[5 August 2011]
Jessica 6 is a descendant, or by-product, of the campy but cerebral disco of DJ Andy Butler’s Hercules and Love Affair. It was in his group that Jessica 6’s three collaborators — bassist Andrew Raposo, keyboardist Morgan Wiley, and chanteuse Nomi Ruiz — met. And it was on hiatus from Hercules that the trio began to focus its dance-floor sound around Nomi’s dramatic lyrics and effortless style.
In the midst of a national tour, this hometown stop (despite its daylight start time) was celebratory and energized. The band flew threw most of their debut, See the Light, though left out the hypnotic seduction of “Good to Go”. “White Horse” came too early in the set, before the mix was balanced well enough for it to achieve maximum effect, and “See the Light” still sounds like a discarded Shakira track. But the band treated the crowd to Nomi’s rendition of Mary J. Blige’s “What’s the 411?” with Wiley’s jazz-inclined keyboards casting the appropriate glow. And overall, Nomi’s vocals were impressively clear over the band’s tight sound and her assertion onstage never felt contrived. Like Antony, who joins her on the single “Prisoner of Love” and whom she shared lead vocals with in Hercules, Nomi pushes disco into melancholy. She lends it weight while still sounding fun. And she’s also natural at the front of the stage, leading her band into a heartfelt chorus, provoking the beat to drop. The post-Lady Gaga pop landscape looks particularly inviting to Nomi’s patient ascent.