Pay attention to Storm warning
- John Chandler
- Portland Tribune - Features
No song is sacred when it comes to fiery singer and her band
After a yearlong residency of Wednesday nights at Dante's, Storm and the Balls have established themselves as a hot ticket on a night-life menu loaded with 'same old, same old' options. Fronting a snazzy trio, savage and smoldering chanteuse Storm Large totally dominates the stage, and those who've caught her act soon return with friends in tow.
Whether dressed in a nun's habit or in a mere wisp of a slip, Storm stomps around engaging in R-rated banter with both band and audience, like a punk-rock version of Sophie Tucker. ('I gave you the best eight minutes of your life!' she bellows at a hapless audience member.) But it's only when she raises the mike that one realizes that this is no performance-art poseur.
The combo's debut album, 'Hanging With the Balls,' isn't a substitute for seeing Storm and band demolish a stage, but it does underscore their uncanny musical adaptability and arranging skills that occasionally get lost amid all the patter, raucous laughter and hoopla.
Essentially, the modus operandi here is the fusing of popular song lyrics to the tunes of other songs, or taking a song and giving it an unlikely ethnic treatment.
Stapling 'The Star Spangled Banner' to Curtis Mayfield's funk classic, 'The Pusher,' or singing Billy Idol's 'White Wedding' to the tune of Led Zeppelin's 'In the Light' may not be high art, but it achieves a wigged-out groove and proves vastly entertaining to rock blockheads. But after a few spins, the notion that you're listening to some kind of parody fades out, and the hybrid songs become diggable all by themselves.
When Storm goes south of the border for a Latin-jazz take on 'Anarchy in the U.K.,' the result is scintillating, but it's her mad tango version of Black Sabbath's 'N.I.B.' that really heats up like a tamale in the devil's microwave.
Yet perhaps the highlight of the album is her gripping rendition of Olivia Newton-John's cheese-ball tearjerker 'Hopelessly Devoted to You.' In the live setting, Storm seems positively deranged during this number, and the recorded performance is every bit as amazing.
Sure, you can't actually see the escalating madness in her eyes, but you can definitely hear it as she shreds the song like an obnoxious 'Dear John' letter. The message on this one is clear: You can run, but you can't hide. It's a love song delivered like a scary late-night message on the answering machine Ñ and probably grounds for a restraining order.
The band Ñ Davey Nipples on bass, piano player James Beaton and drummer Brian Parnell Ñ never lag behind the blistering Storm. Beaton's piano parts are crisp and tidy as he shifts effortlessly from pounding rock to silky jazz to thoughtful accompanist. Nipples and Parnell keep it cool until called upon to raise a classy racket as on the Sabbath and Zeppelin numbers.
The whole business could be dismissed by the casual observer (or PC sourpuss) as raunchy lampoonery or, worse yet, irony, but that dog won't hunt. Storm and the Balls are not a lounge act equivalent of 'Weird Al' Yankovic. Their musical permutations are interesting entities in their own right and far more challenging than mere parody.
The musical contortions that went into conjuring up these lively juxtapositions deserve our hopeless devotion.