Miss Velvet is a sylphlike figure with a long cascade of lustrous blonde hair that she wields onstage like an appendage to her vocal chords. She is model thin, and to a first timer to one of her shows, the French chanteuses Vanessa Paradis and Jane Birkin immediately come to mind. It is therefore slightly jarring, although incredibly rush-like, when she starts to sing and the tone is a perfect blend of Janis Joplin, Nina Simone and Lucinda Williams with a little Etta James thrown in. If one was not in the audience witnessing the effect for oneself, it would be almost impossible to believe the sound was emanating from the lithe beauty at the microphone. Last night, backed by a seven piece band at the Rockwood Music Hall on Allen Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Miss Velvet treated the audience, crammed into the small space that is Stage 2 of the venue, to one of those incendiary moments that promises all in attendance they are on the ground floor of the next new thing. A new thing that is the spark of something wonderful and long lasting. That is how powerful the set was last night. Her voice and stage presence brought to mind the transformation of Galadriel in “The Fellowship of the Ring” film, when the actress Kate Blanchett seemed to grow in size and furious power as she courted the temptation of omnipotence. An apt description for the effect Miss Velvet has on her audience.
Miss Velvet has been a bit of a mystery on the music scene, but that will not last long. A born and bred New Yorker who is classically trained, she spent some time in Europe honing her voice and gathering inspiration and depth to build on a foundation gifted to her from artistic parents. The central focus of her art is authenticity and fearlessness when it comes to crossing lines imposed by the self and by others. In her words, it is important to “stay true to who you are, and to know that there are no barriers that cannot be broken and crossed at any time.” Talking about what is most important to her when performing live, Miss Velvet is clear that she wants to “move people, and to have something come up from deep inside of themselves, whether the emotion is dark or happy or confused or enlightened”. “I love it when people can just get those feelings out there.” Onstage, she is vibrant and kinetic, with a movement and expressiveness that evokes Mick Jagger or Tina Turner. Her energy branches out across the stage to all of the musicians and connects to the audience until the entire room seems to be at one with the passion and purity of her intent. Her presence and sound is instantly addictive, and this was proven by the intensity with which the audience demanded an encore at the end of her set at Rockwood on Wednesday night.
At the moment, a Miss Velvet fix can be relieved through the remix of her song, “Cincinnati Street”, from Nick Littlemore of Empire of the Sun, Pnau and Teenager. As upbeat and trip hop as the track is, it is not really an indicator of what is in store at a live performance, where Miss Velvet commands the stage with the raw power, hard edged intensity and visceral vocals of tried and true rock and roll. She has just wrapped recording her new album with the band, and the release date is set for sometime in March. The singer and her band are planning to coincide the album dropping in time for SxSW in March of 2016 with appearances at CMJ in October before the release. Miss Velvet will open for the artists Borns and Vérité on August 30th at the Surf Lodge in Montauk, and is looking to return to Rockwood Music Hall sometime in the fall.