|By Alec Scott
As Brian Webb and Beth Amsel, two independent singer/songwriters, performed an hour and half's worth of inspired folk-pop tinged original songs and covers in the Cat in the Cream Wednesday night, remnants of the warm, refreshing spring day seemed to creep into the room.
Amsel began her act with a beautiful a cappella rendition of "Hunger." After the first song, Amsel quickly revealed an assured and elegant presence on the stage. She spoke in a contemplative and thoughtful manner about her love of Maggie Simpson, her fellow Colorado tunesmith behind "Hunger," whose CDs she is carrying around the country with her.
Amsel's voice is thick and expressive. When she sang in a breathy manner towards the bottom of her range, the result was both flirtatious and syrupy sweet. Upon picking up the guitar, Amsel's country-tinged poetic folk songs recalled Joni Mitchell and Tom Petty. The first few up-tempo numbers led towards a more ballad-focused mid-show lineup. "Louise," a song about an imprisoned woman, was particularly effective.
"She had no funky folk singer pretentions on stage," junior Ashlynn Manning said. "She was just up there and happy to share her music with us. I was blown away by her flawless vocal quality; it was pure and strong no matter where she took it. Her music was exactly what I needed last night, beautiful."
During the second half of the show, Amsel spoke about the importance of freedom of speech in times of war. Joking about the frighteningly conservative nature of the U.S. government, she pointed out the gastrointestinal connection between elected officials Bush, Dick and "Colon" Powell. The comment sparked laughter and amused moans from the audience.
"I thought she interacted with the audience really comfortably," sophomore Wilson Skinner said. "It didn't seem to faze or bother her that there was such a small crowd, that seems like the mark of a good performer."
Before performing her final number, Amsel talkd about what she calls the "Track 9 Tendency," the habit of singers to write songs instead of resolving issues with people. Then she launched into a blues-folk number featuring interesting guitar picking, that proved to be an evening highlight.
After a minute of applause, Amsel returned to the stage for an encore. Stepping towards the edge of the stage with her guitar, she invited Webb to join her onstage. She played guitar and sang without a microphone. Webb sat on stage playing his guitar filling the room without amplification. Together, they established a uniquely intimate connection with the audience.