Spotlight eludes Jane Siberry, but she still dazzles

from the Chicago Tribune; November 10, 1995
by Nancy Stetson

It's a sad fact: Some of today's best music never makes the top 40. Singer-songwriter Jane Siberry is a casebook example. One of the more creative musicians of our day, her work rarely receives the airplay it deserves. It's ironic, because Siberry was alternative before alternative became mainstream. But in her show at the Park West Wednesday night, Siberry embodied the sheer joy of creating and performing music that pushes the boundaries.

It had been six years since Siberry had toured with a full band: She was in town on the heels of her new album, "Maria." Opening the show with the standard "Moon River," she briefly veered into a couple of songs from "West Side Story," using "Maria" as an intro to her identically named tune.

"This is an evening of my favorite songs," she announced. Her eclectic choices included "Abraham, Martin and John," "My Favorite Things," "Ooh Child" and a witty and sultry version of "The Girl from Ipanema" in which Siberry rebuffs a male's advances while chasing after the girl.

The covers were interspersed among Siberry's original songs, which feature a distinctively and atmospheric sound in the vein of Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson. The jazzy improvisation of her band -- Tim Ray on keyboards, Booker King on upright bass, David Travers-Smith on trumpet and Dean Sharp on drums -- was the perfect accompaniment for Siberry's stream-of-consciousness compositions that often changed tempo, melody and even genre all within the space of a song.

Siberry did some scat singing and during "Begat Begat" chanted a list of biblical names so rapidly it sounded like she was singing in tongues. Religious imagery popped up song after song, culminating in her performance of "Calling All Angels."

Her quirky songs, as enigmatic and mysterious as dream fragments, tug at the imagination.