Diversions


Better late than never by uncdiversions
June 25, 2009, 10:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Alina Simone – Duke Gardens – June 24

My map reading was horribly inadequate. I arrived at Duke University’s campus without a lick of a clue as to how to find the Duke Gardens. This was distressing to me, as I was there to see piercingly-piped Brooklyn-via-Chapel Hill minstrel Alina Simone. Half My Kingdom, Simone’s collection of songs by Russian folksinger Yanka Dyagileva, was one of my favorite CDs from last year, and I was aching to hear her pronounce those incomprehensible but still immensely moving words in person.

After being pointed in the right direction by a Duke employee, I arrived at the gardens, and followed Simone’s siren call (in Russian) to the performance space. Located right beside a man-made pond with babbling waterfalls, it was a tranquil setting for Simone’s intimate set.

The first half of Simone’s set with her guitarist and drummer consisted of a selection of the Russian songs. Stripping down the album’s ornate arrangements, she allowed her voice to take over picking apart the syllables with powerful emotional emphasis before letting scathing electric guitar of Chris Barrey take over. It was powerful stuff that transported the listeners willing to pay attention far away from the comfortable oasis and into Dyagileva’s politically torn country.

The second part of the set consisted of Simone’s originals. At first, it was markedly worse. Starting with a new song from her forthcoming album, she sounded completely uncomfortable with her own words. In a strange way, she seemed to believe more in the sentiments of the hero she reveers then her own. But about a third into her own material, she turned it around. Starting into a slew of bitter songs about love and loss, Simone once again crooned with disarming passion, as she tore apart her feelings for the crowd.

Ending on a joke by playing a (actually very good) cover of Britney Spears’ “Gimme More,” Simone closed things out on a light note that suited the casual setting. In the end it was a good set that was more than worth the trip to Duke, even if it did involve getting hopelessly lost.

Editor’s Note: Simone’ s performance was part of a summer long concert series in the garden. Every Wednesday a different act performs. Next week, the Dexter Romweber Duo will take the stage. For more information check the event’s Web site.

As a side note, I also misplaced the memory card for my camera and hence didn’t have it for Simone’s performance. But once I find a link to some picture’s I’ll update the post with that.

– By Diversions Editor Jordan Lawrence

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