TBA: Like a Villain at the Works
Like a Villain’s performance at TBA was entitled Make Well, and Holland Andrews declared early in the one-woman show that her goal was to leave her audience feeling spiritually healed. It’s a bold claim that might feel a little ambitious until the first notes from Andrews’ solo project reveal a singer who—and I’m trying not to be hyperbolic here—basically redefines what it means to be in complete command of one’s voice. Sure, she has vocal chords that would elevate any musical setting, but she’s also using them about as inventively as anyone else out there. Her voice is supplemented by clarinet and glockenspiel to build enormous and enthralling loops that are somehow more than the sum of their parts. If you don’t leave feeling healed, you’ll certainly leave impressed.
That’s not to say Andrews has entirely nailed her vision yet. Early in the show, she had audience members sing different notes to form a chord while other audience members sang phrases like “I am powerful.” It might have been more affecting in a more intimate setting, but not even a couple hundred people could sound particularly powerful in a room as cavernous and soulless as the Con-Way warehouse (seeing her open for Typhoon at the Old Church for MFNW was a far more powerful setting). Andrews has the voice to conquer any space, though, and on Sunday night she also displayed the charm and personality to cut short her audience participation experiment without any trace of awkwardness: we trusted her to make any healing happen for us. It was a move of an artist with expansive ambition and yet the presence of mind to know when something isn’t quite working.
It’s hard to overstate just how immense Andrews’ voice is, and the rest of the show left me wondering why she bothered to have anyone else sing at all. It’s a testament to her vocal range and her dynamism as a performer that she can sound simultaneously stretched to her physical limit and completely in control. She creates a sonic space that seamlessly fuses influences as disparate as minimalism and musical theater into songs that can move an audience on an almost physical level. Perhaps most impressively, though, she has the grace and charisma to make music that could be overwrought and inaccessible but instead unquestionably demands your attention.