Following up on our own recommendations

It felt very much like a school night at the Rickshaw Stop on Sunday. Prior to the headlining performance by Julia Holter, a significantly less-than-full house took in a session of avant-garde drumming by William Winant Percussion Group, followed by a stream of lo-fi pop set to hilariously absurd (and at times NC-17) video collage, by Jib Kidder. Art school night, to be exact.

Between sets, much of the crowd took a seat, comfortably continuing conversations and sipping beer cross-legged on the venue’s floor. You could feel the air conditioning on your back.

Holter, her slight frame remaining nearly motionless within an earth-toned, ankle-length summer dress, continued the night’s casual air, quickly dismissing any remaining expectations of an ebullient rock’n’roll performance. She joked a lot about not being able to figure out her new keyboard. You could hear the clicks of her unhurried, trial and error switch flipping between songs.

She was joined by a drummer and a cellist, both, like the classically trained singer, immensely talented. Without the domineering presences of guitar and bass, the instruments were able to speak their respective voices with ease. A slightly heavier whack upon the snare, or a transition from finger plucking to staccato bowing on the cello, would effortlessly kick songs like Goddess Eyes and Marienbad into gear.

Holter herself, though, remained generally detached throughout the show; at times even prickly.

Ekstasis, Holter’s latest album, achieved a haunting brilliance in its ability to swing from near pitch black despair into flights of ecstasy. The concert’s greatest let down was Holter’s inability (or unwillingness) to reach these highs and lows. She settled into what sounded like dim unhappiness instead.

“Accept me for what I am/ accept me for the things that I do,” sang Holter during her encore, in a spare, solo rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Don’t Make Me Over.” The song sounds better when not rendered like an apology.

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