Ingrid Michaelson wrapped up her recent North American tour with two sold-out shows in Washington, D.C. at the beautifully restored Lincoln Theatre. The “Hell No Tour,” named for the hit single from her 2016 album, It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense, proved once more that Michaelson is one of the most creative women on the contemporary music scene.
The bespectacled singer jumped into the spotlight in 2007 with a rather traditional singer/songwriter pop tune, the charming “The Way I Am,” which wound up on Old Navy commercials and on top TV shows. The song now serves as a lovely sing-along moment onstage, placed about mid-set in a show that ranges from sweet balladry to rowdy propulsive rock.
Michaelson still sings along to her own keyboard or ukulele accompaniment and could easily play a solo acoustic set. Instead she’s grown into an assured performance artist whose staging, lighting and solid five-piece band take the material into more compelling spheres, occasionally even moving close to ethereal, layered-vocal art rock.
The “Hell No” show had moments of quiet, stunning beauty that showed how seriously Michaelson takes her songcraft. Still the interplay of the singer with the crowd and with her jovial band was shot through with great humor as well, and not just in easy-going between-song banter. The full ensemble dug into an onstage costume box to don boas, hats and other accessories for a “sexy photo break” and ended the night carousing to Right Said Fred’s silly one-hit-wonder, “I’m Too Sexy.”
Clearly, Michaelson and company know how to throw a party, and will do so in a special one-off show December 14 at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom. This will be the 10th Annual edition of Michaelson’s “Holiday Hop,” a show dedicated to (as her web site tells it) “holiday merriment and celebration.” Given the joyful spirit and playfulness of the “Hell No,” tour, this one not-so-silent night should be a true seasonal treat. And if you want to dress for the occasion, Michaelson's site also offers a pop-up shop of goodies including her own take on the classic ugly sweater.