Circle Bar, New Orleans, LA • March 30, 2001
There are few artists that have consistently captivated me quite like Eleni Mandell. From the first verse of the first song (“I’m Your Girl”) of her first album, Wishbone, I’ve been hooked. I’ve reviewed both her albums and interviewed her, but never had a chance to see her. So when finally faced with an opportunity to see her live, I was there with bells on, or at least with my leopard shoes on.
The tiny locals’ hangout, Circle Bar, built into a very old three-story house on Lee’s Circle in New Orleans was the site. The setting was very appropriate for Eleni Mandell’s pulp/noir inspired songs. There is a seedy side to her music that is very much at home in the Big Easy.
Despite a rather disinterested crowd that was out for the cocktails and ambience rather than a show, awkward performing conditions, the call of I-10, and to be kind, the questionable sound, Eleni Mandell still managed to put forth a very enjoyable show. Ever imagine someone playing in your living room? Well, she played for about ten people in a living room, and frankly, my living room has better acoustics, but nonetheless, no one there to see her has any reason to be disappointed.
I make no secret of the fact that I would love to see her play with the combo that she plays with on her albums and on occasion at home in Los Angeles, but there is still a very real power in Eleni’s acoustic show. The stripped down sound adds an intense layer of intimacy to the songs that is utterly captivating. It’s just her, a Slivertone guitar, her songs and you. There is an honesty to her voice that truly makes her songs come to life. Even though they are finely crafted songs, I couldn’t imagine them being sung by any other voices. I could have listened to her play for hours. As it was, she played a nice mix of songs from her two records, Wishbone and Thrill, as well as some new material that already has me anticipating her next record, as I am also anticipating the chance to see her play once again. ◼