06/2021
ALBANY — Girl Blue joined forces with Dark Honey on The Hollow stage Friday night and the results were explosive. From the first song to the encore, the musicians pushed through songs with power and velocity that brought spectators to new heights. Even in quieter and slower songs, the power of their combined talents was palpable.
Opening with “Can’t Hide Forever,” Arielle O’Keefe smiled at the crowd with delight and promised to cherish them. The evening was the first of the band’s group performances since December 2019, also at the same venue, and the symbolic nature of their return post-pandemic restrictions was notable.
O’Keefe moved through pieces heard before as acoustic performances, this time powered with drummer Josh Morris’ constant heartbeat on the drum set. Jimi Woodul’s guitar edged the songs’ familiarity into new territory too. Add in bass by Ben Woodul and Dan DeKalb on keys, and suddenly it was a totally different experience than Girl Blue acoustic.
And it was delicious.
From “Because It Moves Me,” which was a crowd favorite, to “Fire Under Water,” the group’s sound was richer than synergy could even imply. One of the joys of Girl Blue is the variety within her set, often demonstrating flexibility even within one song with her vocals. With the band alongside her, they created a commanding presence. Each song had a slightly different sound from the one before it; this was clearly a thoughtful and intentional setlist.
O’Keefe was able to move between old favorites and new songs, and her fans were clearly in step. By the song “Drunk,” O’Keefe wasn’t the only one in the place bouncing up and down. With a quick shift to “Just a Dream,” the honest vibes were flowing with intensity.
And there is nothing sexier than honesty. O’Keefe was magnetic magic, drawing all eyes to her.
There were moments in the set that recalled 90s rocker Alanis Morrisette’s style, but all of Girl Blue’s lyrics are vibrantly unique to her. My personal favorite, “Lolita,” speaks to how growing up female is challenging in ways that go beyond language. O’Keefe’s lyric “I lost my cool” (sung, by the way, with impeccably perfect pitch decline with each word) recalls the uncertainty of being young, female and trying to own sexuality. Her ability to call men out with “I was too young” brought goosebumps, mainly due to the direct and frank statement. With a dramatic pause, the musicians emphasized the message.
O’Keefe can disarm you like that, remind you that we all know that how young women are treated is just wrong – even if we overlook it. Her lyrics are sung with beauty and frankness. And it is impossible to take your eyes off of her with her passionate facial expressions, dancing, and self possessed energy.
She also played a cover that was unknown to most, and hesitantly shared that it was a song they enjoyed at the credits of the film “The Art of Self Defense.” The song, titled, “Can You Hear Me Now?” was a beautifully quiet moment juxtaposed with the more intense moments preceding it.
Girl Blue can rock. She also can drip with sexy blues vibes. And interestingly, she can rock while dripping with sexy blue vibes. Her voice can be smooth as rose petals at the start of the lyric and shift gears quickly to a controlled throaty sound that recalls 90s rock.
Moving through “The Woods,” followed by “One and Only,” the band’s quieter moments were short. They then took off with “Honest,” followed by a memorable “Heaven.” The lush “Wishing Well” moved the band toward an ending that many wished wouldn’t come.
She finished with “Call Me Home,” only to be called back to cover 90s favorite “You Oughta Know.” This nod to Morrisette was both intentional and redeeming for this 90s girl, who kept hearing the older artist’s influence in this new singer’s lyrics and style.
The crowd dispersed slowly, wanting to hold onto the power of the night. Chicago musician Althea Grace, a nice match for Girl Blue’s feminist voice, had opened the evening. Grace brought her own sultry emotional energy as an opener and is definitely worth keeping an ear out for at upcoming venues. Grace’s music was a fantastic appetizer to a night of delicious lyrics and authoritative female voices.
Girl Blue on her own or in a quiet duet is fantastic. On a stage with the full band, she is a whole new level of fantastic. Catch them if you can together; you won’t regret it.