The Bardot was an unlikely launchpad for JØUR’s sonic blastoff Monday night, hours before Americans went to the polls to define the direction of their nation’s future. The club lives inside the storied Avalon Theater in the heart of Hollywood, upstairs from the main dance floor. Inside it is kind of an art deco/Moroccan lounge which claims a capacity of 300. It was obviously not designed as a music venue as the stage takes up the majority of the central floor space and the observation balcony is occupied by the sound and light board. When couches are in place in front of the stage for the Monday School Night showcases, fans have to crowd around on the sides with the overflow lining the stairs to the soundboard level and the over-overflow in the two adjacent bars.
But JØUR turned the Bardot into a West Coast Cape Canaveral, rocketing the audience into orbit with only her voice, keyboard and the terrific drumming of Alex Young. She filled the Bardot with a sound that shot you to a black hole on the dark side of the moon, swung you screaming around into the sun , pulled you back at the last moment and just when you thought you were safe, slides you into a nightmare. And it reminded you – whether she meant to or not – of the decision we all had to make the next day at the ballot box.
She performed seven songs from her just released Chiaroscuro album and mesmerized the audience. She got liftoff with the first song, “Cut”, her voice soaring in impossibly high notes as she streamed images of machetes and cut throats and dangerous love, She accelerated even higher into the trance dance of “Black Hole”, wailing Why not let the grave keep her dead?/You dig me up instead before settling into a hypnotic orbit with the more gentle, but equally caustic “One More Night”.
But orbiting allows you see an entire planet, and when JØUR looked down what she saw was a day-before-the-mid-term-election “Revolution”, a song that cried with prophetic urgency There’s a surge coming/I can feel the tension when I move, and then elevated into astral musical notes as she rolled out her close-up vision with a bloodcurdling aria:
They’re writing blood on the walls with wine/The thirst for power’s a sleeping giant
And he wakes up every time/ And when he does its always violent.
We get a break with “Hollow Horse” as she sways at the keyboard, steering her innocent passengers into the void where a memory lives so callous that she laments If hope had a flicker
You’d snuff it out. Alex Young’s drums pound like a terrified heart pumping its blood into the synth-world spreading out from her keyboard. We level off again and coast through her mind with “Slip Away”, mesmerized by her oscillating body and Young’s otherworldly percussion, bringing to mind the cosmic drums of Iron and Wine’s Elizabeth Goodfellow. But the respite is short as JØUR takes center stage and carefully begins a final descent into the world of “American Nightmare”, a stealthy song that entices you with her softer voice and collapsing body but terrifies you with the poignancy of its lyrics:
Don’t make me turn the lights out/I’m scared of what I’ll see
Don’t wanna fall asleep and have the American Dream/Stuck inside a nightmare
And I can’t even scream/What if I can’t wait up from this American Dream
Perhaps those are edgy lyrics for a woman born in Minneapolis, MN, who studied classical piano and voice as a child. Or they are the lyrics you would expect from a woman inspired by the American-Canadian indie-pop singer Feist and her album Metals. Either way, it is a testament to her innate talent that JØUR taught herself to control her voice and extend her range from the alluring to the commanding and use it so deftly as she evolved into the multi-medium artist she is today, telling her stories with dance, painting , graphic design and photography and, of course, music.
Although she co-founded the Good Arts Collective in Minneapolis to empower and inspire other artists, I don’t know if JØUR meant her performance as a political comment. Maybe this is the solar-system that revolves constantly in her songwriting mind. Either way, it worked. Despite the tight quarters, the uneven sound system, an unshielded loud-talking sound board operator, JØUR ushered us into her rocket ship, buckled us down, and gave us the ride of our lives.