concert reviews

Kate Voegele at the State Theatre, Falls Church, VA, Wednesday 1 October 2008

Kate Voegele's debut album, "Don't Look Away," is a collection of angsty teen-rock songs, delivered with a gutsy voice that seems to rise above all the dramas of youth. She brought that same level of passion to her show at the State Theatre on Wednesday night, but she never quite broke free from a shakiness that seemed linked to her age.

For one thing, Voegele's stage chatter came across like a high school student babbling on her hamburger-phone to her best girlfriend: She spewed one stream-of-consciousness sentence after another, littered with "like" and "you know." When she stopped talking and sang, her songs lacked the charm and nuance of their studio counterparts. Most of the subtlety in the recorded versions was pummeled out by her four-piece backing band, as Voegele struggled to keep up with the unnecessarily speedy tempos.

The show's best moments were when the band dropped out -- or at least cut back. Many of Voegele's songs featured a verse or a chorus sung nearly a cappella, which allowed her powerful voice to shine through, particularly on the Michelle Branch-like "Chicago." She flew solo on an acoustic cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and while the song is over-covered, the innocence in her soulful version gave it a new flair. And, in a surprising display of musical restraint, a full-band version of her ballad "Kindly Unspoken" showed tremendous growth from the piano-only version on her album. It gave a brief glimpse of what Voegele is capable of musically -- she just, y'know, needs to mature a little bit more.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post online, 3 October 2008
.: Selected discography: Don't Look Away (Kate Voegele, 2007, r: 2008); One Tree Hill, Season 5 DVD.