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Zoe Keating @ World Cafe Live.

December 13, 2013

Zoe KeatingText and images by Matthew Leister.

When talking to the audience between songs, Zoe Keating felt the need to apologize for Ariège, her cello. “He” is named after a region in Southern France where he was found. But he has spent most of his life in Northern California. Apparently, he is almost always in tune unless it is cold outside.

“He’s very French,” Keating joked.

She came to the snow-covered city of Philadelphia and entertained a packed crowd downstairs at the World Café Live Wednesday evening. Her modern classical music relies on electronic loops to create layered textures of her cello. The music has a cinematic quality. It’s a very big sound, especially for such a small setup.

She is alone onstage – unless you count Ariège – with a foot pedal and an Apple computer. However, what she lacks in numbers she makes up for in stage presence and persona. Keating is very gracious to her audience. She is also hilarious.

Upon arriving on stage with a full cup of coffee, she joked to the crowd that she never brings drinks on stage because they might spill. Ten seconds later, she was asking the audience for towels to mop up the mess. She was immediately endearing. The faces in the crowd lit up with beaming smiles.

Once Keating was given a replacement bow (the previous one was soaked) she said, “I’m going to make it worse by playing a brand new song that is barely practiced.”

Keating is working on a brand-new album and played many pieces from the forthcoming work. The crowd enjoyed the different moods that the music created including loneliness, beauty and hope. They were also vocally appreciative of her playing some of her previous work including “Escape Artist” and “Lost.”

She joked with the crowd between songs, letting them know that she performs alternate versions of her songs live simply to see if they work. She lets her fans be the guinea pigs.

“I like things to change based on where I am,” Keating said.

This applies to not only her live shows but also her studio recordings. This was highlighted by having her encore be a song that changed working titles depending on where she was playing it, e.g. “Across The Street,” “Down The Hill,” etc.

Keating works hard during her performance. You can tell that she truly loves the audience and her music. You can see the trembling of her fingers as she plays, you can see the dust in the air from the old bow she uses, and you can feel her rise into a celestial state while she plays. She takes her work seriously.

Then, as she comes down to earth, she smiles and immediately warms up the room.

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