Before the Nick Hallett show last night at The Works, I ran into Alison, who told me she'd just been to see The Blow at the Winningstad Theatre. She gushed (yeah, I'm gonna go with “gushed”) about how charming Khaela Maricich was, and how solid the show was because of it. I don't know if Alison stuck around for Like A Villain's performance of Make Well last night, but I'd like to know who won in the personality department.
Because goddamn was Holland Andrews charming. I don't know if the concept—music meant to heal the soul—would have worked if she'd been the aloof, humorless healer implied by that description. But even from the beginning, before her charm took over, Like a Villain was a credible force. “It's hard not to be dubious of people burning sage and waving feathers,” a friend of mine said afterward, “but even though I thought to myself, 'I don't usually trust this,' I did.”
In her first song, during which Andrews did wave a feather and burn sage and wander through the audience singing wordlessly over a loop of her own vocals and breath, her voice—powerful, real, human, loud—filled the Con-Way warehouse and earned all the credibility she'd need in order to claim to heal.
She earned it in other ways, too. As soon as that first song was over, while the audience breathed fragrant smoke through gaping mouths, Andrews explained that Make Well was meant to heal us all energetically. Then she suddenly, nervously laughed her way through an admission: “I've never done this before. Should I have said that? Was that unprofessional?” She fiddled with some pedals and changed her tune. Feigning confidence, she corrected herself. “I mean, I've done this a thousand times. And it works every time. You're all lucky to be here.”
From there she took off. There was some audience participation, and when she realized we were underperforming, she cut it off naturally, with a shrug and a sigh and a smile. She told us we were “going to get a little cute” and sang a ridiculously sweet song about a sudden romance. She sang a song under a dozen loops of voice and clarinet, until she was on her knees screaming and wailing over echo and reverb. It was harrowing. I thought, does she have to show me the damage to my soul before she can heal it?
But then she sang one more song, momentarily twisting girlishly in her dress and repeating “You are more than what you know” over and over until I felt the healing start again. I could have used one more healing song after that, to complete the process.
I don't know if I felt totally healed afterward. But when got to the bar at The Works before the show and saw the punch named for Like a Villain, my friend asked if it was supposed to be a play on “Like a Virgin.” I said I didn't know, but now that song would be stuck in my head all night. Two hours later, Id forgotten who Madonna was. I'd been lost in what was happening on stage. I think I felt better. I think I still do. It was probably the sage.