Anna Nalick's debut CD, "Wreck of the Day", has had a steady home in my music rotation for the past year or so. It's one of those rare collections of songs that seems to have only gotten better with repeated listenings. When I heard Anna would be playing at the House of Blues on March 3rd, I knew it was a show I couldn't pass up and quickly bought my tickets.
As my family and I made our way to downtown Cleveland, my excitement grew and before I knew it, we were there. We were led into the Cambridge Room, just off the main lobby of the House of Blues. Running a bit behind schedule, we arrived later than I would have liked, half the audience was already packed in and I couldn't even see the stage from my height. With a bit of help from a very kind House of Blues employee, I maneuvered my wheelchair to a much better position, next to the stage.
At roughly 8:15, the opening act, whose name I missed (sounded like Pixie Ray), took the stage. The two attractive sisters played a short, but enjoyable acoustic set. Their sound was slightly rough around the edges, but they're definitely talented. Sadly, most of the audience didn't seem to notice as they talked through most of the set.
In between acts, I stared at the drum set on stage, decorated with Anna's name, and knew it'd be starting soon.
Around 9:30, the band hopped on stage and introduced Anna. Wasting no time, they kicked into "Citadel" and started the show. They all sounded fantastic and definitely seemed to be having fun. I sat with the foot-rest of my chair touching one of the big speakers. Nerdy as it may sound, I loved feeling the music flow through me as I listened.
Anna interacted quite a bit with the crowd, something I absolutely love at a concert. For example, after asking a kid why he wasn't smiling, she announced a little more sugar in his diet would fix him up. She then went on to explain that the shoes she was wearing were too big for her feet, and not having another pair handy, she improvised by stuffing sugar packets from backstage into each shoe to fill in the extra space. She proceeded to remove one stiletto, pulled out a packet of sugar, and tossed it out to the kid.
I love quirkiness.
They went on to play more favorites from "Wreck of the Day" including the title track, "Paper Bag", "In My Head", and also a cover of Blondie's "Hanging On The Telephone".
Anna shared a story about a previous visit to Cleveland last summer. She found herself walking through a cemetery downtown and saw a small, glowing light moving through the air. After seeing a second one, she nervously decided to introduce herself to the "spirits" and talk to them a bit. A few minutes later, one flew directly at her and...landed on her skirt. The spirit was a firefly, a bug not native to Anna's home state of California.
She also shared a story about a concert last year during which she accidentally stood on her own skirt and ended up mooning the audience and receiving thunderous applause.
The applause wasn't too shabby from the Cleveland audience either, delaying the start of at least one song with continuous clapping. More applause came when she switched up the last line of "Catalyst" to "These L.A. lights, they don't shine quite as bright as back in Cleveland." What can I say? Crowds love a good citywide shout out.
Anna belted out her big hits, "Breathe (2 A.M.)" and "In the Rough" among others before wrapping up the show and dumping the remaining sugar packets from her shoes.
But that's not all, she also announced she'd be signing CDs in the lobby after the show. Good thing I came prepared, eh?
After the room cleared some, we attempted to make our way to the lobby, but found it too packed to even get through the door. A few minutes passed as we waited in the Cambridge Room when my brother, Kris, said "There she is." I turned around, but before I could make it over to her, she was already through the other door into the lobby. I headed back and took my place in line.
A surprisingly quick 45 minutes later, I was up at the table, face to face with Anna Nalick herself.
Now let me say something, hopefully it won't sound too cheesy or overly guy-ish, but not only is this woman an excellent performer with one hell of a voice and an amazing songwriter, she's the stunning kind of beautiful (incredible eyes and a killer smile) that would most likely make me too shy to even approach her in a normal daily life setting. Actually, that's sort of what happened. Maybe I was a tad starstruck (or starstricken?), but all the words I meant to say decided to put up the "Gone fishin'" sign when their time came. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't sitting there saying "a-durrrrrr", but you know what I mean.
She was kind enough to sign my CD and a poster and she even posed for a picture with me. Mom asked if Anna could get a little closer for the picture. Being cornered in by the tables, she did her best. She stood up slowly and joked that she was being careful not to reenact her skirt incident. Leaning across the table with her hand on my shoulder, we both smiled as the camera did its thing.
She thanked me for coming and I assured her I'd see her next time she passed through Cleveland, and that was that.
It was a great show, even better than expected. It was one of those concerts where the whole show was a highlight. Great music and pure lighthearted fun.
My only (slight) gripe of the night was that the only song from her CD Anna didn't sing during the show was the one I was most looking forward to hearing, "Forever Love (Digame)". Maybe next time.
All I know for sure is that I didn't leave from the House of Blues disappointed tonight.