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Concert Reviews: Anne Heaton

Anne Heaton
Give In CD Release Party
The Living Room, New York City
June 24, 2004
By: Corinne Ferraro

With the release of her second album, Give In, Anne Heaton maintains her standards of thoughtful, observant lyrics, with music that somehow manages to simultaneously be both sophisticated and catchy. And she goes even further, demonstrating her ability and willingness to stretch herself as an artist, and take the risks that come along with collaboration.

And it is a successful collaboration, indeed, that Heaton has found with Frank Marotta, Jr, her guitar and bass player who accompanies her live show and shares four co-writing credits on Give In. The album is still distinctively Heaton's style and songwriting voice, just as her debut Black Notebook introduced to us. The result of their collaboration is that which songwriting collaboration often strives for, but rarely achieves--- amplifying and exploring Heaton's outstanding style, rather than altering or diluting it.

Two of the albums stand-out tracks, The Line and Your Heart, exemplify this powerful finished product. The Line is a powerful rock song, based around the searing emotional honesty that is a hallmark of Heaton's songwriting. The track not only has the emotional intensity that Heaton consistently provides, but is driven by an intense rock sound which is not present in Heaton's more mellow solo work. On the other end of the spectrum, Your Heart is an intimate, quiet love song, which is not only a highlight of the CD but also one of the most compelling moments of the live show. Heaton's lyrics have always stood out for their sophistication and specificity--- so it is a riveting contrast, amidst all these thought-provoking lyrics, to hear her quietly sing, I lean my chest up against your heart.

Their live performance provides proof-positive of the undeniable synergy between Heaton and Marotta. Their energy seems to fuel one another, and they radiate genuine passion for the music. They are remarkably attuned to one another, and their ability to synchronize and contrast with one another creates a dynamic, powerful sound which is not often attributable to just two people on stage.

Heaton is an engaging and animated live performer. Unlike most who play keyboards, she stands at the elevated keyboard, thus sidestepping the chronic problem of keyboard players being physically blocked by their own instrument. As a result, the audience gets a rich sense of Heaton's vibrant personality through her body language. Give In wisely includes two live tracks, which include snippets of chatter that convey a bit of Heaton's playful on-stage persona. Particularly memorable, both in the live performance and on the album, is Hey New York, a good-humored narrative about the process of deciding whether to move out of the city. The song combines elements of spoken word, building on the style she dabbled with in the song Megan and Kevin on her previous album.

p>The live show, in fact, also included Megan and Kevin which took on a whole new life when heard in the context in which it was written--- that is, as a wedding toast for Heaton's close friend. On the album, the song is entertaining but doesn't seem especially serious. Watching her perform it live, and being able to envision how she must have looked performing it at a wedding reception, transforms the song into an incredibly touching piece.

Heaton is unique in that she is part of the tradition of emotional piano-playing women who write personal, lyric-intensive songs--- but she does so in a way that feels genuinely upbeat and hopeful. She has sad songs, and songs about being sad, but they feel more poignant than depressing. And she has happy songs which are sophisticated enough that the happiness feels genuinely earned. Give In is an extremely well-crafted and moving album which showcases Heaton's songwriting and performing powers--- giving us a collection of songs both musically engaging and lyrically moving.