Talented Niemietz warms up a cold audience
It was incongruously cold in Dockyard and Saturday’s concert took place in an unheated marquee.
Sara Niemietz sang her first numbers clad in a borrowed ankle-length orange greatcoat. Openers were I Smile and I Want You, two quite measured, bluesy, bass-driven songs; the first a lesson in optimism and the second an unabashed declaration of love.
They were the perfect introduction for this talented singer who soon had us all warmed up and clapping in time. Discarding the coat, Sara introduced herself and her musicians: Jonathan Richards, bass guitar; Sheldon Reed, drums; Will Harrington, keyboard.
She said that they were enjoying Bermuda hugely and had participated in a songwriting class for the Festival Outreach programme with several schools that afternoon.
For her next number, I Could Use Somebody, she inserted Bermuda place names, drinks and traditions into the lyrics, to our delight. Niemietz is equally at home with rock as with jazz though I think her roots tend to go back to where she is most comfortable, which is gospel, spiritual and blues. She is also a fine acoustic guitar player with a jazz player’s wide repertory of chords- especially sevenths and ninths.
With her three musicians she formed a quartet with her voice as one of the instruments, blending, reacting and closely communicating. A prime example of her art was shown in Goodx3, a slow minor blues (a bit of a rarity outside jazz), where Reed’s drums and Richards’ bass and her own guitar formed a sort of organic funk for this fun revenge song.
Made to Last was another funky, catchy song over Harrington’s piano octave riffs that sounded like virtuoso country guitar playing. Changing the pace, Niemietz gave us a rock classic, Piece of My Heart, which brought us all back to 1969 and Janis Joplin at Frankfurt. Piece of My Heart was originally a gospel song, written by Aretha Franklin’s sister, Erma, who had recorded it two years earlier. Joplin’s connection to gospel was not known then. Now, it makes perfect sense.
Niemietz changed the pace, the mood and instrumentation with Let Me Be, which she performed over Reed’s toms and Harrington’s piano’s vibraharp-sounding unison. To me, the song sounded early 19th-century folk, almost a companion to Wayfarin’ Stranger.
With Go With the Flow, Niemietz added a philosophical touch, a sort of uncomplicated acceptance of life: “I don’t care about tomorrow/ and I’ve forgotten yesterday/ I just go go go with the flow/ It’s the only thing I know.”
Niemietz finished with a track from her 2019 album Get Right. This was Shine, another philosophical number with a similar message to Go With the Flow, but enclosed in a rather more spiritual message. The song enabled her to show her huge vocal range in the introduction as well as give us all a warm farewell. I hope that we will see this warm, humorous, versatile artist back in Bermuda again soon.
Sara Niemietz took the stage at the Victualling Yard, Royal Naval Dockyard as part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts. For tickets visit bermudafestival.org/
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