Sometimes whimsical, often wry, Jill Sobule offers lens on American life

February 19, 2013 Helen Klein
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Singer Jill Sobule, backed by the Brooklyn-based band, Sex Mob, rocked Union Hall on Friday, February 15, with a concert that had the packed basement room energized and engaged.

Sobule, who lived in Park Slope and Williamsburg before moving to California a few years back, acknowledged that she missed the borough, chatting with audience members, many of whom clearly were familiar with her oeuvre – sly, witty songs that marry clever word-play with social commentary while simultaneously being soulful and, yes, extraordinarily moving.

One of the most requested of Sobule’s songs, which she sang as she wrapped up the two-hour show, was “Lucy at the Gym,” a painful evocation of a young woman struggling with anorexia.

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Political commentary surfaced not only with her hot-pink sheath emblazoned with a huge peace sign but with one of her signature tunes, “They Say They Want Our America Back,” a satirical take on attitudes on immigration.

Then there was “Modern Drugs,” which Sobule said she wrote for a pharmaceutical convention that she was invited to sing at; she wasn’t invited back, she wryly notes of the song which posits what would happen “if Edgar Allan Poe had Prozac” or “If Van Gogh had Celexa.”

In Sobule’s universe, such unexpected concepts are standard issue, so no surprise that the tormented artist, sufficiently medicated, “would paint by number …and you know he’d have both ears.”

Also rousing the crowd were Sobule’s wistful love song, “Jet Pack,” and the ironic, painfully beautiful “Nothing to Lose.”

Sobule even offered up her own take on “Sunrise, Sunset,” as well as several songs that she had previously written lyrics for but not music, adlibbing with Sex Mob’s talented quartet of musicians to present them, teases for future performances and future albums.

Opening for Sobule was Colin McGrath, a Brooklyn-based musician whose best songs expand the art of storytelling.

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