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30 March 2004

First American Tour
Silverlake, CA, Spaceland

Motel 74
Into My Blood
Let It Fall

Review by Paul Rogers

Despite Carina Round’s early opening slot, there’s a breathable buzz and an unusually healthy crowd for the Brit chanteuse. The PR folks have done their work, and apparently more of this audience have heard about her lauded sophomore album, The Disconnection, than have actually heard it. But this is a rare case of believe-the-hype — in the absence of the far-from-prolific Fiona Apple, Round’s sultry, subtly dangerous delivery satisfies public pangs.

Backed by a sparse but effective three-piece band, Round is a somewhat ungainly yet commanding presence, a high-street Björk who channels Patti Smith, PJ Harvey and Tom Waits through her seductive phone-sex inflections. Like The Disconnection, tonight’s set starts with the stark “Shoot,” all bleak snares and gently obsessive vocal, flecked with bass runs and vibratoed guitar. Even without the recorded version’s keys, the song’s after-hours atmospherics and lurking menace are not only intact but accented by Round’s more dynamic live delivery. “Motel 74” apes Apple, Round visiting a male register amid a road-movie soundtrack, while the vulnerable icicle crescendos of “Into My Blood” leave lingering stains.

However, while Round and her band faithfully deliver The Disconnection and then some, they plateau early, the audience chitchat increasingly audible as the momentum flags. These see-and-be-seen shows are like that — as much about occasion as music, with many in the crowd clearly unfamiliar with Round’s authentic expressions. During the final number, “Let It Fall,” her seemingly preconceived convulsions betray self-consciousness — understandable given the weight of expectation — and there’s little clamor for an encore. Tonight wasn’t traffic-stopping, but Carina Round has the tunes, the timbre and the persona to be an enduring presence.

Originally online at LA Weekly