Erica Wexler performed to us in a very intimate showcase at the Crazy Bear Member Club, in Covent Garden last night. Erica took to the stage, wearing long black gloves and a long black dress, with her hair set in a glamorous 1950’s style and she described herself as a diva. She pointed out to someone in the audience who had the audacity to keep their phone on during her set that he lacked ‘phone manners’; you knew that she had entered the room. We would expect nothing less, from a woman who was born into such a creative family. Her father was Oscar-nominated screenwriter Norman Wexler (Saturday Night Fever, Serpico), a brilliant man with an IQ of 180. Her mother, meanwhile, was an award winning advertising executive and copywriter who remarried, when Erica was ten years old, an award-winning art director called Robert Wilvers who achieved fame for his advertising campaigns for Alka Seltzer (“Plop-plop-fizz-fizz”) and Citibank (“The city that never sleeps”).
Erica sang four songs from her forthcoming album – Sunlit Night. Sunlit Night is an album of lush melodies with ethereal orchestrated pop arrangements which is played by musicians with no electronics. The tracks are classically structured with an orchestral flare, they also deal with classic themes.
First up, was her song called Unbecome. She stated that the song matched her diva voice. A few chords into the song, we were slightly worried about that statement, as her voice was quite shaky. Her voice progressively got a bit better, before being a bit shaky again. We’re afraid that the lack of tone and power let the song down. There is no doubt that the song could be very beautiful, it if was perhaps sung by someone with a powerhouse voice. The song is about how you can be “half a person” without your partner (which takes on a new emotional resonance when you understands that it was written by Andy Partridge about how he feels when Erica isn’t around). Erica performed the song with a wistful look on her face and her arms wandered about in a similar way to how Kate Bush often performs Wuthering Heights, albeit she didn’t move from behind her microphone. We found this a little strange, but it kept us entertained at least.
My Silent Star was up next. This was another beautiful song and very gentle, with an almost hypnotisingly relaxing vibe to it. The song is about “making peace with separation and loss”. Erica announced that all performers were two steps away from having a mental illness, pointing out that even the likes of Sir Ian McKellen was like this, if he is able to imagine that a giant elk is running after him (a reference to the Lord of the Rings films), and that she is the same way, if she can sing a song about a star in the sky. We felt that this was a bit of an odd statement, and although we laughed at the time, we’re not sure that it was the right comment to make and it was a bit of an odd statement to make mid-way through a set-list of relaxing songs. It is a bit of a bold statement! You have to admire her guts. Erica ended her set with Darling Come in From The Storm and A Life Lived, both of which continued with the relaxing structure and sound.
The album sounds great, but seeing Erica live, we’re afraid that she just does not possess the voice to be able to sing these songs with power or passion. Her voice was very gentle and almost spoken at times – as though she has not even warmed up her vocal chords before coming on stage. Her voice was not in the diva league and it would have been nice to have heard the songs sung by someone with a much stronger voice, as the songs are gorgeous and well-written. This was not very kindly pointed out by someone who mentioned that ‘it was a shame that there was not any auto-tune available’.
The songs on the album however, are the perfect songs to stick on at the end of a hectic day, to unwind. Erica is a great woman and a quirky, one-off and she has some very funny tales to tell. She is clearly a talented, creative woman, but we’re afraid that an intimate showcase in such a close setting doesn’t really do the songs or her voice, any justice at all.