Show Review: Caroline Smith at First Avenue 4/16/16

Caroline Smith is an R&B singer and songwriter who made her start in Minneapolis. She released two solid, folk-leaning albums with her former band Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps before putting out Half About Being a Woman under her own name in 2013. As far as I’m concerned, Half About Being a Woman is a perfect record. At nine songs and just over half an hour, there’s not a single wasted moment. Each song stands exceptionally well on its own, grounded by Smith’s expressive and impressive voice. She plays the guitar, and her lines on this album are snappy and groovy. The overall sound of the album is lush — warm organs, galloping drums, saxophone embellishments, funky basslines. Half About Being a Woman is a record that’s very near and dear to my heart. It was the soundtrack to my first year of college. I spent last school year and summer listening to it every day, usually more than once. I learned every word and screamed along to every song in my room and car.

When Caroline Smith announced a small string of tour dates for this month in February, I was more than excited. Being that she’s a local artist, I thought I would have had the opportunity to see her perform live long ago. I bought my ticket to her show in the First Avenue mainroom right when they went on sale, ready for the next two months to fly by.

The show was last Saturday, April 16. I couldn’t have been any less disappointed. I somehow managed to show up early enough to get an amazing spot. I was in the second row, right next to the small runway that jutted out from the stage. I was ready for Caroline Smith to be performing songs I love less than three feet away from me. Smith is an electrifying performer — she engages with the crowd, delivers flawless vocal performances, and has a palpable chemistry with the members of her band. Her backup singer was her best friend Mina Moore, who is an amazing musician with some solo music of her own. I saw Moore open for Hiatus Kaiyote last October, and I was happy to hear her voice again.

Smith opened the show with a new song called “Giving Myself Away.” It’s pretty brave to start your set with a song that no one knows, but the crowd was loving it. She performed every song from Half About Being A Woman, which is all I could have asked for. In addition to “Giving Myself Away,” Smith performed three other new songs, including a beautiful piano ballad called “Downfall,” which was her first of two encores. She also delivered a funky cover of Alanis Morissette's “You Oughta Know,” and performed “Let ‘Em Say,” her collaboration with fellow Minneapolis artist Lizzo. Sadly, Lizzo couldn’t be there to perform her part on the song, but, happily, Mina Moore was there to do it.

Caroline Smith closed her sold-out hometown show with my favorite song of hers, the closer to Half About Being A Woman, a ballad called “Child of Moving On.” Hearing that song live felt like some sort of culmination in my life — it was roughly a year or so ago that I really started to listen to Half About Being a Woman on an obsessive level. Smith has been working on a new album, and I has half-hoping that she would announce its release date or some sort of update on it at the show, but that didn’t happen. That’s okay, though. After hearing the new songs, I know that there’s no way I can be disappointed. I just have to find a way to be patient. I have a feeling that the only way to do that is to continue obsessively listening to Half About Being a Woman before its follow-up arrives.

-Erik Starkman

Setlist:

  • Giving Myself Away
  • All That I Know Is (I’m Your Baby)
  • The One Thing
  • Buy Me Something
  • Bloodstyle
  • Half About Being a Woman
  • Baby Goodbye
  • Kind of Man
  • You Oughta Know
  • Let ‘Em Say
  • Damn Baby
  • Magazine
  • Walking Off Strong
  • Encore:
  • Downfall
  • Child of Moving On