Live Review: ZZ Ward in Los Angeles
ZZ Ward celebrated a homecoming of sorts on Friday at the House of Blues, and a year into working her debut album, delivered a tight and road-ready set.
Ward, a 20-something Oregon transplant who's early love of the Blues became a career focus in her tweens, presents a soulful, big voice. Her influences seem to be vast, as it's tough to pinpoint the shades and nuances, though this listener's ears picked up hints of Susan Tedeschi's measured sass, maybe a sprinkling of Grace Potter's swing-for-the-fences exhuberance, a shade of Etta James' brassiness and some distinct pop instincts.
That she wears her heroes on her sleeve via the setlist is a welcome sight, kicking things off with a verse of Nina Simone's "Be My Husband," rolling into her own beat-driven "OVERdUe" from her early mixtape demos.
The packed room was likely weighted toward friends and family (based on the energy with which the singalong choruses were dispatched), as Ward's been an L.A. resident since moving to the city four years ago to pursue her music career. She noted that it was the first club she visited upon making the move, so headlining four years down the road was a big deal.
The set also included tips of the hat to Missy Elliot, whose "I Can't Stand The Rain" got a solid workout and Son House's "Grinnin' In Your Face."
But it was Ward's own album standouts that proved stage favorites: the infectious "Put The Gun Down"; a "Lil Darlin'" performance that rang true to the venue's delta roots and included an impressive guitar break from touring guitarist Erick Walls; a brooding and dark "Criminal" and a swaggering "If I Could Be Her."
"365 Days" seems to find its legs better live than on the record, propelling the Adele-style melody line much more effectively. Conversely, the acoustic "Last Love Song" seemed Friday to lose some of the warmth that makes the chorus soar on the album.
"Be My Husband" (Nina Simone) / OVERdUe
Put The Gun Down
Til The Casket Drops
Got It Bad
I Can't Stand The Rain (Missy Elliot)
Last Love Song
Charlie Ain't Home
Grinnin In Your Face (Son House)
If I Could Be Her
Move Like U Stole It
Blue Eyes Blind
10 - Tucson, AZ - Club Congress
11- Phoenix, AZ - Crescent Ballroom
13- Telluride, CO - Blues & Brews Festival
14 - Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre
16 - Austin, TX - The Parish
17 - Dallas, TX - Cambridge Room
18 - Houston, TX - Bronze Peacock (HOB)
20 - Columbia, MO -Roots \'N Blues \'N BBQ Festival
21 - Atlanta, GA - Music Midtown Festival
23 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL - Revolution
24 - Orlando, FL - House of Blues
27 - Charlotte, NC - Visulite Theatre
28 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
30 - New York, NY - Irving Plaza
1 - Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of Living Arts
2 - Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club
4 - Cleveland, OH - Cambridge Room
5 - Toronto, ON - The Opera House
6 - Detroit, MI - The Shelter
8 - Indianapolis, IN - Deluxe at Old National Centre
11 - Kansas City, MO - The Midland
12 - Minneapolis, MN - Skyway Theater
14 - St. Louis, MO - The Firebird
15 - Chicago, IL - House of Blues