Eef Barzelay | Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room, St. Louis | 04.18.06

“That was my ass you saw bouncing/Next to Ludacris/It was only on screen for a second/But it’s kinda hard to miss,” is not the typical folk lyric, and one that seems especially odd coming from a bespeckeled white male.

 

As the lead singer of Clem Snide, Eef Barzelay’s penchant for writing quirky lyrics has been established. While Clem Snide certainly isn’t know for an extravagant sound, Barzelay’s solo show puts the emphasis on himself and his lyrics, with just his guitar and the occasional stomping of the foot to provide a beat. Far from being a Kumbaya singing, however, Barzelay put on a spirited, quality show, with an engaging personality and a compelling stage presence.

Perhaps the quirkyest of all Barzelay’s song is “Bitter Honey,” from his solo album The Ballad of Bitter Honey, sung from the point of view of a background dancer for hip-hop videos. “That was my ass you saw bouncing/Next to Ludacris/It was only on screen for a second/But it’s kinda hard to miss,” is not the typical folk lyric, and one that seems especially odd coming from a bespeckeled white male. While those lyrics elicited laughter from the crowd, the song quickly becomes a bittersweet tale of a woman trying to survive in a world the only way she knows how. The final line of “don’t hate me ’cuz I know just what this world is about” brings the song home, showing a person hardened by cynicism and world-weary. This closer was a nice exclamation point on a solid set.

It takes a bit of stage presence to get an entire crowd to sing along with the singer, especially when it seems that many of the people have not heard the song before. On “I Wasn’t Really Drunk,” however, Barzelay urged the crowd to join in on the refrain of “I wasn’t really drunk, I was just pretending/’Cuz I wanted so much to feel the way you do/And oh this party it seems never ending/I would gladly sip my champagne from your shoe.” By the end of the song, the entire crowd was singing along. Certainly a set highlight.

Even including a cover of Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” and Chrisitina Aguiliera’s “Beautiful,” the show included a little bit of everything. While this music isn’t terribly different from Clem Snide, the music Barzelay makes, regardless under what name, is quality, compelling stuff that translates very well to the live setting.

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