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Chantel Upshaw at the Media Club

Chantel Upshaw photo

Chantel Upshaw. Karolina Turek photo

Review – Chantel Upshaw at the Media Club, Vancouver, March 13th, 2012

– by Ria Nevada

Tuesday was huge for Chantel Upshaw and friends at the Media Club. A seasoned member of Vancouver’s musical theatre community, the gingery beauty has been quietly making the transition into the local music scene. Last night, she debuted a solid repertoire of blues songs from her very first first record, True Tales from Vandaluse. With strong song-writing skills and a velvety voice, Upshaw presented herself as a fresh and eclectic force in the adult contemporary mode.

All the performers must have been a ball of nerves when the club doors opened – the venue was practically empty (save for giant paper fans on the stage and votive candles by the booths) at the approximate start time. But when opener Kyle Richardson claimed the stage, the room began to fill up and a genuine excitement and supportive energy filled the air. A little bit of country-blues, and a little bit alternative, it was a little difficult to read where Richardson wants to go as an artist. But with his crystal clear timbre and impressive vocal runs, he’ll hopefully find his foothold in the industry.

Bow and Arrow followed with a strictly R&B set, playing a couple of originals, but mostly covers of seminal artists like Stevie Wonder and Peggy Lee. The very youthful group looked extremely excited, albeit nervous, playing their first show in front of a live audience. Their lead singers could belt “Seed” by The Roots and an En Vogue song with enough ease, and their guitarist whizzed through those boogie and funk licks. But overall, the group lacked their own sense of originality. That being said, if what they were aiming for was to be an upbeat and entertaining cover band, then job well done.

Chantel Upshaw, on the other hand, is a woman who does not lack personality or confidence. In fact, she has even created an alter ego by the name of Pouty Marlo to carry half the weight of her charisma. The picture of a classical Hollywood chanteuse in a fitted romper covered by a floor-length silk robe, her onstage image matched the old soul heard in her voice. Yet her lyrics, capturing the joys and pains of coming of age, speak to the twentysomething demographic.

Chantel Upshaw photo

Chantel Upshaw. Tiffany May photo

Unfortunately, her ballad “Passed Me By” fell flat with the audience, who seemed more absorbed in their conversations than the live music. However, “On the Outside” which mixed a sultry melody with an upbeat hip hop rhythm, was an instant hit and probably the best representation of what I’ll call her “New Glamour” style. The track brings to mind the contagious works of Michael Franti mixed with the popular appeal of American Idol‘s Katharine McPhee. Personally, I’d be surprised if the song doesn’t become a commercial hit for this unique and alluring artist.

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