Hayley Keith

Olivia Chaney Captivates Colectivo Crowd

New partnership with Pabst Theater Group scores with its inaugural concert at the coffee house.

By - Jun 16th, 2015 02:08 pm
Olivia Chaney. Photo by Adam Miszewski.

Olivia Chaney. Photo by Adam Miszewski.

The Pabst Theater Group and Colectivo Coffee shop on N. Prospect Avenue chose very wisely when they picked the first touring artist to play for their new partnership series. The Back Room space at Colectivo is an intimate setting with the perfect ambience to showcase Olivia Chaney’s honest and raw performance.

The back wall of the venue was lined with plants, bringing life to the concrete space and the cafe’s back sliding doors, when opened, allow the venue to hold anywhere up to 325 people. Strings of lights hung from the metal beams added atmosphere. But the stage lighting could use some adjustment: the four blinding colored spotlights set up at eye level behind the stage at times made it difficult to see the musicians and instead left you seeing a mixture of blue and red spots.

However, the musical talents of Chaney and opener Hayward Williams still came through powerfully. Williams opened the show with a series of word-oriented songs paired with simple chord progressions on the guitar and alternating between playing slower tempo and faster tempo songs. His soulful and calming voice suggested Van Morrison with a slight country twang.

Chaney’s appearance attracted a diverse audience whose ages ranged from early 20’s to mid 50’s. This was the biggest crowd Chaney had played for on tour so far and she did not disappoint. She performed with three different instruments — the piano, guitar and harmonium — all offering a different sound to each song while still remaining within her distinctive musical style.

The English singer/songwriter seems to channel the traditional folk song while giving it her own unique spin. Unlike other artists, Chaney does not travel with multiple guitars, which forced her to retune her guitar after every song. But retuning the guitar to match the key of each song is part of what gave her performance a disarming honesty.

From the opening note of “Pretty Katy” the audience seemed captivated, silently focusing their attention on Chaney’s bluesy-folk voice. The other songs Chaney sang were all from her newly released album The Longest River including, “The King’s Horses,” “Waxwing,” “Too Social,” and the inspiration for her album title, “Swimming in the Longest River.” Most of Chaney’s songs were a cross between lullaby and folk ballad, but often with lyrics that seemed inspired by real-life events.

While Chaney’s voice has been compared to singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, there is also a soothing, Norah Jones-quality to her singing.  It’s a voice that can be hauntingly sultry, with a purity that clearly seduced this audience. It was a wonderful start to Colectivo’s new concert series.

Olivia Chaney at Collectivo

Hayward Williams at Collectivo

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us