There’s an incomparable sense of community at an Ingrid Michaelson concert.
Last Thursday, Ingrid ended her spring tour with a homecoming show at Terminal 5 in New York City. Unbeknownst to the 32-year-old singer/songwriter, her management distributed glow sticks to all the audience members upon their arrival. The instructions were to keep them hidden until the encore and wait for the cue to take them out.
“This is going to be our last song,” Ingrid told the audience with a wink. “And by that I mean you’ll clap and we’ll all come back out on stage and sing a few more,” she teased before breaking into an explosive cover of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” – disco balls, strobe lights and all. #HipsterParadise indeed.
Moments later, the crowd started chanting Ingrid’s name to beckon her back. At this point, a member of the tour crew came on stage with a giant sign to tell the audience that now was the time to whip out their glow sticks. All of a sudden, flashes of neon pink, yellow and green waving in the air interrupted the darkness of the venue.
Upon Ingrid’s return to the stage, her genuine surprise was written all over her face. And she was still choked up when the encore’s first song, “Maybe,” began to play. It was the type of reaction you see from friends when you ambush them with a gift that only someone who knows them really well would know to get. Except this time around, it was one person getting that surprise from 3,000 devoted people at the same time.
If you think about it, the synchronized display of glow sticks is a true testament to Ingrid’s artistry. After all, nobody expects thousands of strangers to group together and quietly choreograph a visual tribute to them.
Yet Ingrid’s music and lyrics are so accessible and introspective that it’s a huge challenge not to feel a personal connection to them. Her metaphors are simple but the imagery they evoke is usually so rich and vivid, it’s as though she’s holding a microscope to her listener’s soul. The desire to physically express the uniformity of her message is one that her fans can’t help but have. Even if it is in the form of a tiny gesture like keeping a glow stick in your pocket for an hour and a half and then taking it out at the same time as everyone around you. Her fans have always felt at one with Ingrid. It was time for her fans to show her that she was at one with them too.
This sense of community, however, did not end with the unspoken agreement about the glow sticks. Ingrid told personal, funny stories to the crowd just as you would gossip with your friend on your living room couch. And each time she told another one, it was like she was getting closer to everybody in the room.
“Only in New York would people scream ‘who are you?’ while you’re singing,” she recalled about performing at last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. “And I was like ‘bitch, I’m on a float. That’s who I am.’” The crowd broke into uproarious laughter. “And this one guy kept shouting it but as I approached closer to him he was like ‘oh alright but you hot, you hot’ and I stopped glaring at him because I was very flattered.”
The laughter continued until Ingrid began to play the opening notes of “Blood Brothers” on the piano. She was letting her audience get to know her outside of her music and for a moment, it was like she was friends with everybody crammed inside the sold-out venue.
For the quirky and sweet “You and I,” Ingrid brought her opening act, British folk/rockers Scars On 45, back on stage along with her own entire band and tour crew. Together, they all stood in a semi circle and took turns signing lines of the song as Ingrid stood on one end strumming away at her ukulele. When they sang the line, “baby how we spoon like no one else,” the vast group of people on stage piled on top of another and had to pause for a moment to regain composure after an outbreak of laughter. It was a moment that celebrated the six weeks of the tour together as much as it celebrated the comraderie of the evening.
When the house lights went on after the show had ended, it felt like the end of a party. Ingrid didn’t just stand up on stage and sing a collection of songs from all throughout her musical catalog. She invited her audience into her world and for those couple of hours, we all stared wide-eyed at her – some inspired, some with tears, and some with resentment towards their girlfriends for dragging them to this show.
But no matter how they felt about her music, every audience member walked out of that venue feellng as though they had gotten to know Ingrid better. That’s a true feat in our contemporary pop culture psyche that values spectacle over connection. Luckily for her fans, Ingrid Michaelson doesn’t play by those rules, and the result is unlike any other concert-going experience I’ve had since … well, the last Ingrid concert I went to.
Ingrid Michaelson’s latest album, Human Again, is available now.
[PHOTOS | MIKE BENIGNO]