Concert Review: Thao and Mirah with The Most of All / Cambridge, MA
Reviewed by: Dorise Gruber
Thao Nguyen keeps popping up, and each time she appears with a new handle. You may know her by her full given name, but you’ve more likely seen her presented as “Thao and the Get Down Stay Down,” perhaps simply as the familiar “Thao,” and in this most recent incarnation on a partnered tour with pal and fellow established performer Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn (better known as just “Mirah”), as “Thao and Mirah with The Most of All.”
Thao and Mirah fans alike gathered at the Middle East Downstairs last Wednesday to party with these lady-crooners. Thao was clad in her usual show garb – a V-striped summery number with brown cowboy boots, and Mirah in a shimmery black tank and jeans. When Thao’s not running around the stage or pseudo head-banging, she has an entrancing, distinctive hip sway as she jostles her weight from one toe to the other, bewitchingly marching in place. Mirah sports more of a bobbing movement, and cutely jams along to her own beats. Thao has a really distinctive, almost dissonant sound – her vocals weave away from straightforward melodies, but they draw you in rather than push you away. Mirah’s vocals are a little cleaner and her albums a little more produced, but both ladies are fantastic live performers and as a duo toy with fresh ways to revamp each others’ existing harmonies.
Joined by a combination of their bands dubbed “The Most of All,” the indie-folk gals crunched in a representative sample of their respective recent catalogs. The show was one big hootenanny, combining violin, banjo, and keyboard with more standard band instruments. True to the individual styles of both ladies, together they put a huge emphasis on beat and percussion. Willis, Thao’s drummer, is a formidable percussionist on his own, but Thao and Mirah and other band-mates would run over to Willis’ kit to periodically assist in rhythmic banging on cymbals and toms, with additional floor toms, bongos, and tambourines scattered across the stage for all to rap away. The unpretentious hippie vibe of Thao and Mirah with The Most of All was contagious, with the lucky audience privy to the shindig.
Ok, so why only 3 1/2 stars? This had the formula for being a pretty outstanding show: two lively sole performers, a worthy warm-up act (These United States, their good-natured indie-americana openers), and air conditioned reprieve from a hot summer night. Thao and Mirah started off really dynamic, but when they went in for quieter songs, or would make serious announcements on behalf of the non-profit charitable organization Oxfam, the audience would gab away noisily as if there were no show going on at all. You could tell that this had a discouraging effect on Thao and Mirah, and as the energy of the crowd fluctuated, so did theirs. This could have been the result of any other combination of factors too – they’re in the middle of a lengthy tour that’s not showcasing new material, they admitted to feeling rushed by the looming Cambridge curfew, and it seemed like many of the fans were there for either Thao or Mirah, instead of for the two of them together. With divided fans and divided attention, the ladies only intermittently connected with the audience to the point of their true potential.
Thankfully, the girls were able to recoup and ramped up their game by the end. For the last song in the Encore, they each stepped off-stage and into the masses, letting loose amongst the horde. By show’s close, Thao and Mirah had finally re-focused the crowd, breathing new life into their set and reinforcing their presence as a team to be reckoned with.
The Clap – Thao
The Dogs of B.A. – Mirah
Trouble Was For – Thao
When We Swam – Thao
We’re Both So Sorry – Mirah
Feet Asleep – Thao
Bones and Skin – Mirah
Country of the Future – Mirah
The Forest – Mirah
Body – Thao
Beat (Health, Life and Fire) – Thao
Recommendation – Thao covers Mirah
Cool Yourself – Thao
But What of the Strangers – Thao
NOLA – Mirah (Hurricane Katrina song)
Generosity – Mirah
While We Have the Sun – Mirah
Bag of Hammers – Mirah covers Thao
Easy – Thao
Know Better Learn Faster – Thao
The Garden – Mirah
The Give – Thao
Cold, Cold Water – Mirah
Gone Are the Days – Mirah
For more info: