“Music is medicine,” Audra Mae decreed Sunday night at the Blue Door as she administered a potent dose of the good stuff to a sold-out crowd of eager patients.
Playing her first hometown show since the 2011 Norman Music Festival, the Oklahoma-born and bred singer-songwriter proved a consummate entertainer, needing only her trusty acoustic guitar, distinctive voice, well-honed songs and, in one memorable moment, a kazoo to captivate her audience.
“I hope you guys don’t mind if I tell stories and stuff. You don’t? Good, because I’m a talker,” said Mae, who now lives in Los Angeles, with a wide grin. “I don’t know why some of these stories come out. It’s like something is whispering in my ear, ‘Tell the one about the old man.’”
In between performing originals and covers running the gamut her music career, the Putnam City High School graduate, 28, shared amusing anecdotes, told jokes about her relatives and even impersonated Cher to the tune of the Folgers Coffee jingle, delighting of the packed house of family, friends and fans who raucously cheered for every song in her laidback 90-minute set.
“I’m really excited to be home. Hi Mom in the front row,” Mae said after taking the stage, opening what looked to be a journal and confessing she had simply jotted down a few songs rather than establishing a formal set list. Throughout the concert, she crossed off each song as she played it.
Opening with her vulnerable ballad “Cliché,” she admitted, “I’ve probably not played this song in five years,” though you couldn’t tell it from her performance.
She followed with the blazing rocker “Smokin’ the Boys” from her new album “Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound,” and she deemed country hit-maker Deana Carter, with whom she co-wrote the song and co-produced the album, “a really cool chick but she’s above all very nurturing and empowering.”
“This song was on the ESPYs, how crazy is that?” Mae said before showing off some of that empowered attitude on the rollicking anthem “The Real Thing,” adding with self-deprecating humor, “I had a song on the sports awards. I’m clearly an athlete. You can tell by my grace and style.”
While she looked the part of a stylish cowgirl rocker in her short black dress, brown Western boots and long red locks freshly tipped with blue highlights, it was the almighty sound of Mae’s vocals and guitar that commanded the room. Whether she was singing in a raspy whisper or powering up to formidable boom on the “money notes,” her strong voice often held the intimate venue in near-total silence, with the audience bursting into whoops, whistles and shouts of approval after each number.
“I wish I could sing here all the time,” Mae said, flashing her dimples in a big smile.
She crooned a pair of cautionary tales about the seductive nature of wealth with “I’m a Diamond” and “Millionaire,” related a vivid story-song about the pressure to grow up perfect with “The River” and shared a heartbreaker about unrequited love in “He Don’t Kiss Me.” She took the crowd on a dusty road trip with her wild side on “My Friend the Devil,” administered a dose of “the anti-‘Love Potion No. 9’” in “Snakebite” and delivered a toasty-warm order of romance with “Old Italian Love Songs.”
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