The crowd at the Casbah gazed skeptically at the short, spritely Swedish woman in their midst. Scheduled as the opening act for Tapes ‘N Tapes and Wild Light—two fast, all-male rock bands—the woman quietly ascended to a stage littered with unmanned instruments. When she introduced the inanimate objects as her band, and people realized that she would be playing all of them by herself, the venue’s early arrivals began to nervously eye the exits. But all that changed when Theresa Andersson took off her shoes.
Standing at the center of a shag-carpeted circle of instruments, Andersson grabbed instrument after instrument with the speed and precision of a busy restaurant’s head chef reaching for the spice rack. Guitar, violin, drums, dulcimer: each was a different brick with which Andersson crafted her towering musical displays. Feeding layer after layer into her dual loop stations, Andersson created live versions of songs off her latest album Hummingbird, Go! that sounded every bit as polished and accomplished as the recordings themselves.
Andersson possesses more dexterity in her feet than many musicians do in their hands. Her toes jumped nimbly from one pedal to the next, recording loops and twisting knobs. Her percussion often consisted of her beating the daylights out of her floor-toms with a tambourine, or a slapped microphone and hand claps looped into a surprisingly authentic-sounding beat box groove. And though she excelled at every instrument in her arsenal—including the slide violin from “Hi-Low” that she was forced to play with a Corona bottle—Andersson’s greatest weapon is her singing. Her warm, soulful vocals were amplified by a confidence that dwarfed the sight of the petite woman with Jenny Lewis-bangs belting them out.
Wisely sticking to the heaviest hitters from Hummingbird, Go!, Andersson kept the energy high. From the joyful catchiness of “Na Na Na” to the bare emotion of the Swedish-language “Innan Du Gar”, Andersson demonstrated a range of emotion that rivaled the diversity of her instruments. Her energy was boundless yet never obnoxious, and even if the novelty of her one-woman show had disappeared—which it never did—Andersson’s unabashed joy in creating music would be more than enough to keep any crowd enthralled.
While most solo artists are solo in name only, disregarding the efforts of their anonymous backing bands, Theresa is the real deal. In a musical climate that is too often permeated with pretension and maudlin posturing, Theresa Andersson’s ecstatic charisma and inventive talent are a breath of much-needed fresh air. Her new album is aptly named; Andersson’s performances contain all of the graceful, kinetic beauty of a hummingbird taking flight.
Live video for “Na Na Na”, from Hummingbird, Go!, recorded in Theresa’s kitchen: