I can still recall my short, sharp gasp upon first hearing Shara Worden, aka My Brightest Diamond, bring the song “Be Brave” to its climax. It was one of those precious moments for me when an artist’s gift comes into focus, and goosebumps and rapt awe follow; when you realize you’re hearing somebody who is that good. The song’s theme of metamorphosis is expressed in both the mask Worden wears while performing it, as well as in its explosive peak. “Be changed, or be undone” is the song’s refrain and message, and it is an apt one for Worden’s music. With a singular vision that combines classical training, cabaret flair and colorful arrangements, Worden’s palette has few borders and her ability to use it has few equals. Her music evolves, progresses, breathes, grows.
Like Björk, David Byrne, and The Dirty Projectors, Worden achieves the feat of making intellectually engaging music without alienating her music’s pop core. That skill affords her both the critical acclaim that she so deserves, as well as a dedicated, educated audience large enough to easily fill the Bowery Ballroom on a Wednesday in the dead of winter, after a holiday weekend. At least New York’s freezing temperatures of late are no worse than the weather conditions in Worden’s adopted home of Detroit, where she decamped in the late 00s after spending the formative years of her musical career here. Surveying the adoring crowd, she told us she missed us.
Now three albums in under the My Brightest Diamond moniker, Worden’s writing has never been sharper or more engaging than on 2011’s All Things Will Unwind, which has a follow-up in the works. Worden played three of these new songs, “That Point When”, “Looking at the Sun” and “A Bronze Head” at this show. The first two tracks suggested a continuing evolution toward the orchestral pop of All Things Will Unwind, but “A Bronze Head” is pure angular rock, pairing No Wave-ish guitars with a soaring vocal that reminds you, if you’ve forgotten, of Worden’s opera training. After last seeing My Brightest Diamond in smaller configurations duo recently (once at a private Obama fundraiser, once at a late afternoon performance at MoMA), experiencing the project as a full band, doing a full set, reminded me of just how awesome the range of Worden’s styles can be; the straight-ahead rock of “Golden Star” from her first record and “Inside A Boy” from her second fit right alongside songs like “Be Brave” and “Escape Routes”. Worden is indeed a brave artist; she is also an indisputably great one.
I recorded this set with Schoeps MK5 microphones and a soundboard feed of the flawless house mix by longtime Bowery engineer, Kenny. The sound quality is outstanding, perhaps the best recording I have made in this venue. Enjoy!
Special thanks to Shara Worden for giving permission to make and share this recording.
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My Brightest Diamond
New York, NY USA
Exclusive download hosted at nyctaper.com
Recorded and produced by acidjack
Schoeps MK5 (cardiod, slightly LOC, balcony, PAS)>KC5>CMC6>Sound Devices USBPre2 + Soundboard (engineer: Kenny)>>Edirol R-44 [OCM]>2x24bit/48kHz WAV>Audacity 3.0 (mix down)>Izotope Ozone 5 (light EQ, exciter)>Audacity 3.0 (set fades, tracking, gentle parallel compression, amplify, balance, downsample)>FLAC ( level 8 )
Tracks [Total Time: 1:18:18]
01 Golden Star
02 Reaching Through to the Other Side
03 Escape Routes
04 Be Brave
05 That Point When [new]
06 Looking At the Sun [new]
07 Magic Rabbit
08 I Have Never Loved Someone
09 [North Wind banter]
10 From the Top
12 High Low Middle
14 A Bronze Head [new]
16 Inside A Boy
17 [encore break]
18 We Added It Up