Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Soraia: Like a Bomb

Well Hello There.  It's been a loooooooong time, I know.  A lot's happened since I last posted, back in September.  Unfortunately my blogging has kinda gone by the wayside, in light of my many other pursuits.

But I got somethin' to say tonight.

I had a truly fantastic weekend courtesy my Dear friend Willow, who was kind enough to have a birthday.  And a birthday party.  One that kept me up WAY later than usual, and made me remember one of the many things I loved about back when I used to stay up way late in college:  Hanging out in bars, listening to live music.

Now those of you who know me are aware of the fact that for the last couple years I've been a BIG fan of a certain little ol' Philly band named SORAIA.  Those of you who don't know me.... well, now you know.

I discovered Soraia after hearing the Wise and Mystical Obie O'Brien mention them in an interview a few years back.  He said he had been working with a local female-fronted Philly rock band, and he had just put them on a bus and sent then across the South to learn "The Biz."  I figured "Hey, I like rock music, I like Rocker Chicks, and I like Philly.  And if Obie's backing them, they can't be too bad."

So I Googled Soraia and found out they had an EP and a newly-released album and a website.  A click on their website took me to their then-current single, Not the Woman.

It was love at first listen.  I bolted over to iTunes and downloaded their EP, Recipe for Disaster, and their album Shed the Skin.  I think I listened to them non-stop for about 2 weeks.  And as many of you know, that's saying something.  It's usually Jovi or Southside or Bruce or HairNation in my iPod and CD player.  But not this time -- Soraia Mansour and her kick-ass band completely took my breath away and stole my heart.  They've been on heavy rotation beside my Jersey boys and 80's guilty pleasures ever since.

I started following the band through their website and Philly press, as best as I could since I don't live in Philly.  When Soraia was announced as the opening act for Bon Jovi at Summerfest in 2009 I sent a quick congratulatory e-mail to the band via their website, and had a minor freak-out when Sue e-mailed me back with sweet Thank You.  And I told everybody who would listen (and a lot of people who probably didn't) about this Awesome Band who speaks to my soul.

Just ask Hath, LOL.

Anyway, as time went on Soraia started getting more notoriety.   As I learned more about Soraia and its members I came to realize part of the reason I'm so drawn to this band is the raw and honest emotion behind their songs.  When I read Tony K's fantastic piece on Sue's backstory, I understood why I feel such an intense connection to this music.  It's real.  It's authentic.  It's dark and rough and sexual and kick-ass and empowered and hopeful and strong -- all things I like to see in myself from time to time.

And it's channeled through one Hell of a Front Woman.

Soraia "Sue" Mansour, AKA "Zou Zou"

For over a year now I've been trying to get myself up to Philly to see Soraia perform live.  Since I discovered them they've opened for Bon Jovi two times -- Summerfest 2009 and at the July 2010 Saratoga Springs (NY) Performing Arts Center stop on The Circle Tour.  Neither of which I was able to catch.  And every stinkin' time they were playing The Note in West Chester, where I have a relative-of-a-friend connection, I had some other conflicting commitment like my daughter's school chorus concert or a visiting parent.

I was supposed to go with Willow to see them months ago.  Then life got in the way.  She ended up going all by herself to a midnight gig -- for which she cursed me via text and email and Twitter -- but wound up taking the first step on a journey that has brought her to a whole exciting new chapter of her life.  And I got to say a big "I TOLD YOU SO" when she raved about how fantastic Soraia's performance was.  She was officially Soraia-fied, LOL.  Since then she's seen a handful more shows with plans to see many, many more

As for me -- I had to live vicariously through Willow's YouTubes.  Until now.  Last Saturday night the planets  aligned and my Karma was good.... I FINALLY got to see Soraia Live.

It was un-freakin'-believable.

Photo by Catte
Soraia played an upscale bar near the Villanova campus called MIXX.  It's a gorgeous place, a huge bar all done in brick and glass and dark wood.  You know--the kind of place that serves $10 drinks, LOL.  And the stage area was fantastic--all black and white tile and wallpaper and upholstery, with these very cool black chandeliers hanging down over the stage.  It was a perfect environment for my first encounter with the band I'd been dying to see for so long.

I must admit the FanGirl in me was a little freaked out when Sue strutted into the room on her five-inch heels. Willow had been teasing me all weekend about finally getting to meet my "Girl Crush."  Yeah, she wasn't wrong.  I was nervous as Hell to meet Sue, though I knew she'd be wonderful and sweet and genuine.  I wasn't disappointed (though I confess I had to hide in the Ladies' Room to pull myself together).  It was fantastic to meet her and the guys, and to hang out and chat and laugh.  But even more fantastic was the music.

Oh my GOD -- the MUSIC.

Photo by Willow
Soraia started off with my favorite of the new songs they've been working on for their upcoming album, "Love Like VooDoo."  Okay, I admit I like just about anything having to do with VooDoo.... but that song totally ROCKS.  I was bouncing around with a big stupid grin on my face after the first few tom-tom beats of Joe's drums.  I knew from the first note it was gonna be a gooooood night, LOL.

After some playful banter by way of introduction, Soraia launched into the body of their planned first of two sets.  They turned in an energetic performance of their new single "Runaround".... and literally blew the place out.  As in tripped the circuits.  No power at all to the stage.  Dead.  LOL.

That caused an unexpected intermission of sorts while the club manager tried to figure out how to restore power to the room.  Sue and Willow and I passed the time by chatting about sexy shoes, LOL. (Hey, what do you expect? We're chicks, after all!)

Once power was finally restored  the setlist went out the window, with Sue calling audibles for the remainder of the set.  Soraia performed a nice mix of their new and older songs, including "Like a Bomb," "Not the Woman," "Little Cat," "Long Time," "Damn Dirty Woman" (during which Sue came down to the floor to dance with the audience), and a breathtaking cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."  But I must say I was a bit disappointed that the band didn't do their cover of "Vampire," one of my favorites that was on the setlist but was a scratch.  Ah, well.  Next time.

Photo by Catte

Photo by Willow
Sue was positively hypnotic, somehow grooving on those insanely high heels and belting out those vocals in that gorgeously unique husky, melodic voice of hers.  I knew from the YouTube videos I'd seen that she's one helluva performer but....Wow.  Just... WOW.  Her stage presence is almost overwhelming; sexy and magnetic and Siren-esque.  The woman definitely has "IT"... lots of it.  I can think of only a few performers who can so effortlessly dominate a stage... and Sue Mansour is right at the top of that list.  Holy Cow.

Soraia also performed a newly-written song called "I Want What I Want,"  I immediately fell in love with that one--it was all I could do to stand still to capture the energetic performance on video.  It just made me want to groove, LOL. But I did get my groove on with the final song of the set, the fantastic "Love Amnesia."  Talk about a song made for dancin' -- it's a good old-fashioned juke-joint rock-and-roller. Willow and I twisted 'til we almost fell over (literally), forgetting that our bodies don't quite move like they used to, LOL.  But it was a damned good time.

The worst thing about the evening was that it was over too soon.  I was flying high on great music and good wine, and couldn't stop grinning.  I thoroughly enjoyed the intimacy of the performance and the genuine energy and heart the whole band put into the show.  It was an evening of rock-and-roll as it should be--loud and hard, without pretense or apology.

Photo by Willow
There's definitely something to be said about the pleasure of seeing a great up-and-coming band do their thing.  I've been to so many massive-scale concerts over the past year that it was refreshing to experience a show without all the bells and whistles--just fantastic performers doing great songs and obviously loving every minute of it.  Even when they blew the power, when Sue's mic fell apart, and when Steve came unplugged soloing in front of the stage, Soraia took it all in stride, laughed, and played louder and harder.  It was real, it was genuine, and it was a whole helluva lot of fun.

I'll definitely be back for more.

Next time I see Soraia they'll be on their biggest stage yet, opening for Bon Jovi at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on March 2, which happens to be Jon Bon Jovi's birthday.  He couldn't have picked a better band to kick off his party.

Soraia ROCKS.