The Shifting Styles of Christina Courtin

There must have been something in the air last night because Christina Courtin’s curt 30 minute set at Rockwood Music Hall was not at all  typical of her style.  A staple of the live music scene in New York for almost a decade, her sound is multidimensional to the point of unpredictablility. 

Just compare this, soft and sweet:

to this, loud and slightly contentious:

The show at Rockwood was all of the latter and none of the former, hinting at a shift in her stylistic preference.  Even beyond the musical composition, there was something different about her energy in the room and the paucity of an audience was proof that things have changed.   There seems to be a rotating roster of men in her band, and although the skills of these four were undeniable, there was a coherency lacking on stage.  It was like they were characters on the video game, Rock Band, each lost in their own world, their own fantasy of rock stardom.  The whole vibe was akin to 70s rock, with the relentless drumbeats and the driving electric guitar lines, even down to the long wavy hair.   Her notoriously hoarse and scratchy voice flipped up into squeals or screams and was all together less melodical, more abrupt.   Her music’s haunting simplicity was traded in for bold electric lines and rhythms, leaving very little room for the subtleties of her voice.

She sang with her eyes closed or her gaze down, as she is apt to do, contentedly in her own world.  During a guitar solo, she was like a young girl at a school dance, bopping along slightly and smiling to herself in the corner, lost in the droning sounds.   That sweet and eccentric naivete that audiences have come to love was alive in her performance, but her charm faded between each song.  It was as if she was just trying to get it all over with, without any attempt to relate to the audience.  She had a jaded quality; she seemed uninvested, maybe even irritated.  As one song was starting, she held the microphone up to her mouth and cleared her throat.  This could easily have been a musical choice, but then she said tersely, ‘I have something caught in my throat’, before repeating the action.  Suddenly it seemed like a statement, a comment on the lack of attention from the audience, a passive aggressive command in a way.

The problem is this was not her audience, or maybe this was just not the Christina Courtin that typically holds an audience in rapt attention.

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