Monday, September 30, 2013

ZZ Ward at Irving Plaza

Zsuzsanna “ZZ” Ward was born in 1986 in Abington, Pennsylvania, and was raised in the small town of Roseburg, Oregon. There she grew up enjoying her father's blues collection as well as her brother's hip-hop records. At age 12, ZZ began singing in public with her father's blues band, and by 16 she was singing with hip-hop acts in Eugene. She wrote original songs, fusing blues, pop, rock, hip-hop and rhythm and blues. Finally, in search of her own music career, she moved to Los Angeles, California, and was “discovered.” She released her debut EP, Criminal, and debut album, Til the Casket Drops, in 2012.

At Irving Plaza tonight, ZZ Ward, looking girly in her dark fedora and shimmering tank top, showed maturity in her sound and her confident stage presence. Ward opened her set playing guitar and later moved to keyboards and harmonica, and was backed by a three-piece band that kept the music simple and at times funky. Sounding like a young Bonnie Raitt at times, and paying homage to the blues with songs by Son House and Howling Wolf, Ward let loose with a soulful singing voice and fierce harmonica. Ward rocked the house with uptempo songs and chilled with sensitive songs. "Rain on My Window," Ward’s stylized adaption of Ann Peebles', Missy Elliot's and Tina Turner’s "I Can't Stand the Rain," her piano playing focus on “365 Days,” and an acoustic mid-set interlude of "Last Love Song" and "Charlie Ain't Home" demonstrated how she had finely honed her ability to take her blues-pop niche in many directions. And yes, there was a bit of her rapping thrown in here and there. Altogether, Ward provided a formidable and unique showcase for her roots-driven voice and songs. The girly stood with the big boys of contemporary music.

Visit ZZ Ward at www.zzward.com.