Reviews EliseTestone_Santiago_3635(lead)

Published on February 18th, 2014 | by Jon Santiago


Reviews: Elise Testone and Jordan Igoe’s Album Release Shows

Elise Testone
Charleston Music Hall
Feb. 13

With enormous dreamcatchers floating above her and an enthusiastic crowd urging her on, Elise Testone officially launched her album In This Life on Feb. 13 at Charleston Music Hall. The first of two shows she would perform that night, the Music Hall performance proved to be equal parts parade of hometown pride and tour-worthy stagecraft. Also on display: the unmistakable aura of a fresh start, the opening of a new chapter.

A screening of the recently completed video for “I Will Not Break,” kicked off the evening and set the theme. “I Will Not Break,” which might well be the anthem for this phase in Testone’s career, also merited a live performance later on.


Elise Testone at the Charleston Music Hall, Feb. 2014 (photo by Jon Santiago)

Characteristically, Testone’s set list for the evening pulled in an eclectic range of artists and styles. Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come” followed a soulful rendering of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Tunes from Janis Joplin, James Brown, Eddie Vedder, and Erykah Badu all got worked into the mix among a handful of newly penned originals.

With a stage set reflecting her current personal style (call it an “early ’70s boho/Laurel Canyon” vibe), Testone may be trying to say that’s where her musical roots live. Or the reference may be more aspirational than that. Either way, young Stevie Nicks would have been perfectly comfortable on that stage amid the funky gossamer glam.

Naturally, a few tweaks of the new direction might be ongoing.

“Y’all havin’ a good time?” Testone asked the crowd and, a beat later, checked herself against some of the audience response, laughing, “My Jersey family is all like — ‘Y’all?'” She tried again, “Youse havin’ a good time?” — and with that, she covered her bases, old and new.


Guitarist Wallace Mullinax, bassist Matthew Thompson, pianist Gerald Gregory, cellist Lonnie Root, and drummers Daniel Crider and Stuart White formed the core of Testone’s band, to which were added another keyboard player, guitarist, a three-piece horn section, and a trio of backup singers. Also brought in on a half dozen tunes was a choir featuring some of Testone’s vocal students as well as a few of the local musicians who have inspired her, among them Lindsay Holler, Jordan Igoe, and Rachel Kate Gillon.

Despite the size of the onstage population and everything that entails, the evening went off without glitches. Just solid performances, a good deal of generosity (Testone ceded the spotlight to Holler and joined the back-up choir for her on Holler’s song “Weak”), and some real surprises. 

Toward the end of the show, during Testone’s cover of “Thriller,” she once again handed over the stage — this time to a dancing bandmate who showed off his Michael Jackson moves in splendid style. It all lent fuel to the party atmosphere and the pure joy of sharing an important milestone with some of the people who have stuck with you.

If the purpose of all those dreamcatchers above the stage was to snag the bad dreams and let only the good dreams through, Testone can rest easy as she moves forward. Seems like the good ones will have her back.


Jordan Igoe, Rachel Kate, Stagbriar
The Royal American

Nearly two years after she began working on it, Jordan Igoe’s How to Love made its public debut to a packed house at the Royal American on Friday, Feb. 14. It was Valentine’s Day. A full-moon night. And did we mention the earthquake? There was one of those, too, although most in attendance didn’t even notice. It all made for a very lively evening.


Jordan Igoe and friends at the Royal American, Feb. 2014 (photo by Jon Santiago)

Columbia-based band Stagbriar opened the show with a solid set. Brother and sister Alex and Emily McCollum write lovely, harrowing songs with sometimes complex dynamics that both impressed and left us wanting to hear them on a quieter evening than this one was stacking up to be. 

The hometown element took over with Rachel Kate Gillon, who paired up with Igoe singing harmony, to share a few cuts from her own recently released Rachel Kate With Love and Hate.

Guitarist Mackie Boles filled in at the last minute for cellist Diego Villena. As Gillon explained, “Diego’s cello got injured, so keep the cello in your thoughts.” From the crowd, someone shouted back, “I’ve got cello thoughts!”

Gillon gave a particularly heartfelt rendering of “Hell Is Your Home” and nailed the evening’s festive atmosphere on the head with crowd favorite “Dancin’ Shoes.”


But it was Jordan Igoe’s night and her friends crowded in to both celebrate and participate. Gillon and Jessica Daisi Igoe sang backup along with surprise guest Elise Testone.

For her part, Igoe delivered yet another great evening. The solid songwriting and natural, down-to-earth power of her performance reminded us once again why we believe that all the props she enjoyed on this celebratory night are entirely merited and well overdue.

Photos by Jon Santiago.



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About the Author

Jon Santiago

is a freelance writer, photographer, and graphic designer based in Charleston, S.C. Every now and then, he hauls his guitar out to an open mic night and plays some original songs in public. He has been warned about this.

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