Melissa Ferrick takes no prisoners. She opened her show at WAMC’s Linda Norris Auditorium on Sunday night with a series of intensely concentrated, high-energy songs that came straight at you: you can face them head-on or you can duck, but you can’t just sit there passively.
“I though I was writing this about another person, but I’m pretty sure it’s about me,” she said to introduce “Nebraska” early in the show. She said this before a lot of her songs. Ferrick’s pre-song note works for her listeners too: It’s easiest to deflect her words onto someone else than yourself, but at some point you feel like she’s singing about you.
Ferrick performed alone, as she does some 130 times a year. Not only is this simpler and less costly, but her delivery is more poignant. A full band can distract, water down, her intensity.
Small but powerful
Sunday night she delivered with her usual power. Physically small, wearing jeans, collared shirt, tie and sports jacket, she was fierce with her acoustic, her lyrics and her tone right from the first song, “I’m Going to Break Your Heart,” from her most recent album, “Goodbye Youth.”
She followed with “Closer,” then “Bad Habit,” also “about me.” The swampy feel loped forward in her effort to emulate Lucida Williams, whom she called a big influence. “Makin’ you mad gets me off,” she sang here, generating a hearty chorus of screams from the audience.
The Linda was nearly full; the audience was practically all women — some men, three children — who mostly came and went in pairs.
Ferrick talked some about her new album, which, at the moment, is only available at her live shows and digitally on iTunes. The Boston native expects to have it in stores in April, with more songs than it currently has, and, she joked, “more pictures.”
She’s a high-strung talker, and pretty funny. She told a hilarious story before “John’s Field,” which captured her neurosis and describes her escape route during unreasonable attacks of fear. She also had an entertaining spiel about video-dating.
She seemed more relaxed than usual halfway through the show, particularly during “When Tom Sings.”
“You can tell I’m not hurrying,” she said, “I’m enjoying myself, I’m not thinking about anything.”
The Linda has a knack for creating that kind of vibe between performer and audience, and Sunday night that made the difference from an all right Ferrick show to a really good one.
Born to sing
Opener Rose Cousins has a beautiful voice. A drop awkward at first between songs, during the song she fell instantly in, like someone born to sing her own music. She opened with “Good Enough,” a soft melody that she lay down in like a bed.
Subtly sensual, her originals served as perfect vehicles to showcase her voice. During “Heart in the Game,” she sang a sad and clever tune about Elvis Presley. Cousins makes eye-contact with her audience while singing, without any sense of distraction, a cool trait that makes you feel like she’s looking and singing at you.
Ferrick and Cousins joined each other during each of their sets. During Cousins’ set, the two put on more comedy than music. The audience, young and anxious with energy, lapped it up. It was good, clean fun before the intensity of Ferrick’s set.