Some of the most famous songs ever written were about the strangest subjects. The Beatles, after all, sang about a yellow submarine, and Queen has a tune devoted to ‘fat bottomed girls.”

This past Friday, at a performance in Douglass Dining Center, Eric Hutchinson followed suit and improvised a ballad about the infamous Garbage Plate. This song, which was personalized for the UR audience, is a good representation of the concert’s overall tone. Both Hutchinson and his opener, Ingrid Michaelson, crafted humorous performances custom-made for UR students.

Michaelson started the concert with a playful folk rendition of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face,” asking for audience participation in singing the chorus. She divided the audience into two groups: ‘sexy warriors” on one side and ‘gentle lovers” on the other. This elicited quite the collective laugh, and ignited a light, fun mood that lasted for the duration of her performance.

Michaelson spent much of her between-song banter discussing the snowy weather conditions in Rochester, explaining that the ice caused Allie Moss, her guitarist, to fall over several times.

The snow, however, had an even greater impact on Michaelson’s show, because weather-related delays left her short three band members. Amazingly, her music was not noticeably impacted by the short staff of musicians, and she still managed to produce a beautiful performance.

In fact, the lack of a full set of band members opened the door for a very exciting opportunity. One of Michaelson’s songs called for three backup singers. Since she only had two available, she asked the audience if anyone wanted to stand in as a third. A very happy UR student, freshman Shukri Hassan Abdi Dualeh, was chosen from the audience and sang alongside Ingrid Michaelson, center stage.

In her bizarre themed song, Michaelson sang a tune devoted entirely to Mexican food, inviting the eager audience members to sing along about tacos and quesadillas.

Michaelson’s set list was also improvised specifically for this performance. In fact, she treated the audience to a song that she had never performed before, deciding on which key to play it on the spot.

Overall, the first half of the concert was delightfully personal, quite humorous, and, of course, full of gorgeous, well-played music.

Michaelson showed the audience her strong vocal talents, even mimicking operatic singing during one song. Equally impressive was her use of the ukulele and piano, both of which perfectly complemented her melodic and often understated songs.

Eric Hutchinson, as a follow-up act, did not disappoint. He immediately demonstrated his talent and confidence as a performer, singing with such a perfect pitch and clear tone that one would have thought it was his recorded album playing through the speakers.

Hutchinson’s band members were also incredibly talented. The drummer, Jimmy Coleman, had intense solos that kept the entire audience up and dancing all night.

Like Michaelson, Hutchinson worked hard to keep his performance engaging, largely by dancing energetically on the stage and begging the audience to clap along with his catchy tunes. His ode to Garbage Plates contained lyrics that seemed to be composed of equal parts curiosity and disgust. He wondered what was in a Garbage Plate, but also how often UR students ate such things.

Hutchinson speculated that if the frequency of consumption was anything more than ‘rarely,” the student body should be ‘hooked up to IVs.” There is something rather whimsical about the notion of UR students going through a Garbage Plate detox process.

Along with this silly interlude, he also performed a multitude of other enjoyable songs, such as his popular ‘Rock and Roll,” and the dance-inducing ‘Food Chain.”

These songs were punctuated by witty monologues; in one song, in reference to his high-tech water bottle, Hutchinson jokingly remarked that he’s from the future, and that it was ‘Thanksgiving on [my] home planet.”

Hutchinson certainly worked hard to communicate with the audience on a personal level. In fact, he stopped playing at the beginning of one song to comically reprimand several students for leaving in the middle of his show.

Perhaps the most telling fact about Hutchinson’s personal approach is that he dined at our very own Pit prior to the concert. In the end, that’s what makes a concert worthwhile the individualized, one-time-only nature of a live show, which is the kind of thing that can’t be gained from simply playing an album in a stereo.

Gaylo is a member of the class of 2012.

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