SOLID COLD Christian sings of chilly climes.

SOLID COLD Christian sings of chilly climes. Photograph: Courtland Premo

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Singer-songwriter Heather Christian has a haunting way with lyrics, an unforgettable voice that somehow bridges Carol Channing and Joanna Newsom, and a wise-waif presence that intrigues. Now if only she had a reliable choreographer and director.… The ambitious performer conceived and staged her loosely conceptual concert, North, and while the multiple TV monitors, dances and sundry wintry props are evocative, the songs are the chief attraction.

“Longer than your latitude, sweeter than your brevity / We move in slow increments past state lines and borders,” Christian sings in the title number, a cryptic lament that seems to be about long distance reducing love into mere friendship. Her hour-long show features an eclectic lineup of covers (the Beatles, Cyndi Lauper, the Decemberists, Bach), self-penned bluesy romps and interludes with voiceovers from a pilot and video of airplanes and parachuting. Travel to Nordic regions seems to be a motif, but while such stage business would suit a four-minute music video, after several songs it grows hollow and distracting. A good-natured, agile ensemble that includes Chris Giarmo, Mike Mikos and Raky Sastri backs up Christian with drums, trumpet, clarinet and even typewriter for percussion.

Cynthia Hopkins (Must Don’t Whip ’Um) is the standard by which this sort of performance cabaret is measured, and Christian has quite a distance to go before she fully integrates imagery and story with her engaging work on piano. But those tunes, sung in a little-girl warble that can scale up into a ferocious blues wail, then spin off into Eartha Kittenish arabesques, make up a solid springboard for any number of directions.

—David Cote

La MaMa E.T.C. Conceived and directed by Heather Christian. With ensemble cast. 1hr. No intermission.