Nina Storey adds new face to Idiot Box MUSIC

by Ryan Snyder

When Greensboro comedy labratory the Idiot Box moved across the street to the former location of O’Kennedy’s clothing store, it was a given that their cheeky brand of humor would come along with it. That something new would be added to the venue’s repertoire may not have been so apparent. The hospital-plum paint on the walls had barely dried before singer/songwriter Nina Storey took the stage as the first non-comedy act at Steve Lesser and Jenny Stencel’s new digs. The interior still seems to be work in progress, and of all the starving artists in the world, there has to be one who’d kill to hang her work on these bare walls. Still, it provided quite a cozy environment for Storey to give another of her thoughtful, intimate performances. You might even be able to argue that they’re working on an uninterrupted string of comedic shows, since Storey appeared to have quite a knack for drawing giggles out of the audience. Though she possesses a quirky sense of humor, it was Storey’s other qualities that yelled the loudest. Her big, powerful voice was only rivaled by her gorgeous, flaming-red hair as her most prominent quality. When I say red, I’m talking about the kind that might leave third-degree burns on her stylist’s hands. Her ivory skin nearly blended into the wall behind her, leaving nothing but a silhouette of hair and bright blue eye shadow onstage. Most of us weren’t there just because of her looks, so I’ll try to curb my analysis to the show itself from here on out. She walked onstage all alone; cutting short the mental Tetris game I was playing with the place’s floor pattern. I was just a bit disappointed that there was no other musical accompaniment after hearing the rich textures on her album, but the empty stool and mic beside her had me holding out hope. Unfortunately for me, that instrumental support never materialized. It especially didn’t help after hearing that revered bluesman Keb’ Mo’ played on her most recent alum. But she is certainly the show that people pay to see, even if there were a few too many empty seats. She worked the keyboard on her bluesy opening compositions, swaying with the vigor of Stevie Wonder on “Give Me a Reason” while outside a lumbering train whistled in accompaniment. She picked up her black Ibanez acoustic guitar for the next few numbers, played it with a style very minimalist compared to the vibrato tones of her voice and the two were a nice complement to each other. Storey carries quite a reputation for her otherworldly vocal pyrotechnics and the small crowd of only about a dozen was treated to the full complement. She sounds raw, like an unrefined gemstone. There’s just as much sparkle as there is grit to be found in a delivery that jumps from fluttery to forceful in a mere blink. It did seem that her range was a little out of her control on occasion, just opening her pipes and letting it rip. “My extra-dorky super powers come out when I play in front of small crowd,” Storey joked. “But I’m totally psyched about talking about my comic-book obsession in hopes that other comic-book nerds will come forward.” Storey covered all corners of her vocal influences, from jazz to blues and r&b to soul through the 90-minute set. She was especially strong in channeling Billie Holiday on an unrecorded swing-flavored number entitled “Sunny.” Storey even gave the crowd a taste of Tom Waits’ on “Rae,” a song about growing up in Crested Butte, Colo. that lent itself in pacing to Waits’ classic “Step Right Up.” The musical accompaniment that was missing eventually did show up, sort of.  Always a good neighbor, the Green Burro sent its band on a wee bit early and the thumping bass could be heard well over Storey’s vocals. It reminded me of the time that I saw the great John Prine at Bonnaroo, while the Jurrasic 5 completely overpowered him from the next stage over. Storey took it in good spirit and actually came out the victor with her final song, “Alright Mr. Bass, watch this one,” she declared, as she belted out “Getting Over You.” Even the house PA struggled to keep up with the sheer volume of sound that Storey emitted. It was made even more impressive by the fact that her doctor had placed her on vocal rest at the time, which begs the question: Would the Burro’s band be the one’s complaining of noise had she been at full strength?

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