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Enchanting Julie Feeney commands the stage in New York

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Julie Feeney wows in New York
The glances of performances you caught on YouTube might have piqued your interest, yet nothing could quite prepare you for the experience of being in the same room as Julie Feeney.

The charisma was thick as the fog on the bog as the Galway composer and performance artist brought her quirky, brilliant show to the Irish Arts Center in New York last week.

She glided on the stage wearing a short black dress, her hair in a beehive that was contained in a sequined net. She almost looked like a human microphone, which was fitting because she powerfully projected her catchy stories and her clever classically informed pop compositions.

Feeney acted out each song, flirting her way through the aisles the moment the lights dimmed.

“Myth grows bigger than the truth/tragedies or dreams/it sticks if it’s mud, it pools if it’s good/then myth lasts longer than the truth,” she whispered at various points around the theater on “Myth,” the show’s opener.

Feeney’s voice calls to mind Billie Holliday, an instrument in and of itself that blends seamlessly with the small orchestra that shared the stage.

David Baranowski (keyboard, vocals), Joseph Brent (guitar, mandolin), Elizabeth Cary (violin, viola), Mike Kuennen (double bass, electric bass), Jennifer Marshall (vocals, recorder, glockenspiel), Laura Metcalf (cello, vocals) and Terry Szor (trumpet) brought to life the symphonic delicacies from Pages and 13 Songs, her two full length albums, and delivered sounds that colored the stage with poignancy or flights of whimsy as per the song’s requests.

Feeney’s not the kind of performer that hides behind the lush orchestration and theatrical gimmickry. Armed with nothing more than hand claps and a French horn, she takes front and center and captivates the audience with the storyline that runs through “One More Tune.”

“He’s living in a world that’s left him behind/she used to be taller he used to be kind/she’s plagued with images from the dark side of her mind/unsavory days, unsavory night/but she still waits to hear one more tune/she thinks she’s happy/you think you’re right,” she sings. Kudos to Metcalf and Marshall for providing wobbly, off kilter harmonies that put the song into another orbit.

Feeney was a quiet but powerful cyclone of emotions throughout the night, her facial expressions and bright green eyes conjuring up zaniness, vulnerability, and a knowing wink to top it all off. It’s hard to avert your gaze in the presence of such uncommon beauty and divine charm.

“The indignant look as you catch the eye/of the onlooker caught in a gaze at thine/as you’re innocently flaunting your beauty, ‘Ah!’/you’ve no idea how beautiful you are,” she sings on “Impossibly Beautiful,” a show highlight from Pages.

Feeney could have just have easily written that about a lover, or perhaps it captures the experience of being in her presence during this magical evening.

It’s not too late to catch Feeney at the Irish Arts Center, (553 West 51st Street). She’ll be there through May 6. For tickets and showtimes visit www.irishartscenter.org or www.juliefeeney.com.

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