Monday, Sept. 20
Only one person showed up to hear Beth Amsel sing at Cath Coffeehouse the last time she was in town. Monday, Sept. 20, a whopping 60 people of every age and make piled into Cath for her second go-round.
A pregnant and truly radiant Stasia Demos, of the newly-departed Middletown, opened the evening poised upon a stool with guitar on knee, performing her original folk ballads memorializing friends and neighbors. The sweet reminiscent delivery of her Middletown tune about her uncle, “Billy Joe,” captured the spirit of her storied words and ability to transfer those flooded memories into apt verse and song. A selection of, as Demos described them, “soothing invitro waltzes” were staggered throughout her short set that emphasized her even-tempered, fine front-porch style.
As the crowd bustled about after Demos’ set, Amsel (standing with guitar in tow) broke into Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” a better-than-Bruce rendition that instantly bewitched the audience. The luscious resonance and range of her voice made this coffee shop show too good to be true. Explaining that prior to running away from Long Island to Colorado at the age of 13, she had previously simply escaped to her closet with her barcolounger and written “Beth and Bruce Forever” in a red heart on the wall. Elegant with an edge, her confidant presence (and wide dark eyes connecting with the attentive audience) only reinforced her rich vocal delivery.
Performing a variety of original works demonstrating the breadth and strength of her voice, every articulated vocal nuance further conveyed the emotion of her lyrics. “Come Down” was riddled with passion sans anything syrupy. Additionally, from her 2001 effort Kindling, she performed “You’re Welcome” and “Lonely Driver” with more depth and polish than the flat recordings and their country-tinged arrangements. The only way to truly enjoy the drama of her voice is live, unless her new, soon-to-be released CD has higher production value.
The daughter of a surgeon who fled big-haired and heavy eye-lined suburbia, Amsel further embraced her high-pop ’80s musical influences by performing a Duran Duran cut from Rio, “The Chauffeur.” Again, it was so much of an improvement over the original that any semblance of the original was lost to this new version. Some actually thought it was a Shawn Colvin cover.
These two thoughtful and talented singer-songwriter women presented a solid show at the now closed neighborhood “oasis” (as Amsel referred to Cath): “I can’t imagine Indianapolis without it,” she said. www.bethamsel.org.