To give you an idea how intimate a setting the Fairfield Theatre Company’s Stage One is – think mini-Long Wharf or Hartford Stage – during the intro to the third song in the Bird and the Bee’s set Tuesday night, an audience member got up from one of the seats at the left side of the stage, perhaps to go to the bar, and stumbled over a chair falling on the floor, causing quite a commotion. The audience ooo-ed.
Imara George stopped singing, although her partner keyboard player Greg Kurstin continued vamping on the chords of the intro, and asked, “Are you all right?” Then when she’d seen he recovered, she laughed and the audience broke into laughter as well. She said, “I didn’t mean to laugh but after he said he was all right, I realized it was kind of funny. Don’t worry I do shit like that all the time.” More laughter. Then she repeated the opening line of Ray Gun from their latest release Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future and was fully immersed in their set, a wonderful mix of pop/rock melodies ladened with jazz sensibilities and George’s sense of humor.
Going to a Bird and the Bee concert is a little like intruding on a George slumber party. She and her three backup singers come out in brightly colored mini-baby dolls and tights with matching ballet slippers. One of her singers plays guitar and occasional bass and one picks up a keyboard – Edgar Winter style – on some tunes. But most of the music is coming from Kurstin with his array of electric pianos, synthsizer and computerized drums. George also plays bass on about half the tunes.
The sound from essentially two or three pieces is amazing, overpowering at times, as the group runs through its infectious melodies, sunny harmonies and elaborate keyboard work. But it’s all focused on George’s voice, which is light and airy but when needed powerful and soulful. And the stage presence is definitely upbeat and fun as George and her singers dance, do semi-unison moves and claps and banter in between songs.
The audience of about 200 loved the set, roaring for an encore, although George noted that it was a bit sedate compared with some of the dance clubs they’ve played. She admonished with a wicked smile after applause for one of the tunes, “OK, you can be quiet now. Shut up.” She did get a little audience participation with a sing-a-long in the chorus of Fucking Boyfriend, from their self-titled first album, and two covers she sang, Hall & Oates’ I Can’t Go For That and the Bee Gees’ How Deep Is Your Love, the encore.
The set included the exquisite Again And Again from the first album, but most of it came from the new album: the pop-perfect My Love, Diamond Dave, a jazzy tribute to the slick David Lee Roth, the dance single Love Letter To Japan, Birthday and the show-stopping set ender Polite Dance Song.
The Bird and the Bee are cruising up and down the East Coast, with two stops coming up in New York, including Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall Saturday. Like many West Coast performers George observed how nice it is in the East but how cold it is, coming from temps in the 70s in southern California. But she said, “We have our own problems in L.A. Fires, earthquakes and plastic surgery. Sometimes you don’t know if that person is 20 or 80.”
Here is an example of the duo’s quirky humor in a video of Polite Dance Song.