Is there any room for soft pastels in a world where garish flash is the order of the day? That’s the question that came to mind during young French-Israeli chanteuse Keren Ann’s muted-but-beguiling set at Joe’s Pub on Monday night.
Keren Ann (she dropped her surname, Zeidel, some years back) has a knack for outfitting her songs with retro touches without it seeming outright cannibalistic. Influenced as a singer by Francoise Hardy and Astrud Gilberto, and as a writer by Serge Gainsbourg and Antonio Carlos Jobim, she reconciles breathless innocence and breathy sensuality with aplomb.
This Gotham perf, divided between Francophone numbers and English-language selections from her just-released Metro Blue disc, “Not Going Anywhere,” glided along smoothly. Set was front-loaded with her more guileless compositions, notably “By the Cathedral” and “End of May” (both of which were guided by Avishai Cohen’s sunny trumpet line).
Band shifted into a more spry gear midperf for “The Sailor and the Widow,” a furtively churning chantey. Less engaging, however, were such offerings as “Sit in the Sun,” an unfocused sketch of a song that could be a Jewel outtake, and the overly inflated “Road Bin,” which was too slight to merit its winding arrangement.
When more tethered to terra firma, Keren Ann proved thoroughly engaging, hair falling bohemian-style into her face as she wove her guitar lines into those of Jack Petrocelli. They merged with particular elan on an encore version of “Jardin d’hiver,” a finale that neatly sewed together the many aspects of this intriguing artist’s personality.