I get irritated with the "Shut up and play" people, and I'm totally in Shocked's ideological camp, but this show pushed a few buttons.
The Washington Post, 8 Mar 2004
Monday, March 8, 2004
Michelle Shocked took the Rams Head stage on Friday and immediately announced, "I am going to be a little perverse this evening." She went on to reveal that she had been pondering the "line between religion and politics," that she'd had an "epiphany" on the way to the show, and that she was going to share it. "Forgive me if it comes off half-baked."
Shocked has an infinitely flexible, made-for-rallying voice, workmanlike but effective guitar playing, and a gift for writing and interpreting in a variety of folk styles. A trio of songs set in New Orleans -- including the astonishing "Little Billie," about a jazz funeral in which the mother got atop her son's casket and "danced the blues... scratched the coffin with her shoes" -- transported listeners to another place.
But for Shocked, one of the most self-reflexive performers ever to mistake a stage for a lecture hall, the ultimate destination for her listeners is Shocked. You didn't just hear the charmingly rambling "When I Grow Up" at Rams Head; you heard the details of Shocked's marriage and recent divorce. Amid the childhood reminiscence "V.F.D.", you were told of the differences between the intelligent folks on the coasts and those in the Midwest, who she says respond to her ideas with a "look that a pig would have upon encountering a wristwatch."
You also got those admittedly "half-baked" polemics: She'd sing, then talk, then sing again, and when it came time for applause, she took the accolades as political consensus. During "Prodigal Daughter (Cotton-Eyed Joe)," she revealed what we think was her "epiphany": her suspicion that "our country, our way of life" is fascist.
After a little more rambling, she demanded a "Yee-hah!" And a "Yee-hah!" the crowd dutifully gave her.
-- Pamela Murray Winters