On Friday, Sept. 27, singer-song writer Joanna Burns played a small but intimate show in the Esch-Hurvis room of Warch. The New Jersey native was in the final leg of her Wisconsin tour. Her performance was relatively scaled down, as she is still too small to travel with her band, but this did not seem to affect her, as she maintained great energy throughout the performance.
Burns opened with a few slower tunes, “For You” and “Blue.” While these were both lovely, they were unfortunately too slow to start the show off on the right foot. However, Burns was able to quickly change the pace with a cover: “Valerie,” the 1982 classic by Steve Winwood, which has seen multiple covers by Glee, Bruno Mars and Amy Winehouse. Next, she followed up with a quick and quirky song involving crowd interaction. This jingle was called “In My Car” and detailed the classic experience of feeling like the best singer ever whilst driving by yourself.
“In My Car” opened the door for a more energetic set that benefitted from charming and funny anecdotes from Burns. She was quite expressive and fun and kept the small crowd engaged and laughing. Her next song was a story of her personal obsession with getting into an unnamed school called “Philadelphia,” the location of her mystery dream school. Her lyrics were extremely poignant and mirrored any nervous high schooler’s feelings while waiting for the big answer. She described seeing signs everywhere and absolutely convincing herself of their importance, though these signs meant nothing and were just random occurrences given meaning by a desperate person.
Next was a breakup song called “Make Me Hate You,” which tells the tale of someone trying to hate her ex who can’t bring herself to do it due to emotional ties.
After this, she moved to play on the guitar. Her first guitar tune was “Find Your Way,” another upbeat, quirky song that was supposed to be a duet, but she did it solo and it still sounded great. Then came the biggest surprise of the night: An acoustic cover of The Lonely Island’s “D**k in a Box.” It was a hilarious change of pace and a great cover. She was clearly loving it and loved the crowd’s reactions. Burns was great at working the small crowd to her favor and had them engaged the whole time.
After that came another change of pace back to the piano for the last three songs. She started out with a sad tune called “63 Summers” about a man dealing with his wife who has Alzheimer’s. She joked that she wrote it before she saw “The Notebook” and that she recognized her unoriginality, but the song was still powerful. Next was a cover of pop divas with several artists mixed together into one rollicking, fast-paced tune. The most prominent track in the medley was Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” She then finished with “Us,” an upbeat tune with some good crowd interaction that left us feeling fulfilled.
Whilst still a fledgling artist, Joanna Burns has a great amount of potential. With keen lyrics, a beautiful and changing voice and fun stage presence, expect Joanna Burns to rise through the indie ranks rather quickly. Her debut album, “The Green Years,” is available on iTunes, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes singer/songwriters in the vein of Ingrid Michelson or Sarah Bareilles, or to just a fan of solid indie pop.