Show Review: Carina Round at The Apple Store and Café du Nord, 5/8/2012

by Jonathan Pirro on May 9, 2012

Watch the people get tricked out of time

Watch the people get tricked out of time

If you were fortunate enough to catch the last two waves of touring put upon by Puscifer, the brainchild of one Maynard James Keenan of Tool fame,  you might have caught a glimpse of a sultry and furious siren known as Carina Round, who opened for the art-collective-cum-musical-explosion on every single one of their dates. In addition to kicking off the show and stunning audiences who were unprepared for an opening act that held her own ground and shook the foundations of the theaters she co-occupied, the Wolverhampton, UK-born Carina also lent her rich and sensuous voice to the backup vocal duties of the main act — sometimes taking center stage to lead the musicians around her, while frontman Keenan practiced his customary hiding in the shadows. What you might have missed, however, was the release of Tigermending, her self-produced third record. Nearly half a decade in the making, with guest appearances from musicians as varied as Brian Eno, Billy Corgan, and Dave Stewart, the album is a dense and thunderous exploration of worlds unknown and lingering, decadent thoughts and messages. To express all of the fury and power of this release in a live setting is a daunting task, but tonight at Café du Nord, Carina proved that she was more than up for it.

An intimate gathering

An intimate gathering

Fans who were attuned with the singer’s current goings-on might have been lucky enough to catch Carina performing at the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco at the early evening hour of 6:00PM, where she offered up a small-scaled but nonetheless explosive set — six songs, performed on acoustic guitar without accompaniment. Even with the aural chaos that is a retail environment causing a considerable din, Carina’s powerful voice still managed to cut through the rabble and fill the space around her listeners, accompanied by the sharp shimmer of her guitar and the occasional bout of foot-stomping for emphasis. All the while, she looked happy to be there, if slightly nervous to be on a rather unusually-placed stage, but helped keep the ice steadily broken with a few well-timed jokes and encouragements for the crowd to sing along for her performance of “You And Me”, which, sadly, only a few members of the audience were brave enough to engage in. Despite the seeming quiet and stillness of her onlookers, they seemed terribly excited and begged her to stay for even more songs by the time she closed her set with a loud, raucous performance of “Girl And The Ghost”.

Carina Round and Matt McJunkins

Carina Round and Matt McJunkins

The real excitement, however, was with the crowd that plowed their way to Café du Nord later that night and packed the small club to the gills, in anticipation of seeing Carina and her full band in a beautifully personal setting, for there are few establishments within San Francisco that are more intimate and special than the small club on Market Street. Accompanied by fellow Puscifer bandmates Matt McJunkins and Jeff Friedl on bass and drums respectively, as well as keyboardist/sample player Claire Acey, Carina took the stage just after 10:30PM, and kicked her set off with the same song she had begun her Apple store set with a few hours before — the haunting, foreboding “Set Fire”, which came alive like a hurricane with the full fury of her backing musicians, giving Carina another outlet through which to channel a deeper energy and passion that far outshined the soft, reddish hues of the club’s lights. Barely a moment was wasted from song to song, with words of thanks and wide smiles being offered to her cheering onlookers as each song was presented to them, and then kicked forward amongst them in a dynamite display of musicianship.

Carina down low with Jeff Friedl in the background

Carina down low with Jeff Friedl in the background

Each song of Carina’s set, already dark and wrought with its own breed of fire and crackling energy, gave the smoldering singer more opportunities to stun the crowd and alert them to the powerful presence before them. When a faulty microphone threatened to grind their performance of “The Last Time” to a shuddering halt, Carina improvised with heretofore unforeseen ferocity, tearing away the backing microphone from Matt McJunkins and tossing hers aside, and managed to get her hands wrapped around it and her eyes wide just in time to bellow out the chorus. The diminutive stage offered similar aversions to be overcome, and she took to them with pride, stomping furiously and hurling herself and her instrument in wild but pointed undulations, her body and guitar combining as a fascinating sonic weapon. All the while, with the fuzz-and-thickness bass warble from McJunkins and the celestially atmospheric synths of Acey painting a gorgeous musical texture around her, it was Carina’s seductive, velvety voice that was the centerpiece of the hour-and-a-half set, with the rest of the band following her delicate dynamics from song to song with marvelous precision.

Caught in mid-swing

Caught in mid-swing

Ninety minutes was barely enough time for an ample sampling of Carina’s work, but she managed to blast out a fantastic set nonetheless. While the majority of her songs were from the newly-released Tigermending, a few cult favorites such as “Got To Go (LA Song)” were also slipped in for good measure. The recently-penned “Do You”, an ominous and unsettling tale that was picked up for the horror drama American Horror Story, seemed to garner the loudest cheers from the crowd besides “The Last Time” and “Girl And The Ghost”. The foreboding mood of her lyrics was offset by the delightful exchanges between Carina and McJunkins, with Friedl backing up their snarky jokes with expertly-timed rimshots and dashes across the cymbals. Rather than duck offstage for the brief pause between the set ending and the encore, Carina remained onstage for her final number, and although she lamented the absence of her friend and guitarist Sam Stewart, the lack of his presence did little to quell her spirit as she and her band let loose the final squall of the night: a thunderstruck performance of “Into My Blood”.

Jeff Friedl and Carina Round

Jeff Friedl and Carina Round

When I witnessed Carina Round’s incredible stage presence, and became entranced with her melancholy-yet-awestriking songs, it was in the short breadth of time before seeing Puscifer take the stage at the Palace Of Fine Arts, back in December of 2011, and again in March of 2012. Each time, no one but Carina seemed more apt a player for the gorgeous theater and its sonorous acoustics, which helped to breathe a deeper life into her already epic pieces. Within the small walls and under the dim lights of Café du Nord, that same presence and avalanche of energy was concentrated into a condensed but no less mindblowing set, with Carina looking overjoyed to see so many smiling faces beholding her as she displayed every fiber of her being within each song. I found her mesmerizing, beautiful, and a whirlwind of grace and fire, and expect hers to be the fastest rising and brightest burning star that the world may see in the coming year.

Additional photos from the show below. All photos © 2012 Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

More Posts - Twitter - Facebook

Read Also:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: