One woman can make my heart beat and stomach jump just by existing, and that woman is Chantal Claret. The last time I saw her perform, she was still the frontwoman of now defunct band Morningwood, opening for Mindless Self Indulgence in 2012. Since then, she's released The Pleasure Seeker EP, and a full-length album The One, The Only. Her headlining performances as a solo artist have been limited to Los Angeles until this week, when she made her New York debut at the Studio at Webster Hall.
I keep formulating a way to describe the show, thinking I'll pull the classic "but the highlight of the night was..." but every time I think I've whittled the voluptuous, full figured show into a Vogue model, I throw down the chisel and send myself back to sketch again, because every moment hid a highlight.
Chantal commands a room with her theatrics and powerful voice, which culminate in a performance and sound that combines the best elements of the late Morningwood aesthetic, 60's girl groups, jazz, and just a dash of punk rock. A friend described it best- she didn't dance to the music, the music danced to her. In such an intimate setting (and by intimate I mean church-style basement with notoriously spotty acoustics) there's no room for error, and not a single one worked its way out of the cracks. Chantal's voice was powerful, her skits were on point, and her command of the room never wavered. She's not afraid to get weird, and her risks are rewarding for everyone involved.
Several new songs were on the set list, including one that has yet to debut in Claret's home of Los Angeles. She instructed us not to tell California that piece of information, but I'm pretty sure about two people read this blog, so the likelihood of this reaching the west coast is slim.
Claret also covered Andre Williams' "Jailbait," and her powerful voice was best on show here, where she managed to make spoken word more brassy and bold than ever thought possible.
The entire selection of music was superb, but favorites included my national anthem "Real Girls," call and response "Davy Crockett," and "Pleasure Seeker," for which she had the entire audience seated on the floor as she serenaded her father, a sweet touch to a powerful night.