Musical artists are simply everywhere to the joy of many! Whether they are known or not, every corner of the globe has their muses ripe for a listen. Thanks to streaming, musicians have growing outlets to get their music heard. However, with the lack of interest in live shows waxing and waning, there are a select few who understand the value of performance to best impress. Case in point, this past Sunday at The Duplex Cabaret Theater, the recurring Stages Concert Series continued with featured Brooklyn artist Aria Jay at the helm. Aria is already a well-known staple of the music scene and she shared the stage with various talents from the area who made a live show a worthy spectacle yet again.
The dark and tiny cabaret theatre is located right next to the famous Stonewall Inn, iconically situated in the lower west side of Manhattan. Despite the tight space, it opened the doors to a more intimate venue for ideal performance engagement. Along the wall hung black and white painted portraits of past performers such as; Joan Rivers, Barbra Streisand and Rodney Dangerfield. Prior to the event, the most uplifting sound engineer had everyone ready to go with his full support. Despite the expensive alcohol list, fans were sure to enjoy themselves. Old friends arrived with chatter and a crowd dwindled in with lively anticipation alongside a Sunday chill. From the stage, a warm glow illuminated the entertainment to come. The MC and fellow performer of the afternoon was the lovely Jocelyn, owner of Step Out Entertainment, who welcomed the audience with an optimistic embrace. Love was the theme and she gave bits of therapeutic depths of the emotion throughout. It was an entire timeline of love from crushing hard to eventually moving on with all the other romantic adventures in between. There were cheers and pure enjoyment every time she spoke as guests shared the journey with her.
Performers were plentiful and equally diverse. Kelsey Usher, who entered in gracefully with a rendition of Gimmie, Gimmie and later with Little Black Dress, gave the show its strength from the inception. Utilizing costume changes, she was the example of class. Powerful glamor was the name of the game for her performance. She had an expressive energy that made her voice come alive. With an entertaining flow, muted yet enhanced, she was a warm element for the event. Steve Y. Gardner was fascinating to listen to with his sobering presence. He did covers of Michael Buble’s You Don’t Know Me and Lost with a soft yet elegant touch. He was smooth as he was somber. Even though people were still arriving from outside, he never missed a beat and held out with a supremely sultry finish. Ziva was another star to honor the stage with some neo-soul magic. Unleashing an original unreleased track DKWTD and a cover of CeeLo Green’s Fool for You. She had fiery power supported by a layer of gospel. Her confidence and comfort on that stage was easy to spot and admire. Ziva’s range was palpable and quite a marvel. The crowd thickened around this point right as her jazzy end sealed the deal.
Paulina added a pop feel with Arianna Grande’s Into You. She was all smiles as she swayed with the music. Her eyes remained closed as she entered her own world of bliss. Her voice carried above some of the scratchy audio. She stood her ground, even when the track suddenly cut out towards the end. She did not falter and continued singing acapella with skill. Jocelyn had her time to shine with covers of Britney Spears’ Toxic and Rihanna’s Consideration. The MC’s wide grinning face and bouncing dance gave that positive vibe all the way through. It was pure soul interpretation with her intense stares into the crowd. Fans were loving it as they sang with her during the choruses. It was Jocelyn’s space when she sang. Her fierce energy thrusted outwards in a captivating manner. Anaïs offered another take of What A Day with her signature deep voice. She remained self-assured through every bit of her set. As she sang, there lingered a recurring smirk that almost beckoned people to wonder what she was enjoying in her mind. Singing with a stoic stance and mild sway, she kept it way too cool.
Turning the tables was the surprising Maria Maione. Altering her wardrobe only enhanced her expressive nature on stage. Listeners were watching every exuberant hand movement and those emotive eyes as she sang Turning Tables and Stronger Than Me. There was a quiver in her voice that made her stand out among the rest, almost smokey. The music cut out for her final track as well, but she sang acapella with such expertise, that it was even better without the music. People had to give her credit for pushing on with the utmost determination. It truly was enjoyable to hear her full range in the silence unencumbered by the instrumentation. Funk band, Bitchinette, led their rambunctious sounds featuring Zuk Strut and Coming For You. They were loud and overpowering. Forceful music with an angry punch led to a wild ride. There was a Southern rock feel with subtle blues seeping in. At least they were having fun up there. There was a solid guitar solo that ultimately led into some grinding noise.
Somehow, in the midst of endless music that late afternoon, the headliner of the evening stole the show, as she often does. Aria Jay is proudly placed in a universe completely her own. Her aesthetic highlights this well with her genuine fashion, detailed tattoos and most importantly, her stunning music. Naturally, her entrance was met with boisterous applause as her custom sign displaying her name illuminated the crowd. Right off the bat, her unreleased track, Away, was introduced for the first time. Standing tall beside her signature white microphone, she sang on. That bewitching voice never ceases to amaze listeners. Ears are immediately transfixed on her. The new song is a spiral of organized thrills. It builds and weaves itself around the vocals being unleashed into space. An impenetrable silence was maintained by the crowd who were not risking missing a single moment. They understood the importance of this moment.
That trademark lilt and saccharine spirit that is ever-present from Aria Jay’s vocals just begs the listener to fall in love with her over and over again. To be honest, it is easy to do so. Her music brightens the entire room even when some tunes surround sorrowful themes. Aria Jay has conviction in her craft and presentation. There can be no denying that. She is engaged constantly in her musical execution from start to finish. When she cradles that mic, she worships it like the cosmic weapon it is. She sensually rocked side to side and the crowd matched her movements. She had them in the palm of her hand. The silhouettes of the crowd could be seen pleasantly addicted to her atmosphere. Endless thoughts permeated her mind with her face in deep prayer as her eyes spoke to all. With a dreamy dance, she glowed in her element. The lights gave her a luminescence halo of heavenly features.
Musically, she explored new live notes with her classic Show Me You from her album ‘Growth’ and the smash-hit Secrets. She loved sharing the tale of her art and commanded full attention with ease. There was not a soul in the house that wasn’t taking photos and video of the songstress at work. Aria’s tasteful power was met with reaching notes that formed goosebumps of pleasure. It was an exhilarating feeling that was desired to last. A collective clapping ensued with Secrets. The blood was pumping. It was her most energetic set yet for 2020 and people will be eager for more to come in the new year.