12/5/14 – Club Passim

Waitresses squeezed in between closely packed tables to deliver beers and glasses of wine, their presence almost an interruption. The dim lighting contributed to the intimate atmosphere; Club Passim was the perfect place to host singer-songwriter Heather Maloney. She stood comfortably on the stage in a tight black skirt, a green quarter-sleeved shirt, and patterned tights—clothes both bohemian and city chic. Smiling, Heather cocked her head to the side and said, “Awww, Boston. Thanks for selling my show out, beautiful.” It didn’t take long for the audience to fall in love with her.

She started out her set with “Flutter,” which may have seemed too happy-go-lucky if she didn’t drop her voice down low with well placed “Yeah’s,” showing off a wide vocal range. Holding her guitar like a Spanish guitar player, she brought the neck up high and inclined her head towards the body to tap out a rhythm. Her melodies were curious—there’s no better word—and unique in that they managed to be catchy yet surprising; I’m still humming the melody to “Oh Hope, My Tired Friend,” but she often refused to give us the satisfaction of a resolved chord.

Mid-set, Heather joked with the audience about getting old, complaining that she had just turned 29, which was practically 30. The audience, the majority of whom were at least 50 years old, laughed it off.

“Try turning 60!” one man yelled.

“You’re right, I’ve probably thought about this too much,” she answered. “I don’t know if any of you have guessed that I’m the daughter of a psychotherapist yet.”

While I appreciated her humor, it sometimes undermined the impact of a song like “Hey Serena,” which was inspired by “the disturbingly large number” of girls from her hometown who had become strippers. Some songs just need time to settle; she would have done better to pepper the set with jokes. About halfway through the set, however, her words became fewer and she flowed seamlessly from one song to the next.

One of Heather’s most intriguing qualities as a performer was that it was hard to catch where she took her breaths. She glided from note to note in her melodies without catching, much like an expert string player who doesn’t let you hear her bow change. Instead, the rhythm of her guitar gave punctuation to the songs.

On last song “No Shortcuts,” she changed course completely and sang a cappella, accompanied only by claps and stomping from the audience. Bringing Christina-Aguilera power and attitude to her own vocal melodies, Heather hauled the audience back up and left us on a high note.

Despite the crowd’s pleas for a second encore, the set ended all too soon; the 7 p.m. show was finished by 8:30. For those looking for more Heather, however, we won’t have to wait much longer. This week, the Northampton-born singer is finishing up her new self-titled album in Nashville, set to be released in the new year.

Unconventional Earworms: Heather Maloney
Pros
  • Entrancing voice
  • Seamless transitions
  • Confidence with the crowd
Cons
  • Too much stage banter
  • Short set
8Overall Score

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