Kristen Toedtman, backed by a solid, evenly tempered and talented band, ran through a set of mostly original works at the Hotel Cafe. The group was totally revved up and raring to go by their third number, a rendition of Nina Simone’s cover of the Randy Newman tune BALTIMORE. The band leaned heavily on a slightly invisible electric organ in their reggae tinged jolt to the system.
She certainly knows how to revitalize older works that fit her style, but where Toedtman really shines is in the active interpretation of her own material. Listening to live music played by talented folk makes it easy to be carried away into another world, but it is hands down the ‘acting’ of her stories that makes each Kristen Toedtman performance a winner. Each song is something special, usually a snapshot of someone in dire need of romantic resolution. These performances are well cut jewels crafted out of a raw stone, that Toedtman finesses into shiny, perfectly sparkling baubles for her audience.
Haunted and hurting was the theme inherent in most of her tunes, with the protagonist stuck on an old love, pining for a new one, or raking through the ashes of a burned out relationship. HEAL MY WOUNDS brings all of these themes together, admitting, “This is one pain I’ll endure ’cause I’m not all that sure that I want to be cured!” and wrapped itself up in a moving, giddy euphoria of major chords belying the powerful sorrow oozing out from beneath the surface.
Successfully pulling off a feat too often ignored in local live performance, Toedtman filled out the sound of her stories in two ways. First, a well orchestrated band that at times played as a unified force of sound; but more shocking and importantly, the guest appearance of six members of the LA Master Chorale. The swooning fullness of vocal power in the last two songs of the set, the aforementioned HEAL MY WOUNDS and HERE TO YOU (a simple, semi-holy, gospel tinged wish for reunion) was a welcome reminder of the moving power of the human voice, multiplied and harmonized.
This review is of the June 14, 2012 performance at The Hotel Cafe.