Mary Lambert Performs at Mount Holyoke: Professional and Raw

Sarah Robbins '17 Assistant Arts Editor

Grammy nominee Mary Lambert played in Chapin Auditorium at Mt. Holyoke last weekend, on Sunday. Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. Her appearance was thanks to Holyoke’s student organization Femmepowered, who reached out to her and convinced her to play a concert. Given Lambert’s fame, it was gracious of Mt. Holyoke to sell tickets at only $7 per person; that’s a concert I can afford. The tickets were sold at the door, and there was a surprisingly short line when we arrived just a half hour before the concert began. Lambert was prefaced by the Mt. Holyoke a cappella group, who sang three songs that felt endless. (This may also have because everyone was waiting for Lambert). When she finally made it to the stage, she was met with excited, welcoming cheers. For someone who, a couple months ago, was working as a barista in Seattle, Lambert exerts a remarkable stage presence that is at once comfortable and yet completely overblown with giddiness, charming awkwardness and undertones of harsh sadness. She started off the night with arguably one of her most melancholic, subdued pieces, the beautiful “Sarasvati,” which she often does to get it out of the way at the beginning. She also told stories between each piece, trying to offset her intense, dark pieces with easy humor. “You can literally see people sobbing,” she has written, about her more painful pieces on rape and depression, “and I’m sobbing. So I feel the only way that people are going to go home and not be severely depressed is if I start telling them jokes.” But undoubtedly the most striking part of Lambert’s performances is the clarity of her voice. In the Holyoke music hall, her songs sounded even better than on recordings, each carrying the same emotional intensity, coupled with soft, vulnerable moments, that can be found in any of her EPs or videos. Lambert, of course, played her hits “She Keeps Me Warm” and “Body Love,” but the songs that stood out to me were the yet to-be released “Red Lipstick” and “Just Got Home.” “Red Lipstick” exhibits a fast, harsh tempo, indicative of the failed relationship described in the piece (“Honey you should know / Never to trust a woman with red lipstick”). The song is fast, angry and catchy, and shows off Lambert’s ability to switch from very high to very low notes. “Just Got Home,” by comparison, is a sweet, softly sung love song about settling down. This song is special because of the way Lambert’s voice lingers over each syllable, mixing perfectly with the notes of the piano. The song starts “Cats on the welcome mat / The snow is outside,” and just gets more lovey-dovey from there. Lambert also performed a slam poem about a girl in an abusive relationship. Her slams are as well made as her songs, probably because many of her songs are written like poetry: they use an assortment of odd details that catch our attention and convey the story. Ultimately, the piece was a hopeless account of one girl, lost and unsure of how to find her own strength. Among the other songs Lambert performed was a cover of “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus, which was, in my opinion, better than the original. The actual song was produced in the early 2000s and has that kind of angsty, jamming, boy band feel of the ’90s. Lambert’s version, played solely with the piano, became suddenly more serious and quietly sad, as the lyrics were sung slower and with more emphasis on each word. She waited until the end of the night to sing “She Keeps Me Warm,” but it was consistent with all of her other recorded performances. The only difference between Mary Lambert live and Mary Lambert recorded is the sheer vulnerability and emotion expressed in each live piece. because she is the kind of singer who would cry onstage and just keep going.