Washington, DC July 14, 1994 review

by Jeffrey Burka

Well, I managed to see Milla at the 15 Minutes club tonight, or at least flashes of her through the crowd.

Just my luck. I get to the club *3 hours* before she goes on, and I still don't manage to be up close. Why? Because the only other time I've been to this club, to see Ingrid Karklins, the live music wI've been to this club, to see Ingrid Karklins, the live music was in a different room, and I didn't even know the one where Milla played even existed!

Worse, during my long, boring wait (I *hate* clubs), I spent some time sitting about 5 feet from Milla, and I didn't go say hi. Why? I wasn't sure it was her! The two main reasons for that were a) the complete and utter lack of an accent and b) she looked like she was drinking a beer (I'm now guessing it was ginger ale; I don't think a club would risk serving an underage performer...).

On the definite plus side, it only cost me the $1 cover charge (!) and I got a free cassingle for "Gentleman Who Fell."

The concert was great, lasting about an hour. The nyckelharpa is a truly disturbing instrument to look at. Unfortunately, I never had a clear enough view of the stage to see the performer working the keys, only the short bow.

The songs were basically as expected: The Alien Song (for those who listen), Gentleman Who Fell, Charlie, Ruby Lane (opening song), Bang Your Head ("My rock song." (and afterward) "Can I be a rock god now?"), Clock, You Did it All Before, and In A Glade (encore) (obviously it wasn't all in order of appearance on the album!). She also did 3 new songs. The only one I caught the name of was "Precious Time" which was written for her mother and is quite lovely. The other two songs were very good and I look forward to a studio release.

Milla sounded...pretty good. I remember noticing her voice sounding a bit gravelly now and again and thinking, "Oh god, I bet we have another smoker on our hands. Sure enough, right after the set ended, she lit up.

Milla's voice also cracked a bit here and there, especially near the top of her range, and she really flubbed a couple of the prettier melismas. Oh well. Toward the middle of her range, she was able to project quite a bit of power. Still, I don't think she'll ever be the live performer that, say, Sarah or Loreena are (I think both of their voices sound *much* better live, and I adore the recorded version!). On the other hand if she'll quit smoking and take some lessons to strengthen her voice, she could get *much* better. Hell, look what happened to Laurie Anderson (incidentally, does she still smoke? or at least was she smoking during the recording of _Strange Angels_?)

The live version of "Clock" was...mixed. I felt it was too fast and lost a little of its somberness. On the other hand, there were only a couple of repetitions of the "ooh ahs" at the end of the studio version, followed by a marvelous mini-jam solo sort of thing. Sounded incredible, and I really wish they'd gone with that sort of arrangement for the studio version.

It was clear that *very* few folks there had actually heard the entire album and appreciated it. There was lots of cheering after "Gentleman Who Fell," so that's clearly getting noticed on WHFS, the station which sponsored the show (the cassingles included a sticker saying, "if you like this, call WHFS and request it" or something like that). After the applause died down, Milla noted that they had struggled for quite some time to come up with a live arrangement of "Gentleman..." and had finally settled on one which worked well. I agree, it worked *great*. In fact, virtually all of the pared down arrangements were very good.

I will admit to being a bit put off by the inserted line at the very end of "You Did It All Before," which was the last song...after the last repetition of "Your pocket of schemes...," she sang "smoke home grown" twice to the melody. I always thought the "sense o'milla" publishing company name was cute because it's a good pun, but this was pushing it for me. Call me a prude.

Overall, Milla was great, and I'd love to see her again sometime.

...I'm going to guess that Milla's voice would not come anywhere near to being able to handle two shows in the same evening, and I'm amazed that they would have even scheduled such a thing.