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Amanda Mabro - Studio Juste Pour Rire - Mar. 7

Posted by Sisi / March 8, 2008

When I signed up to cover hometowners Amanda Mabro and the Cabaret Band, I was under the impression that I was seeing a jazz act. The reality turned out to be a bit more complicated than that. On her official website, Mabro is billed as having "a sound that fuses the smooth and sultry vocal stylings of jazz legends, the raw energy of indie-rock and blues, and the mysterious theatrical flare of German and French Cabaret." By now, buzzwords like "sultry," "vocal stylings," "raw," and "theatrical" tend to put me on high alert. I have trouble buying into "jazzy" acts, because half the time it seems like an excuse to do whatever you want under the protective banner of a respected genre.


Mabro put on a good show for the CD launch of her EP Red Rows, but that's the whole problem. It was "good" in the same way that people are "good" when you ask them how they're doing. She has a voice that lends itself well to her songs, but it's very generic; it feels as though once you've heard one of these jazzy girls, you've heard them all. Like the background music of a swank Manhattan cocktail party in Sex and the City, or the song that plays during a montage of a guy falling in love with a quirky girl in an indie flick: predictable.


I admired her spirit as she played the set, but her performance was on the contrived side. Decked out in couture and Converses, Mabro was picture perfect. But she'd say "Thanks so much, you guys!" after nearly every song and her sweetness bordered on the saccharine at times. Instead of getting the sense that she was having fun, I felt like she was trying to cover up her nervosity with overblown vocals.

Still, the girl has a lot of potential. Kudos to Mabro for trying to inject a bit of audience participation into the show, which is a ballsy move when you're not very well known. At one point, three girls with different signs came on stage; the idea was to pick a sign and sing the lyrics on it, creating this big glorious mess of people singing different choruses. Mabro did an interesting cover of The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine," which she also encouraged everyone to sing along with. (Although it drove my friend crazy trying to do it because of the weird arrangement.)

One last note about the opener, Montrealer Mike O'Brien. In my mind, he stole the show with an understated folk style that was reminiscent of Tom Waits (of whom he happens to be a huge fan). He's more practiced than sweet young thing Amanda Mabro, with an easy gift for banter that serves him well between songs. Despite the problems, I came away from the show with a steady confidence in Montreal's music scene.



Gabby / March 9, 2008 at 06:37 pm
I saw Mike O'Brien with Dave Martel, and loved him! Nice review, Sis!
max / March 9, 2008 at 09:32 pm
Did Amanda kill your cat or something? A lot of this review doesn't even make sense if you were at the show or know her music. I thought this show was absolutely mind-blowing.

It makes you wonder what you would say about a show that didn't give you a 'steady confidence in the Montreal Music Scene.'
Sisi / March 9, 2008 at 09:40 pm
Hey Max, I'm sorry the review rubbed you the wrong way but we all have different opinions. Amanda's kind of music isn't really my cup o' tea, so there are going to be limitations to how much I can enjoy the show. It just didn't touch me. If you thought it "absolutely mind-blowing," then that's great -- forget about the critics.

Taranak / March 16, 2008 at 06:38 pm
The show was great! I was there and I loved every minute of it!! That evening much to my surprise one of my very favourite of the Beatles’ songs was heard, it was a fascinating rendition of "Yellow Submarine" which blew my friend and I into wonder as the audience was persuaded to sing along as the night’s ambience lingered on into an enjoyable mood!

We were only three in the group, but eventually I’m sure the next time the band is about to get many more of my friends attention and be present to get the same enthuse that rubbed on to my friends and I that night.

More on my blog!

Anne-Marie / March 16, 2008 at 07:45 pm
I thought the show was awesome. I think Amanda Mabro is an original with crazy pipes and her band is amazing. She writes songs from the gut and is unabashedly herself. Her melodies aren't obvious and her songs are well written.

I'm not sure why you'd find it weird that an artist would thank an audience that's been giving her support for so many years. Would you rather she sling poo at you and then say she was being ironic?

I saw her play years ago when she was just starting out and it's really cool to see an artist's progression. Also, I'm not sure why your friend would be annoyed by the weird arrangement of a beatles cover - if you wanted to hear it the original way, throw on the cd!
Stacey447 / March 17, 2008 at 03:04 pm

Good criticism generally comes with some degree of humility and respect for the possibility of other equally valid points of view

To criticized the "Singer" for being so friendly” generally means something different, less positive and very immature from writer.
To objectively measure how good and bad anyone is would require not only that the universe is objective, but that critics like you are more open minded and objective towards the achievement of artist.

If you don’t know what the Singer is trying to achieve, how can you possibly offer critics that are of any value?

Personally. I saw the show and have seen Amanda Mabro & the Cabaret Band a number ot times, I think she is Great, she is awesome, she is virbrant and will go very far,
Hey Amanda you must know..... Bad Critics is Good Critics.
Sisi / March 17, 2008 at 07:23 pm
Thank you all for your comments. They've evolved into a commentary on music criticism itself, which I'm finding very constructive. Stacey, I'm not sure I completely understood some parts of what you wrote, but your comment really made me think about ways in which I can improve. If I came off as having a lack of humility, I'm sorry. I don't have anything against Amanda, so I wasn't trying to attack her person. It's cool to see that she has so many supporters and that this review has caused some of you to react.
J. / April 30, 2008 at 01:07 pm
No - you're right. It's generic... and just hokey, contrived, and self-indulgent enough to make me feel a weirded-out. But not in a good way.

She can sing, but if you're not into the shtick - so what?

And if you're into that shtick, heaven help you.
Anne-Marie / May 17, 2008 at 09:54 am
What shtick? How cynical and bitter are you that in order to feel comfortable with someone showing enthusiasm you have to use words like "hokey, contrived, and self-indulgent"? You sound like and an angry scenster...maybe you should get over yourself.
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