Morcheeba has recruited a fresh set of vocalist chops to frontline their trio, with Aussie Jody Sternberg. The starlet now joins Paul and Ross Godrey in place of Daisy Martey (former member of Noonday Underground), vocalist of The Antidote and previous replacement of Skye Edwards. With the fresh chapter of a new lead singer, record release and label contract (Echo/World’s Fair Records), Morcheeba invoked a wave of trip hop psychedelia throughout last week’s show at the Nokia Theatre in New York.
As a loose cluster camped upfront, a meek figure – dressed in a velvet maroon countess ensemble, complete with Irish-green, shoulder-length wig and soft pink creature ear muffs – named Gabby La La emerged to greet the house with caricature folk-songs on ukelele, an overbearing sitar, a beautifully ornate butterfly-shaped electric, and a white accordion. After receiving warm applause for her pet and pirate-inspired lyrics (“Pirates…ARGH”), the opening act stepped aside for Morcheeba, who was a bit delayed because of technical difficulties.
And they were on. By this time, all three sub-levels of Nokia’s hall and dual side balconies were flooded with faithful onlookers as Morcheeba emerged with Sternberg looking radiant. With a cherry grin and hair pulled back in a braid, Sternberg was dressed comfortably in a sparkling floral cross-heart zen-piece top that extended past the knee of her trousers. Despite the distraction of hustling for that decent shot and “no-flash” regulation, Sternberg’s burst of sax immediately silenced my wild moment into a moonlight remedy.
Two songs in came “Col”, which boasted a blues-toned rapture contrast to the original’s atmospheric downtempo quality – that included classical instrumentation (and of course Skye’s voice) instead of electric strumming. On stage, Sternberg’s opening outpour of “I’m on the rocks and looking down” followed by Ross Godfrey’s bold electric clack and her eventual howl of “Locked away” established a call to the tormented. The homebound rasp of Sternberg’s sax again broke the tension as the light beams flared from blue moon to magenta in the second that the moment reached a captivating point of no return.
To pay tribute to their recent gig in Brazil, the band also covered “Sao Paolo”. Throughout, Sternberg seduced with her fluid crouches, focused yoga bends and flute-playing. “Part Of The Process” and “Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day” especially commanded positive vibes from the crowd with their universal lyrical jives, while “Be Yourself” also streamed the night as a dedication to those with “low self-esteem”. Sternberg provided a cozy presence in mediating the loyal exchange between artist and audience, reveling in on-stage prances, mild gushes with the crowd and encouraging sing-along. Among the songs performed from the recent album were “Antidote”, “Lighten Up” and “Everybody Loves A Loser”, which mark the refreshing and uplifting qualities of Morcheeba’s latest work. For a group that has browsed an array of genres in their music (hip hop, electronic, downtempo), it’s amazing to see such a band thrive amid internal transitions and still be able to uphold their ideals of experimentation and distinction.
After all was said and done, there was room for yet another round. The band re-grouped on-stage for a three song encore that included “Shallow End” and left the crowd craving more and hoping for the band’s speedy return to NYC.