Thursday, Priya Thomas headlines a bill that features, among others, The Brown Hornets of Durham County, with their magnificently charismatic, fruit-pitching lead singer Danny Walters. It is not going to be easy for Priya to follow a blend of Gord Downie and Robert Downey, with vocal qualities that span from Jim to Van Morrison. The Hornets have em dancing and cheering to their original, but familiar music.
Moments later, a delicate, platinum Priya dressed in red leggings, a sequined black skirt and seductively perfect yellow t-shirt appears on the stage, and the next forty-eight minutes are literally some of the best of my life. She performs music peeled right off of her new CD, a disc whose sound is (successfully) designed to capture the manic intensity of Priyas musical stage presence. Her vocals dazzle, with occasional satisfying tannins of Dolores O'Riordan and Madonna.
But no disc not even a DVD can ever capture the bright, divine energy that she manifests in performance. Observing Priya Thomas writhing about the stage, staring and screaming harmoniously (and perfectly) into the stage monitors, ranting toward the lights, militarily marching across the platform with arms constantly in motion is mesmerizing. A guitar strapped around her frame contains her to an extent, but then a whole other enchantment happens; focused light streams out of her like a laser, and if she happens to catch your eye with one of her brown beams, you risk being fried on the spot.
Lyrically, the articulate, trilingual daughter of a physicist/Orthodox minister offers rich contributions toward discussions of environment, drugs, love, apathy, America, and existentialism.
I conclude that I am having my Time Magazine and Bruce Springsteen moment about the future of Rock n Roll. But questions remain. Its been a decade since Brit band James first revealed a sixteen-year-old phenom to 3,000 seat theatres across North America. Four CDs and many tours later, Priya Thomas seems to still be fighting to find an audience in Toronto. Her new CD will go a long way to exposing her to new listeners, and like with any other truly original artist, sometimes an audience needs to be primed before it can accept genius.