San Diego, CA July 30, 1994 review

by Jeffrey Hanson

Neal and I went to see Milla last Saturday night. She played at a small theater here in San Diego. A week after tickets went on sale, we finally picked ours up--and ended up with front row center. I guess she isn't too popular here--but the theater was actually close to being a sell-out.

All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised. After reading all the interviews, seeing the Bikini pictures, etc., I expected to like the music, but not really like her. But despite her over-dramatic expressions, and her little girlie ballerina antics, she was surprisingly likeable. She wore an embarassingly tight t-shirt with no bra, her hair pulled back with barettes, and a long black skirt with embroidered flowers and Keds black canvas tennis shoes. The girl definitely needs to gain some weight! She is almost anorexic-- having absolutely no hips.

When she first came out on stage, she had quite a struggle with the mircrophone, which was set up about a foot too high, and was almost impossible to adjust. It kind of ruined her entrance, as she admitted herself, but we got to see a more natural side of her than her artificial poses and assumed personas that seemd to be more prevalent through out the rest of the show.

One of her most likeable features, as recently commented on in one of the interviews someone posted, is her brash outbursts of laughter. In these moments, it seemed we were once again dealing with the "real Milla". She often reminded me of a nervous junior high school student, which contrasted sharply with her mature singing and over-dramatic facial expressions she uses when singing.

The high point of the show though was definitely her band. I'm not sure how she hooked up with them, but they were definitely a talented bunch. Two of the band members are from Sweden, and were discovered playing on a street corner in Paris. The one who played the infamous key fiddle/nykelharpa was absolutely the most gorgeous guy I've seen in a long time. Definitely much better looking than Milla! I was surprised she let herself be upstaged by him, but then she definitely seems to be downplaying her own looks.

The ethnic flavor of the music often made you forget you were at a "rock" concert. The clumsy twirling of Milla on stage and the accordian-sounding fiddle evoked pictures of drunken gypsies. Her voice was quite captivating, but not particularly precise. She had trouble sustaining almost all the high notes, but her lower range was quite powerful. Yet this is also what gives her her unique style.

Many of the songs I found to be much more likeable than on the album, particularly The Alien Song and Bang Your Head. The Gentleman Who Fell was surprisingly flat. She played several new songs--all of which sounded great at the time, but weren't very memorable.

Local musicians Jeffrey Jones Bloom and Gregory Page (with special guests The Rugburns) opened the show to a very receptive audience. Though I have a feeling that most people in the audience were more familiar with their music than with Millas.

All in all, the show was quite entertaining, and Milla shows a lot of promise. It will be interesting to see how her career progresses. Much of her unique sound can be credited to the musicians she plays with, and it is unclear how much of that vision was her own, and how much was her producers. I guess we'll see on the next album.

Anyway, definitely check her out this time around--tickets are cheap and easy to come by. They might not be for long.

by Joel Siegfried

I got to the theater around 5:30 pm. It was closed tight like a drum. I kept on taking hits on my mango iced tea, while strolling around the block. The theater was in a warehouse district, close to the bay. Finally, in an alley next to the theater I saw these two women. One was black, tall, and very beautiful; the other had her hair tied back in a bun, wore no makeup, and weighed maybe 90 pounds. She looked very ordinary, but somehow familiar. They were both cursing up a storm. I thought for a moment they were hookers. But I walked over to the skinny one and asked, "Do you have any idea when the box office will open?". "Haven't a clue," she answered. Haven't a clue, I repeated and wandered away. Still, she did look familiar. Where had I seen her?

Around 6-ish, three guys showed up in the box office, looking very hip. I walked over and asked, "Have they done the sound checks yet?" "They're doing that right now," was his response. So I asked if I could go inside and listen. He seemed to hesitate, and I dropped my trusty SB Talent Associates business card on the counter. "Oh, you have credentials", he remarked. "Ok, go through the gate and into the alley, past the equipment trucks; you can stand in the doorway, but don't go inside, or I'll get into trouble." So I wandered back. The skinny 90-pounder was smoking a cigarette in the alley, outside the stage door. She gave me a big smile, which I returned. How strange, she seemed so familiar. Where the devil had I seen her? The keyboard and guitars were cranking up. Suddenly, she threw away the cigarette and brushed past me as she went inside. Then I heard this incredible voice, full of power and control, flowing like a torrent into the sound system. I just had to see who was producing this incredible sound. So I stepped inside, right up to the edge of the stage. And I realized that Milla, who was dressed in black and white Kedds, blue jeans, and a red t-shirt with gold lettering that said "Gay Love is Beautiful", and who weighed about 90 pounds at most, was both the person who "hadn't a clue" when the box office would open, and the source of that wonderful sound! So I had missed a chance to chat with her, not once but twice! I couldn't believe it. I listened for about half an hour, then walked over to where my car was parked a block away, fetched the half-dozen roses and her Divine Comedy CD, and walked back to the stage entrance, forgetting that I might be missing the tickets at the box office out front. She went through about 6 numbers, pausing to adjust the levels and talking with the musicians.

After about an hour backstage, I made the mistake of asking someone standing there about ticket availability. So I got kicked out, but politely. They were almost done anyway. I stood by the box office chatting with a group of people about Tori Amos. They all adored her, but nobody had any tickets to see her, either in San Diego or elsewhere. Then Milla walked around to the front of the theater, and people gathered around her. Finally, I was talking to her. I handed her the roses (two had died and been unceremoniously tossed), and said that I hoped her career was doing better than these flowers! She laughed and thanked me. She seemed touched. Then I apologized for not recognizing her earlier, and asked if she'd sign the inside of her album with something funny, or anything you'd like, I added. So she wrote, "To: Joel HA HA! LOVE, Milla" and drew a happy face.

The concert was almost an after-thought. It started at 8 pm with Gregory Page, a local song-writer, guitarist, vocalist. I counted 50 people in the 250-seat Hahn Cosmopolitan Theater. He was good. Funny, satiric, powerful voice. He had just signed a recording contract. He was followed by two other guys who were in a band that Gregory played with; they clowned around. They finished at 8:45, and for another 45 minutes we waited while the theater filled up, probably to over 200 people. Then the 4 band members who accompanies Milla strolled out, and started to place a Blue Goat, a Swedish melody. One of the instruments was a keyed-violin, something I had not seen played before. There were also 2 guitars and a keyboard. Without introduction, Milla wandered as if in a dream onto the stage, moving gracefully, and started to sing Ruby Lane. She had changed to a wide black skirt with embroidered Daisies, and Mumms in yellow and orange and white down the front in a cascading pattern, a pink cut-off pullover which stopped above her naval, and the same black and white Kedds I had seen before. Her hair was loose and long, and I noticed that she wasn't wearing any bra. She had put on lipstick, a little masscara, a diamond choker cross, a diamond bracelet, a Rolex watch, and that was it. I was in the third row center. Nobody seemed to breath. There was no sound from the audience. When she finished, there was wild applause. She giggled, looked embarrassed, joked about the microphone, and went into Charlie, followed by Gentleman Who Fell. She was wonderful. It was a great concert! I really felt thrilled to be there. An hour passed like it was minutes. She left the stage, came back for a single encore in which she did a Russian Folk ballad in Russian called In a Glade. It is my favorite song from her album. I knew somehow that she would save it as an encore. Then it was over.

I walked over to Cybil's Down Under Club on the next block, waited for my pizza to arrive which I had ordered before the concert, but didn't have tarrive which I had ordered before the concert, but didn't have time to wait for, watched the bouncers frisk the patrons in line before they entered, mostly black men and white women, and sipped my second and third Merlot waiting for the pizza.

It was a great night. My friend Karen, who I had invited, was in San Francisco, and I thought that she had missed a great performance.

Anyway, I wanted to share it with you. It was great preparation for seeing Tori; my pulse only shot up to 140 when I was talking with Milla, and mostly I kept my cool. So I should do OK when Tori comes to town.