REVIEW: Abby Jeanne at Turner Hall Ballroom

In the context of the larger Milwaukee music scene, very seldomly are local artists selected to headline big stages as a main attraction. The Pabst Theater Group, however, has done a good job in recent years of putting faith in Milwaukeeans to be able to support their own, as more local talent has been able to make their name known on a larger scale at their venues. While many artists see positive results from playing venues like Turner Hall Ballroom, none may see the amount of residual impact that Abby Jeanne will likely receive following her headlining set at the release of her most recent album, “Music Box Dancer” on Saturday night. If you were in touch with what Abby has been doing over the past couple of years, her show reaffirmed what you already knew. If you were a newcomer, you definitely won’t forget who Abby Jeanne is.

Photo by Daniel Ojeda

Jeanne took the stage on Saturday night accompanied by an ensemble band, slightly larger than her normal backing musicians, after being played on to the intro of album track “Moonlight”. From then on, she performed with her heart on her sleeve (or rather, her dress) for the duration of her hour-plus set. Most of the new album was included in the set list, including recent singles “Cosmic Beings”, “Die Easy” and “Pleasures Pain”, all of which have made their way into the core of Jeanne’s typical show. Her performance, however, was anything but typical. She moved about the stage with a commanding presence for the majority of the night, proving what many already know; she can hold her own as a performer with the best of the best. In addition to a stellar voice, there was a confidence about her that would suggest at some point, Turner Hall may be too small of a venue to catch on of her shows.

There were, understandably, some butterflies, as well. At one point, she asked for a cigarette from a member of the crowd. While it may have been to cure some anxiety, as she told the crowd before promptly advising them to not pick up her habit, the cigarette did also set the mood for some more jazzy material that truly showcased her range vocally.

Photo by Daniel Ojeda

While the main set appeared to close after energetic hit “Excuses”, from her breakout “Rebel Love” album, the best moment of the night followed. After a quick dress change, Jeanne, accented by a violin, took to a piano on the side of the stage for new album closer “Blood Kin”, with an intricate, delicate performance that captivated the Turner Hall Ballroom crowd. Very few moments can replicate the emotion that Jeanne delivered on that song, with a very busy piano part that was played flawlessly with a powerful vocal line as well. That moment felt as though it cemented Abby Jeanne as a talent truly ready for the world.

Saturday night’s show at Turner Hall Ballroom was a statement performance for Abby Jeanne. Quite simply, she had worked her way to be given the opportunity to shine, and when the moment came, Abby lived up to it and exceeded even her own standards. By any standard, it was a show that will not be forgotten any time soon.

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