Like a breath of fresh air, Marissa Mulder’s infectiously happy “Chelsea Morning” (Joni Mitchell) wafts from audience to stage. Just over thirty, the vocalist is still able to seem dewy-eyed as effectively as she is weary and wounded…We’ll talk in present– tenses… she sings with her own iconoclastic phrasing. Numbers in this show are on her third CD, Two Tickets Left, the first in a studio. Collaboration with Nate Buccieri is a perfect match. Accompaniment is textural and spare, back-up vocals pleasing. Production is as pristine as it gets.
“My goal over the years is to sing more contemporary music,” she tells us. “I trust my gut. If something moves me…” I, for one, am frequently introduced to material by Mulder. Songs I’ve inferred are obscure or unlyrical land conversationally, with conviction and feeling. “Hand in My Pocket” (Alanis Morissette/Glen Ballard) is a poetic character description: I’m free but I’m focused, I’m green but I’m wise/I’m hard but I’m friendly, baby/I’m sad but I’m laughing, I’m brave but I’m chicken shit/I’m sick but I’m pretty baby…How many other singers could deliver that with naturalness?
Pete Mills’ “It’s Amazing the Things That Float” is, at first listen, about a man losing everything in a flood: It’s surprising the things I find myself missing…Maybe the things that disappeared/Are the ones I wanted to sink…Superb lyric. Mulder sings as if she feels freedom having to start anew. There’s a wound, but also humor. How else does one cope? Buccieri plays in overlapping waves. “That went over very well, “ he quips. “Let’s do it again.”
“Old Fashioned Hat” (Anais Mitchell) is a duet during which the two artists are so connected you can practically see waves pass between them. Both are immensely expressive. Voices blend appealingly. From her terrific Tom Waits’ show comes “Martha,” written by a young Waits, sung by a young Mulder, both with innate empathy towards a man in his eighties telephoning his first love. The tender message emerges haltingly. Mulder imbues it with courage.
“Chasing the Sun” (Sara Bareilles/Jack Antonoff) is dedicated to the memory of a girl the singer knew, a “lifeforce” who was teaching kids in Thailand when killed by a motorcycle. Her voice trembles telling the story. “Let’s remember not to take everything so seriously and just say yes to people we love…” Arms wide, brows raised …so fill up your lungs and just run…she declaims…All we can do is try – there are tears in her eyes…
Stephen Sondheim’s “I Remember” is dedicated to a grandfather of whom she speaks with charm and love as “the greatest man I ever knew.” Memories are shared. Buccieri virtually paints a (melodic) background. The performer ends with hands in fists.
Mulder also shines lights on the iconic. Interpretation of Bernie Taupin/Elton John’s “Yellow Brick Road” helps us hear it as never before. Without volume and over production, supported by an excellent arrangement, the song has gravitas this performer makes personal. Octaves rise and slide down as if aided by neat grease. The artist has a particular facility for this, something I suspect she shares with yodelers, though hers is more attractive and controlled. Frisson is created.
We hear it again with Matt Alber’s “End of the World” whose chorus takes flight: I don’t wanna fall, I don’t wanna fly/ I don’t wanna be dangled over /The edge of a dying romance…and drifts down like a parachute.
Two Tickets Left is a splendid show, a splendid CD. Marissa Mulder has never sounded better. Gestures are few and low key. The artist overflows with warmth and sincerity.
Photos by David Rosen
Two Tickets Left- CD Release Party
Nate Buccieri- MD/Piano/Back-Up Vocals
October 3, 2018
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street