Release Date: Out Now
Director: Bridget Palardy
Cinematographers: Palardy, Jake Springfield, Daryn Deluco, Tim Pride
Studio/Run Time: Girlie Action/75 min.
Swede songbird takes flight with the sounds of New Orleans
Theresa Andersson’s most infamous performances cast her not under a spotlight, but the sunlight seeping into her robin’s egg blue kitchen. One month after she released 2008’s Hummingbird, Go!, Andersson filmed two YouTube videos to illustrate her live set-up. With three snare drums and a record player nearby, her toes twisted the knobs and tapped the switches of two loop pedals—creating musical layers of resounding oohs, handclaps and even a funky Smokey Johnson beat that catch air like plastic bags in an updraft.
One year and two million views later, the sight of this one-woman band is still something to behold. As demonstrated during a sold-out night at Le Petit Theatre in New Orleans (the source material of her new concert DVD), the songs from Hummingbird, Go! have become delicately choreographed routines she’s mastered for the stage. She performs “The Waltz” as both a wind-up doll and ballerina, striking the xylophone with forearms rigid and elbows bent, and pirouettes through its interlude. Her hands often twist into flourishes before they reach for the next instrument, be it guitar, violin or dulcimer.
But when she strikes the tambourine in “Birds Fly Away,” she leaps off of her white shag rug—not into a grand jeté, but into her own little jig. Her voice, belting out in improvisation, is no longer as sweet and meek as the Motown backup vocalists she tends to emulate, or when she was a backup singer for The Neville Brothers and Betty Harris. It becomes loud and robust, bearing as much vigor as many leading gospel singers—and much more than the Hummingbird, Go! numbers ever offered by themselves.
Fortunately, Andersson’s setlist is nearly equal parts Hummingbird, Go! and American musical obscurities, some dating back to the Civil War (“Oh Mary Don’t You Weep”) and the Jazz Age (“Blue Skies”), giving her plenty of chances to flex her newfound chops. The highlight of the night hails from the latter era—”On Your Way Down,” written by New Orleans musician and composer Allen Toussaint, perhaps most famously performed by Little Feat. With Touissant’s piano-playing and Andersson’s scatting serving as this rendition’s backbone, Andersson is left free to stomp and pound and sing. Her kinetic energy is so contagious that Toussaint can’t help but crack a smile.
Hummingbird, Go! celebrated a unique identity Andersson created for herself: a one-woman band still influenced by her childhood home of Gotland, Sweden. But it’s her more straightforward tributes to New Orleans, where she currently lives, that now demonstrate her potential as a solo artist—and why she deserves more of that spotlight.