with Paul Ostermayer on saxophone...

...and Special Guest Bob Metzger

The Band:
Perla Batalla, vocals
Julie Christensen, vocals
Paul Ostermayer on sax, tenor sax & flute
Karen Hammack on piano
Debra Dobkin on drums
David Batteau on guitar
Chris Jisi on bass
Bob Metzger on guitar

Set List:

1. Stranger Song - Paul
2. Dance Me to the End of Love Perla and Julie
3. Famous Blue Raincoat - Perla and Julie
4. Coming Back to You Perla
5. A Singer Must Die Julie
6. Seems So Long Ago, Nancy Perla
7. Bird on The Wire Perla
8. Ain't No Cure for Love Julie and Perla; Bob
9. Joan of Arc Julie and Perla
10. A Thousand Kisses Deep Julie
11. Came So Far for Beauty Perla
12. Suzanne Perla
13. Anthem Perla and Julie; Bob
14. If It Be Your Will Perla and Julie
15. So Long, Marianne Perla and Julie

Perla Batalla came across to me as being more gypsylike and free-spirited. Reminiscent of some of the recordings I've heard, Perla's exquisite voice keeps becoming more so! Deep, round, and full, her vocals both plummet and soar in equal measure. She is exciting for the listener. Performing onstage barefoot ~ this Piscean loved that! ~ "so brave and so free," she flowed and turned in circles as she moved to the music. The music just seemed to fill her soul, and she had no choice but to sway and twirl. She did it with an ease suggestive of her being outdoors, barefoot in the grass and sunshine, dancing and singing to music she's always deeply loved, and which has helped define her.
Her delicate manner, beautiful smile, and gentle humour lit up the stage. To 'paraphrase' Leonard, "'re the soft, flowing woman that love meant you to be."

She charmed us all with her anecdote on first meeting Leonard to audition, at Julie's behest. It was easy to believe that she and Julie have always had a special, spiritual connection. As Perla said, she meditated, she took a long bath, and she burned incense, as she tried to open the channels for receiving the 'message' as to how she should dress for her audition. When she entered the room, and saw that Leonard was dressed all in black, and she was dressed all in white, she knew that this meeting was going to go well. Her long history and close friendship with Leonard are lasting proof that it did. With great certainty and a tinge of humour, Perla assured us that Leonard is indeed in extremely good health and -- happy!

With "A Singer Must Die," Julie Christensen was more theatrical than I'd ever dreamed. Wearing form-fitting black sweater and bright red skirt, with more-than-high red heels, her blonde hair, light skin, and red lipstick created a larger-than-life visual of pure confidence, pure woman. WoW!!! Stage presence to the max, her body language bold, powerful, and commanding. She led with her hips, as she strutted the song, and twisted like sinew as she gave form to the words.

The song emerged as cabaret, Thirties, and her the torch singer. She ended it sauntering cavalierly off stage, feigning casual detachment, innocence, and sarcasm with its final lines. Pure dynamic performance! The song came to technicolour life with her rendering. She brought the house down!

I quickly appreciated the fact of her understated, Leonardesque containment, as she could so obviously, easily 'break free' and transform many a song, and make them her own. The consummate, inspired professional, she marked every song she sang with her compelling, absolute, and intense individuality.
Paul Ostermayer plays with the same beauty and richness that he always has, yet the exquisite timbre and nuances of his playing speak to his continued immersion in the world of music. Tall, elegant, and serious [as well as gorgeous], he controlled his corner of the stage, with his brilliance on the saxophone bringing Leonard's songs to poignant, bittersweet life. Prior to the Knitting Factory, I had only seen him on film. What a thrill to at last see and hear him in person.

Afterward, it was a testimony to the sweetness of his own life, when I saw him come through the balcony door and, in the semi-darkness, share a kiss with his pregnant wife, as she sat with their other child down the aisle from me. Not only is Paul an accomplished and great musician, but a fine man, to whom children and family remain important and integral to his life.

In 2005 Perla released a new album dedicated to the songs of Leonard Cohen.
Read more about Bird on the wire - The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Review © 2004 Elizabeth Bacon-Smith

Photos © 2004 Eija Arjatsalo (title photo, band photo),
Wybe Lageveen (photos of Perla and Julie),
Kieron Stout (photo of Bob Metzger),
Andrea Dolfino (photo of Paul Ostermayer)