There's something infectious about Alexa Ray Joel's sense of fun and flirtiness that can loosen up even a traditional, storied venue like The Oak Room.
“We're bringing a little rock 'n' roll to The Plaza Hotel,” she said, breaking into a wide smile and a little shake of her hips, sheathed in a short, sparkly New Year's-kinda dress, as her band broke into the Rolling Stones' “Beast of Burden.”
Last night was the final night of Joel's Monday night residency at The Oak Room and her comfort level showed. By the time she reached her finale, her good-natured, bouncy pop come-on “Notice Me,” she had taken the standing-room-only crowd, which included her mom Christie Brinkley and two of the “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” on an hour-long tour of her new music as well as her influences.
Joel's piano ballads formed the core of her show. The poignant, epic-sounding “Beg You to Stay,” which she said was influenced by Pink Floyd's “Comfortably Numb” was punctuated by foot stomps a la Tori Amos. “You guys want one more piano song or should I quit while I'm ahead?” she joked, drawing a huge ovation before breaking into the yearning, determined “Invisible,” which she said was written after a particularly hard breakup.
“I'm so happy to not be in that state any more,” she said.
And her happiness is infectious. It doesn't hurt that the Oyster Bay native's backing band is packed with Long Island all stars, including bassist Matthew Rubano, formerly of Taking Back Sunday, and singer-songwriter Mike Del Rio, who has an EP of his own arriving next month, on guitar.
Rubano and Del Rio turned up the funk on Joel's “Not Alright,” helping her bring out the Prince influence she had when she wrote it, while keeping it young and fun, like a female-fronted Maroon 5 number.
Joel is still working on her debut, though the strength of “Not Alright” and the Kelly Clarkson-ish “Old-Fashioned Girl” (which got her grandmother, Rosalind, to her feet) suggest that “Notice Me” won't be her only radio hit from the project. She's also working on raising her profile with the Oak Room residency and she should get a hand with that with last night's show, which was filmed last night for the upcoming “Real Housewives of New Jersey” season because Housewives Caroline Manzo and Jacqueline Laurita and their families were in attendance.
On a related note, proud pop Billy Joel continues to recover from his bilateral hip replacement surgery in November and wasn't able to make last night's show. No worries, though, it looks like Alexa Ray Joel is just getting started.
SETLIST: Wait and See / All I Can Do Is Love / Lights / Beg You to Stay / Invisible / Not Alright / Beast of Burden / Ring of Fire / Sure Looks Good to Me // ENCORE: Old-Fashioned Girl / Notice Me
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