With silky voice and well arranged folk-orchestral back-up Holcombe Waller lulls his audience into the kind of quiet complacency necessary for the absorption of such sweet singing. While his lyrics successfully stir self-reflective images of morning light on lovers’ shoulders, the actual images from his video projections fall short of purpose. They are simply too literal and force an ill-conceived redundancy that almost breaks the spell of his songs.
Equally, it is hard to say whether the set, a dining table, several “Light Moves” moving boxes and a couple of liquor bottles each mouthing a single feather, is under or over-used. To be sure it invites the audience into the artist’s country kitchen. However, as a mover, his single outstretched gesture, atop the table, to a bright light in a song about running into Jesus was quite disappointing after being led to believe (by the TBA catalogue) that, ”Hope Chest is a vocal performance that imagines movement, video, costume and character to be instruments as inextricable from the process of musical arrangement as piano…”
I understand that projects often shift significantly between proposal and production and certainly Waller’s music is well worth hearing so I am not at all complaining about having seen him, but admittedly I wonder at his inclusion in this festival. The only weak aspects of his show were precisely those gestures to performance art that might have made it seem more fitting to the festival program: movement, video, costume and character. While I don’t believe artists should only stick to what they’re good at, I would say that Holcombe faces a particular challenge if he wishes to imbue the non-vocal elements of his show with as much heart and honesty as he puts into his singing.
posted by Marty Schnapf