Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., June 30, 2006
One World Theatre, June 23
Dream that a triumvirate of single-named female artists Tori, Ani, Björk fashion one diminutive Brazilian dynamo, and you'll begin to fathom Badi Assad (Bah-jee ah-Sahj). The guitarist/singer/percussionist possesses Amos' emotive power, DiFranco's strung intensity, and Gumundsdóttir's experimentalism, yet clearly follows her own muse. Able to tour internationally on her guitar chops alone, spanning the fretboard like Stretch Armstrong doing yoga, Assad excels in acrobatic vocalizations. Creating bafflingly accurate animal sounds in her second song, Assad converted a corner of West Austin into the Brazilian rainforest. Next was a weighty rendition of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." Most of set one came from the fresh Verde (Universal), but "Sweet Dreams" will be on this fall's Wonderland. The tastefully cozy One World Theatre and its attentive audience were an ideal match for Assad's intimate, melodic flights, as in the midset, bad relationship "Você Não Entendeu Nada." Floating around moods and styles like a hummingbird at a floral waterfall, Assad offered the joie de vivre of "In My Little White Top," then a samba-fied "One," different from both Verde's version and U2's original. Hearts opened and jaws dropped for encore "Asa Branca," Assad emitting two simultaneous vocalizations, rhythmic beatboxing and melodic humming, while playing string harmonics over the sound hole of her cedar-topped guitar, a walking bassline holding it all together. It was clear: a Badi Assad performance is an intimate tableau of an artist in motion.