by Adam Cohen
New York native singer-songwriter Sophie B Hawkins crafted beguiling home brew intimacy in her Café Carlyle debut Tuesday evening. Deeply wry, fierce personal songs filled with lyrical delicacy, deliciousness and musical bite, this well crafted luminous, intelligent, engaging evening makes one feel as if Ms. Hawkins is singing only to you in your living room. Her material is filled with new songs as deeply memorable and radio/Pandora/play-list ready as her more widely heard “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” and “As I Lay Me Down.” Her performance was spry, ably and gamely backed by a combo of guitarist Peter Calo, John Delay on keys, and Gene Lewin on drums.
Greeting the audience with remarks about the quality of the rooms at The Carlyle Hotel, noting her 8 year-old son feeding her pasta pre-show, that she wouldn’t be on the guitar much given the free Kiehls’ in the rooms – her trademark grit, wit, and soulful realism remains compelling resplendent and fun. Taking the audience on a personal journey of playing Janis Joplin; dating; break ups, eating too much cake and parenthood with a relaxed lyrical bite (I can’t replace you, but I’m better off without you).
Her lyrics and performance at once fierce, emotive, evocative, and realistically witty demand repeat engagements. Honestly, commenting on eating and drinking too much at a party and using that to “fill a hole” and “Love Yourself” is a powerful anthem of empowerment. This relatable soulful, personal set includes lyrics concerning moving on from a past lover and “doing fine finding me, my whole life was about you” ensconced in deceptively elegant, powerful muscular musicality and vocal warmth.
Atop the Carlyle Steinway, barefoot and cross-legged; drumming; or on piano or guitar; Hawkins seduces the room relatably bantering “I started as a drummer, not that you asked. I have two kids. I get home. It’s all ask.” Original songs like “Free Myself” are seemingly an intimate view into her personal journal while bringing an unconventional quietness to Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
This pert, dynamic set—included scat; Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” seared the audience as did Bob Dylan’s “I Want You.” But her finest moments were her new material and the rapport with the audience. Eschewing an encore, Hawkins remarked, “I’m too old to get off (the stage and come back) and hope you’ll want me back” before launching into a number inspired by her two-year old daughter. Describing and acting her daughter’s moves as “combination Bette Midler/Joe Lewis” the last number perfectly describes parental joy and desire “you are my balloon . . . floating in the sky . . . shoulder on cloud . . .acting very proud . . . I love looking at you.”
Run to the Carlyle to catch Hawkins remaining concerts. This clever, seductive performer provides an engaging, intimate, hothouse flower lyrics and musical evening compelling the audience “to worship you . . . and I do” with newer material strong and more memorable as her classics. Her trademark rasp, grit, dynamism and sexiness make for an amazing, satisfying, warm summer night engagement demanding repeat listening.
Sophie B Hawkins plays through June 29 at The Café Carlyle in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (35 East 76th Street at Madison Avenue). Café Carlyle Online or 212 744-1600.
Photos: David Andrako