This lady is a thunderclap of talent, crackling with energy, intelligence and beauty of voice, face, body and soul. Amber Martin’s new show at 54 Below, Stoned Soul is a tribute to singer/songwriter Laura Nyro, herself a big storm of talent. It’s only natural (or perhaps supernatural) that Martin singing Nyro should be hair-raisingly electrifying!
This is the first show of Martin’s I’ve seen, and I know I’m coming at Martin from a different angle than a lot of her followers. She’s well-known as a character comedian in the tradition of Lily Tomlin. Well, a character comedian who also happens to have a big powerful singing voice that she often pours into satirical impersonations of celebrity singers from Reba to Chaka to Whitney to Janis Joplin. This show, while sometimes funny and certainly entertaining, is basically a serious love letter to Martin’s favorite songwriter, a different creature from her previous shows.
Between songs, Martin tells very informative and insightful stories of Nyro’s life, discusses the sources and styles of her music, and jokes and ruminates about the many things she admires and loves about Nyro’s songs. But the real event here is Amber belting and shimmying her way through those complex, soulful songs. Her take on the harrowing heroin song “Been on a Train” is truly heart-wrenching, and hearing her roar and stomp through Nyro’s blazing uptempo numbers like “Eli’s Comin’” and “Women’s Blues” is like being buffeted by a powerful gust of fresh air – in the best possible way.
Martin is just a gorgeous, engaging, utterly unique and original presence. I can’t recommended this show highly enough!