For someone who writes such sad music, Alison Sudol certainly puts on a fun show. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter and pianist, who performs under the name A Fine Frenzy, wowed fans at The Paradise with an emotional yet lighthearted performance during her November 2 show. The show proved Sudol may be one of the few artists who actually sounds better live rather than recorded.
The first opening act was Between the Oak and Ash, a folk-indie duo from New York. Next up was Landon Pigg, most recognized for his role in “Whip It” as Ellen Page’s love interest, and for his song “Falling In Love at a Coffee Shop,” which is featured in an AT&T commercial. Both acts were enjoyable and well-received by the audience.
But at 10 p.m., the real performance began. “Hello Boston!” Sudol called out excitedly from the stage. She went on to lament how long it had been since A Fine Frenzy had last visited.
Indeed, the last time the band was in town was back in March 2008. Quite a few things have changed since then. For starters, the band released their second full-length album, “Bomb in a Birdcage” back in September. The CD introduced the new, more upbeat version of Sudol (although never fear, there are still plenty of melancholy songs too). There were some changes to her live performance as well. Two new band members have been added. On the last tour, Sudol stayed seated at a piano for the majority of the set. But this time, she switched to a keyboard, allowing her to move around more and show off her dance moves.
One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Sudol’s genuine gratitude towards her fans. No matter how emotional the lyrics, and now matter how torn up she appeared while singing, she’d break into an adorable giddy grin during the last few strains of each song. As the audience roared with cheers and applause after each number, she’d laugh and thank everyone in an awed voice, as if she couldn’t believe so many people liked her music. At the end of her set, she spent a few minutes elaborating on how much each and every fan meant to her and the rest of the band. Sudol is so sincere and appreciative; it makes it extra satisfying to see her succeed.
As if being sweet and cute weren’t enough, Sudol also has one of the most powerful singing voices of her generation. She sounds great on CD, but if that’s all you’ve heard, be prepared to be blown away. At live shows, she really lets loose. It’s enough to give fans goose bumps. One minute, she’ll be singing so soft it’s almost a whisper, and next she’ll be belting out the words. Think Fiona Apple, but less crazy. (No offense Fiona, we still love you).
The set included tracks from both “Bomb in a Birdcage” and A Fine Frenzy’s debut album, “One Cell In The Sea.” They also played a few b-sides: “Silent War,” “Coming Around” and “From Whence You Came.”
Ironically, one of the highlights of the show was when A Fine Frenzy played someone else’s song. “There are brunettes. There are girls with lovely raven hair,” Sudol began to introduce the track in a dreamy voice. “There are people with purple hair, and blue hair, and orange hair. There are people with red hair,” she said, lifting her own bright red locks. “But I have to say, I really, really, really love a little bit of Blondie.”
And with that, she launched into a rambunctious cover of “Heart of Glass” by, uh, Blondie (if you really need it spelled out for you). This is where Sudol really hit her stride. She skipped around the stage, shaking her hips and clapping her hands. She’d let out periodic cries of “woo!” before rocking out more. As the audience sang along, the band members exchanged grins. They may have played this cover on every date of the tour so far, but it was clear they were still having a blast up on stage.
Every song played during A Fine Frenzy’s set was absolutely phenomenal. All the back-up band members are extremely talented, and Sudol has pipes rivaled by few others. But the most refreshing aspect was simply how much Sudol seemed to be enjoying herself. Sure, she writes gorgeous songs about heartbreak, but it’s nice to see she can still have a good time.
Here’s hoping A Fine Frenzy returns to Boston sooner than last time.