During her sold-out homecoming show at Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan Friday night, Hurray for the Riff Raff frontwoman Alynda Lee Segarra, a Bronx native, paused between songs to make dedications to her family in the audience, the large faction of female supporters present, songwriters and anyone with a dream. When she requested the house disco ball be utilized for “Levon’s Dream”, a slow-tempo slice of heartache, midway through the set, it only seemed right another shout-out would spring from her lips.

“This is for everyone who didn’t go to prom,” she announced, before placing herself among that number. The stage backdrop became home to swirling lights as the silver globe rotated.

On this night, Segarra reigned as prom queen, presiding over a seven-member band (herself included) featuring a fiddle and two other string instruments, that highlighted her folk, alt-country and even Cajun music stylings honed on the streets and in the clubs of New Orleans, her current home. Segarra captivated the crowd with the power and precision of her alto twang, an instrument one would expect had originated 1,500 miles south of the Boogie Down Bronx. In addition to singing and playing acoustic guitar she also played harmonica on “Slow Walk” and “End of the Line”.

While Segarra’s vocal talent is undeniable and her MTV Unplugged approach to on-stage storytelling is charming Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Bowery Ballroom show felt, to me at least, bereft of thrills and delivered feelings more pleasant than exciting or memorable. Many of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s slow-to-mid tempo songs seemed to blend together in the live setting and the band, outside Segarra, showed little outward enthusiasm for the music it produced. Instead of feeling engaged I found myself on the verge of being disinterested, even as those around me regularly whooped and hollered like they were attending a rodeo.

Segarra is not yet 30 and already has six albums to her name. Yet, her productivity did not alleviate doubts about her ability to find an audience in her hometown. “It really wasn’t so long ago I couldn’t imagine playing back in New York,” she said prior to the song “Slow Walk” with its repetitive refrain, “It’s a slow walk from the bottom to the top.” Segarra’s slow walk featured busking for tips in New Orleans before her career lifted off.

Moments after the house lights dimmed blue signaling Segarra’s appearance, she strode on stage to a boisterous reception. “I’m not gonna cry until after,” Segarra said, “so please don’t make me get emotional.” She then launched into a solo acoustic rendering of “New San Francisco Bay Blues”, a song stating “a woman’s heart is made from … rock”. Her bandmates consisting of a bassist, fiddle player, keyboardist and drummer joined her afterward for the country tune, “Blue Ridge Mountain”. Two additional string players performed on “Levon’s Dream” and subsequent songs, more as background than featured elements. Segarra’s explanation of what led her to write “Crash on the Highway” – a German traffic jam made her miss New Orleans – proved more interesting than the song itself.

Segarra’s love for my birthplace almost made me feel guilty for not enjoying the show. Almost. I am not in New Orleans anymore, I had to remind myself. To spend an hour with Hurray for the Riff Raff again in New York City would require a level of dedication – and patience – that I do not have.

  • Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator

    Powerfully distinct among efforts from numerous other ragtag folk bands. …
  • Best Albums of 2014 (So Far)

    As we ease into the halfway point of 2014, it’s time to pause, light up the grill and enjo…
  • Concert Review: Tool

    Thousands of concertgoers were unwittingly taking part in the last arena performance any o…
  • Concert Review: Refused

    The world still needs bands like Refused. Here’s hoping their next Portland show isn’t pre…
  • Concert Review: The Mountain Goats

    The act of playing three nights to sold-out crowds as a solo artist can be incredibly daun…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

The Whites: by Richard Price

You don’t need Adderall to feel the pulse of Price’s pages or his empathy for his characte…