Michelle Willson Brought A Little Bit Of Evil (Gal) To Lowell
It has been a long time, other than on a new year’s eve, since I have stayed out until almost 2 a.m. to hear music. I did just that over the weekend and heard the wonderful Michelle ‘Evil Gal’ Willson perform with some of The Usual Suspects at the Back Page in Lowell.
What a high energy show Willson delivered! I have seen her perform a number of times and this show was one of the best.
I first heard Willson sing many years ago (at least twenty) in one of the free summer concerts sponsored by the City of Boston and was immediately impressed with her sultry voice and delivery. I did not see her again until a couple of years ago when she recorded a live album at Scullers Jazz Club and was delighted to see that she has only gotten better with time.
Willson is sassy and sexy in the way she sings jazz and blues standards made popular by such great singers as Etta James, Ruth Brown, Abbie Lincoln, and even Ray Charles. George and Ira Gershwin made an appearance as well in the form of the classic ‘Summertime’.
She knows how to work a room, encouraging people to dance and complimenting them during the songs. The dance floor at this venue is quite small, but a number of couples made good use of it throughout the three sets that night.
Willson was backed by Mike Mele on guitar, Sven Larson on bass (both electric and acoustic), and Seth Pappas on drums. Mele and Larson perform regularly with Willson, but this was my first time seeing Pappas with her. They are a cohesive ensemble, able to improvise or switch courses with a nearly imperceptible nod of Willson’s head.
In addition, during the third set we were treated to the addition of guitarist Evan Goodrow to the band. He and Willson have been friends for at least ten years but this was the first time he played with her. The way Goodrow and Mele conversed with each other through their guitars was a joy to behold. I am a lucky woman to have been in the audience for this special show.
Each musician had the opportunity to solo a number of times throughout the evening, something that was much appreciated by the audience. They are all excellent players.
One of the many things I love about Willson is watching her when she is not on stage; she appears to be in a state of rapture as she listens to her band play. She closes her eyes, grinning or laughing the entire time. I almost expected to see tears of joy fall from her closed eyes… Her uninhibited exuberance is a wonderful sight to behold!
Willson is knowledgeable about the history of American jazz and blues, and imparts that to her audience at both her live performances and her morning radio show on WICN radio 90.5 on the FM dial.
Willson tends to play fairly small venues and restaurants, but I hope that changes soon because she has a voice that deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. She has been a solid performer for many years in the Boston area, and I hope she will continue for years to come.
Posted on August 27, 2015, in concert photos, concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged Back Page Lowell, blues singer, boston, concert photos, concert review, Evan Goodrow, Evil Gal, jazz singer, Michelle Willson, Mike Mele, music, Seth Pappas, Sven Larson. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.