It should be stated that this author did not intimately know the music of the artist playing at Chicago’s Beat Kitchen on the evening in question, Carina Round. But OurVinyl had the pleasure of interviewing Carina earlier this year, as well as reviewing her recent album “Tigermending”, which allowed for another writer’s fascination with her to in-turn pique’s this writer’s interest in this intriguing musician. So when she next came to Chicago it wasn’t worth turning down an offer to check out her music & live show for oneself.
Carina Round hails from the UK, but uniquely-so, this trait did not seem apparent when she was on the stage. What was apparent was her zealous attitude towards her live performance. As the heat on this mid-summers day was well over 90 degrees, even in the air conditioned venue it wasn’t cool enough (at least under the lights) to keep from some of her black eye make up from dripping down her face as she ardently interacted with the microphone. It wasn’t much, nothing awkward or anything, but as she starred out into the crowd and enjoyable sang her guts out, she almost appeared like some sort of athlete with eye-black on – ready to take on her musical opponents with gusto.
Carina Round’s Girl and the Ghost
That one of the most apparent qualities of her live show, gusto – enthusiasm, delight, whatever you want to call it – she loves playing live music and it was a palpable experience. Another quality was the variety of emotive, and musical, tones she employs in her brand of indie rock. In The Last Time the audience witnessed her starting off in a danceable, minimalist, groove. It slowly gained momentum and volume, as the song moved away from the regimented beat of the beginning and moved more toward the controlled chaos of heavier rock n roll. In You and Me Carina displayed her vocal prowess more poigently with a more simple and somber number, where her band created more of an emotional undertone over which Carina’s voice, the real focus of the number, sang of a strained relationship.
One of the best songs of the evening was Do You. It starts off slowly and gracefully, with Carina almost singing alone at first, and slowly it seemed each musician would step into the song when it was their time. But again the focus never moved much from Carina. It’s not only the voice, but just her presence. She was happy to notice and engage the audience, not above interacting with it in a simple manner, not below proudly showing off her best vocal abilities. There was one number, that started off with an electric beat (a tactic she used periodically throughout her songs), which one has to believe would be the “single” from the album, Girl and the Ghost. Again, she used a variety of different tempos, emotions, and level-of-vocal-force all within one song. Just as she did from song to song as well. At times her vocal expression was waxy and soft, and then it’s reserved-yet-angry, then it’s would be just pure force. The band also showed good prowess in this number, moving from almost a Nine Inch Nails like sound, to subdued indie rock, to belting pop rock. The crowd pleasurably soaked it all in, as everyone collectively forgot the heat and just enjoyed the moment.
It was very rewarding to walk into a show of an artist you don’t feel you know that well, one that you aren’t going to know the songs of (at least not at first), and that you walk away very happy from. Carina Round was just a ball of musical energy. But there is an adroitly passionate musician hiding underneath that vigor. The energy was over the top at times, but never came off as conceded. And when they brought the vibrancy down low and slowed things down, you gladly down-shifted with them. Every energy level was equally sincere and satisfying. Her spirit throughout seemed genuinely happy, and happy-go-lucky, and it was contagious. And, just as important as anything else, her band was more than capable of playing homage to her abilities. They clearly are a cohesive group.
When she comes to your town, even if you don’t know her music well, give it a chance you won’t regret it. If you have already seen her, then chances are this is just preaching to the choir.
By Sean Brna
OurVinyl | Editor
(p.s. Please excuse the pictures, there was no flash allowed and it was a difficult to get enough light for good shots)