Christine Lavin's comic performance art [an error occurred while processing this directive]
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., August 26, 2002) – Christine Lavin has her shtick down pat, and for her fans, it works like a charm. Ostensibly a singer-songwriter, she is really more like a comic performance artist with a dash of TV game-show host and a smidgen of dominatrix. She even handed out recipes for her pain au chocolate during her concert on Saturday night at the Guthrie Center.

Lavin sang the recipe too, and few could pull off such a seemingly odd feat as Lavin, who combiness the hyperactive comic timing of a Robin Williams with a bit of his nasty edge. At one point during the show, she staged a “Mr. Great Barrington” contest, in which she trolled the audience for likely candidates for the honor. The unlucky winner found himself the butt of her insults; that he happened to be an investment banker meant he was a “selfish bastard,” which became the mirror-image mantra at the other end of her “Sensitive New Age Guys” song.

The audience ate it up like dessert, as they did almost anything Lavin said and did. You knew you were in a crowd of cult-like proportions when people started laughing at every single word that came out of her mouth, even the ones that weren’t jokes, and when every gesture, like adjusting her microphone or putting a capo on her guitar, provoked titters of mirth.

But Lavin knows her audience – at times, the concert was more like group therapy than a concert – and songs about Harrison Ford, modern dating, and cocktail party etiquette struck resonant chords for the sold-out crowd. Considering the “oohs” and “aahs” evoked at the mere mention of the Kingston Trio, this was a non-folk-music crowd, utterly accepting of Lavin’s extensive use of high-tech, electronic gimmickry that allowed her to multi-loop her vocals so that she was singing along with herself in three- and four-part harmony.

It was surprising that Lavin was able to work in as many songs as she did in her two sets considering how much time she spent on the non-song portion of the show talking to the audience and playing out her gimmicks like the male beauty pageant and, near the end of the evening, killing five or 10 minutes handing out assorted books, tapes and CDs – the folk-music equivalent of TV game-show parting gifts.

But over the course of the evening, Lavin was able to fit in over a dozen songs, including several from her new album, “I Was in Love with a Difficult Man,” including the title track and “Wind Chimes,” a number she described as about “the sound of angels polka-dancing.”

Eric Underwood and Eladia, the Berkshires’ own soon-to-be husband-and-wife folk-rock duo, warmed up the crowd for Lavin with a short set of their unique, glistening compositions for voice, guitar and cello.

[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on August 27, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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