Oddly enough, when I had heard that Anna Rose Menken was performing at Tammany Hall last Friday, I hadn’t remembered that I had been there a few years before when it was the Annex, known mostly for electronica, techno and goth nights. Of course, with the name change, there was a definitive change in the clientele; most of the crowd talked fairly audibly during the set – to the detriment of the musicians performing on stage. Certainly, for those singer/songwriters who are known to be have more pensive natures, they can find themselves desperately fighting for attention. They often win or lose the crowd through the relative strength (or weakness) of their talents and their material.
Interestingly, when I first saw Anna Rose open for local legend, Edward Rogers sometime last year, she had more of a pop singer/songwriter sound. But in that year Anna Rose has gone through a remarkable transformation sonically and visually – still diminutive (which would never change), she’s noticeably mature, wiser and womanly. In other words, she’s confident, knowing, brash, even playful but still awkward.
In some way, she’ll strike the observer as seeming a bit uncomfortable on a stage at least initially, and with the Tammany Hall crowd, she had to fight to get their attention. Usually that happens within the first two or three songs but for Menken the crowd started to get into her set somewhere within the fifth or sixth song.
The new material on the forthcoming sophomore effort titled, Behold a Pale Horse on which she’ll perform under the moniker Pale Horse reflects a profound sonic and emotional change. Anna Rose – or shall I say Pale Horse? – plays electric guitar and her backing band has more of a bar blues band sound. In hearing the new material live, I must admit that it’s grittier and teeter totters on the fence of having a country twang and a loud, bluesy, sweaty, seductive stomp. Interestingly, the new material has pop ambitions and sensibilities in an age where it has become harder to define what exactly pop is anymore.
Admittedly, Anna Rose’s change in image and sound will probably have the blogosphere buzzing in heated debate much like those over artists such as Lana Del Ray, Grimes and others. Will fellow critics see this is as cynical and calculating attempt to get on a popular trend or a natural evolution of an artist moved by their own muses? Only history will be able to tell and hopefully it’ll be kind to her.