Before Sarah Jaffe’s show at The Standard Hotel in Manhattan, The Texas native had spent the last week in New York as a tourist, vaguely navigating her way through Brooklyn, combing through local record stores and preemptively excusing herself for acting like an obvious out-of-towner. Ironically, this city suits her, and Jaffe epitomizes effortless cool, with a likeability perpetuated by the fact that she has absolutely no idea. As a musician, however, Jaffe’s extraordinary talent is far from ever simply blending in.
The intimate set took place on the 21st floor of the hotel’s Penthouse. The views of Manhattan were breathtaking, visible both from the open balcony and from the floor to ceiling windows that surrounded the narrow venue. Guests sipped on champagne and cocktails before Jaffe and drummer, Roberto Sanchez took to the stage.
There are very little smoke and mirrors to Jaffe’s performance, and it’s rare to see a musician who can incite the complete and undivided attention of an audience with her presence alone. There was no need for crowd manipulation or clever engagement tactics, just a simply and refreshingly authentic performance. Jaffe felt honored to be there, and expressed her gratitude unfailingly, between every song. As she pointed out the sparkling view behind her, she said, “I don’t want you to leave, but it looks incredible outside.” Unswayed by the observation, every jaded New Yorker in the room laughed and stood their ground, eagerly awaiting the next song on the set list.
“Defense,” a track off of her latest album, Don’t Disconnect, was the most memorable of the night, and she breathed new life into the song with an extemporized intensity that continued to build throughout. When she performed “Vulnerable” with a similar kind of veracity, it only further showcased her versatility and emotional depth as a songwriter.
Having attended and written about countless shows over the years, I can say without hesitation, that not every performance, even the good ones, resonates the way that Jaffe’s did, and there’s a special, if not critical kind of experience to be had when you see an artist who is a musician first and an entertainer second.
Article: Lea Weatherby
Photos: Michael DiGiovanni