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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisBack when Paula Cole was backing Peter Gabriel on the now classic Secret World tour, it was evident she'd be a star. And no sooner than a year after stepping off the road with the former Genesis front man did the wide-ranged chanteuse score a record deal and begin delivering a consistent solo career of her own. While the world at large best knows the singer/songwriter for mega-hits like "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" and "I Don't Want To Wait," there's actually many more gems within her extensive catalogue, as demonstrated during a date at the acoustically inviting Metropolis Performing Arts Center just outside Chicago in support of her fifth long player Ithaca (Decca).
The collection is amongst her most contemplative to date, weaved around a theme of coming home to oneself, though that doesn't mean new tunes lacked the fire of more familiar past tracks. If anything, Cole appeared revitalized with having a reason to tour, and across two hours backed by a peeled back but proficient band, she showcased such angelic pipes that there's no reason she's not as famous as Sarah McLaughlin, Tori Amos or Kate Bush.
The spiritually charged "Comin' Down" evoked Cole's time with Gabriel, particularly his Us era merged with her calming acoustics. The new "Music In Me" turned the mood from tender balladry to a compelling, crescendo building rocker that best illustrated Cole's renewed passion, while the older "I Believe In Love" served as a charging example of just how charismatically she can command the stage. The singer's chameleon-like personality also unfurled a sensual side throughout the jazzy "Sex," while the piano popper "Me" vulnerably broke down the most sensitive sides of her personality.
Yet it was the hit-laden encore that earned the largest response, starting with the airy and inspiring "I Don't Want To Wait," which despite radio overkill, still possessed plenty of merit in this stripped down setting. "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" ushered out the evening on its most roots rockin' note, finding Cole once again displaying impressive vocal chops and an expository songwriting style that deserves additional attention beyond her current under the radar status.
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