This was a week when spirits needed a little boost, due to the loss of Professor Snape, Ziggy Stardust and an Eagle. Luckily, music is often one of the best medicines to take for grief. Per doctor’s orders, I was invited to attend Rockwood Music Hall once again for the album release party for Cheryl B. Engelhardt’s new record, “Inevitably.” She brought out an entire entourage of talented musicians along the way to make it an unforgettable night of pure joy.
Taking my time, I trained it downtown through the blistering cold night. Entering Rockwood, I immediately ordered a Guinness beer to warm myself up. There were already a small collective of people calmly sitting and drinking at the Rockwood tables. However, there were hardly any souls on the main floor. It was as chill as ever. Looking onward, the stage was all set with a piano, drum set and other instruments neatly organized amongst the red glare of the room. Once fans did enter, most remained all bundled up in their jackets and hats. Despite the sparse crowd to start, Cheryl was out greeting everybody she knew. There was a strong feeling of community there. Smiling with excitement her and the band slowly came out onto the stage just as the Rockwood white ball of light moved up to the ceiling and dimmed. Cheryl took her place at the piano. The crowd quieted down. This was by far the most quiet I have ever heard Rockwood become. The sense of respect here was hard to miss.
She started it off with a nice and slow piano melody. It was soft and sweet with an airy atmosphere behind it. The drumbeat jumped in nicely thanks to Shawn Pelton. To support, an excellent riff was built in with contributions from bassist Conrad Korsch and guitarist Oscar Albis Rodriguez. Throughout the night three additional singers accompanied Cheryl: Kristin Hoffmann, Olivia Michaels and Joey Auch who all provided impeccable harmonies. Most of her songs were easy-going yet had a glimpse of anthemic sounds attached to them. Cheryl’s abundant voice paired well with her piano plucking.
All the while the very enthusiastic crowd cheered on and loved every minute. I was pleasantly surprised when a funky song came in and our feet began tapping the floor. She was amazingly talented with her lovely duets. Cheryl’s vocals by themselves during moments of silence were powerful. Everyone felt it. I even got goose bumps at one point. She continued to alternate from the piano and solo singing with help from her colleagues on stage. During the show, the rock and roll vibe stayed true here and there. Some songs had emotional space that got close to the heart and eventually reverberated throughout the venue. Many listeners were entranced as the night went on.
Towards the end, a soulful and breathy tune came out with aid from the exceptional cellist, Kristin Kruta. The cello was perfect, as it often is. This was the ultimate musical friend gathering and Cheryl made sure to honor all of the musicians on stage with little tidbits of their impressive history with the singer. It is always great to see such friendships continue forward in art. Finally, she brought out the ukulele, which she had to warm up to compared to her previous couch playing methods. With a funny song around the ukulele, the crowd joined in the chorus and clapped to make her smile. She was all about music that made the night magical.
Needless to say, I was madly impressed with the performance and enjoyed every minute of the evening. I recommend listeners go listen to her new album and catch up on some of her old material as well! With a voice like that and an entourage of talent, I am excited to see where Cheryl’s music goes from here. Until then, enjoy it.