A curious quiet fell over Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar as ALA.NI took the stage with her guitarist, Oct. 18. The quiet gave way to a full-blown hush as this powerful siren hit the first notes of her original song, “Cherry Blossom.” (see video below)
With outstretched arms and a gracious smile, this British-born, French-raised performer ended her opening number to raucous applause and dropped jaws as the local denizens (usually more accustomed to the Jersey shore rock sound) became putty in her hands.
ALA.NI’s brand of vocal styling seems suited more for a piano bar or perhaps a cocktail hour, but on this night she won over a new fan base with not only her music but also her personality. “Ol’ Fashioned Kiss” was next and, much in the manner of the first offering, instantly quieted the crowd. Does the phrase “You could hear a pin drop” sound familiar? That’s perhaps the best description, as from this reviewer’s vantage point (seated at the bar), only the dull hum of beverage coolers could be heard. Not a soul dared speak for fear they’d break the spell that was being cast.
Her next offering was “Suddenly.” And as if it were a subliminal message, those in attendance reacted in step with the title: The room seemed to take a collective breath (or, perhaps,more of a gasp) as this now comfortable Brit began hitting her stride.
“Roses and Wine” was next, giving way to “One Heart” and “Darkness at Noon,” the latter provoking smiles and outright laughter as ALA.NI stopped in the middle to compose herself (see video below). Nobody seemed to mind, and most laughed along with her as her personality shined and her likability factor increased exponentially. Her vulnerability endeared her even more to the captivated attendees.
ALA.NI continued her assault on our sense of time with “To the River,” followed by “Circle.” Most were now lost in a hopeless sway, seemingly transported to wherever their individual journeys would take them.
“Does anyone have a book? It doesn’t matter, any book,” she blurted, instantly breaking the trance she had woven only seconds before. What happened next was both funny and spontaneous as she turned someone’s journal or pocketbook manual into a song — enhanced by the talents of her guitarist, whose grace was on full display all evening. Raising and lowering her voice and using great vocal technique, she turned a mundane few paragraphs into a work of art.
A moment of indecision seemed to delay the proceedings, but on this night it went mostly unnoticed as she introduced her last song, a Richie Havens tune called “Run, Shaker Life.” Thanking all who were thirsting for more, she implored them to sway and sing along as she belted it out in a fashion that was sure to have Havens himself smiling down upon her (see video below).
This was the initial stop on ALA.NI’s first full tour of the east coast of the United States and she kicked it off right. After her set, she gladly signed merchandise, chatted with new fans and was just as engaging offstage as on. Suddenly the hum of the beer coolers faded into the murmur of the crowd, and ALA.NI did as well. Perhaps concocting another set of spellbinding tunes for her next stop? One cannot be sure. But one thing is certain: She is more than capable of doing so.
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