One moment she was a sultry chanteuse and the next, an X-rated stand-up comedian, cementing her status as a one-of-a-kind, no-holds-barred entertainer. Playing to a modest-sized crowd of obvious fans, singer-songwriter-musician Storm Large demonstrated she is anything but conventional during her concert on Friday at the Palladium at The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
Accompanied by her longtime pianist and music director James Beaton, Large was also joined by a distinguished string quartet consisting of Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians Michelle Black on violin, Joseph Ohkubo on violin, Kathy Hershberger on violin, and Andre Gaskins on cello. In addition, Large accompanied herself when she played ukulele on several of her original songs.
Large, a cabaret singer, who is as comfortable singing rock and jazz as she is songs from the Great American Songbook, became widely known for her astonishing appearances last summer on NBC’s hit show “America’s Got Talent.” Regularly a headliner with fellow Portland-based group Pink Martini, Large is also a sought-after performer with symphony orchestras. Her most recent local appearance was in May at Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael.
Large, whose setlist for her Palladium concert included a mix of standards and her own songs, peppered her show with often-lengthy anecdotes and stories filled with expletives, but all delivered in a lighthearted, guileless manner that even the most conservative audience member might find outwardly shocking, but inwardly amusing. Very comfortable with sharing her unfiltered opinions about everything from heterosexual men to complaining about names given to both male and female genitalia, Large kept the audience laughing between her songs, which she delivered with a level of dynamism and a style uniquely her own.
Highlights of Act 1 included an unconventional treatment of Cole’s Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” a reprise of her “America’s Got Talent” audition song, which stunned the judges and audience. Interpreting the standard in a manner that made Porter’s melody almost unrecognizable, and likely problematic to any Porter purists in the audience, Large’s version was nevertheless impactful for its artistry. Also, an actor, Large displayed her significant chops when she sang “Hopelessly Devoted to You” from the film musical “Grease,” transforming Oliva Newton John’s portrayal of the sweet, smitten Sandy singing about submissive yearning into a manifesto of female empowerment and revenge.
Opening Act 2 with James Brown’s tribute to women, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” Large showed off her rock and soul sensibilities. An inexhaustible performer and in possession of a vocal instrument that defies description for its versatility, power and range, Large went on to demonstrate she is an entertainer that gives 100+ percent when she performs. The combination of her formidable vocals, delivered with raw energy and passion, juxtaposed with the elegant strains of the string instruments is unlike anything I have ever heard. The stark contrast was really brought home in a parody song Large said she wrote as a joke. It’s a ditty titled “My Vagina is Eight Miles Wide” that turned into a singalong when Large invited the audience to join in the chorus, which many happily obliged, including several men. Conveying tremendous affection for the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Large paid tribute to the legendary duo with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Concluding the concert with an encore, Large sang Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart.
Throughout her concert, Large, who obviously wears her heart on her sleeve, exhibited her acute humanity through her comments about the effects pandemic and its accompanying isolation. Emphasizing how crucial human connectivity is and how much we need to love each other, she stressed that during this time of division and polarization, we are all in this together. The mix of Large’s words of positivity, coupled with her superb musicianship and that of her colleagues, made for an evening that will be long remembered, not only for the brilliance of Large’s musical talent, but also for her message of love, empathy and compassion.