Born in South Africa and based in Philadelphia, the folk-rock heartthrob Andrew Lipke has traveled more than most.
Friday's show confined him and his four-piece band, the Prospects, to the Tin Angel's tiny stage, but Lipke still managed to roam. One minute his soaring croon, backed by a sighing cello, recalled the orchestral swoon of Rufus Wainwright, and the next he was screaming over distorted blues riffs like Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant.
Lipke, whose second album,
Motherpearl and Dynamite
, was recently released by Drexel-based Mad Dragon Records, has the poise and self-assurance to be playing much larger stages, and with the strong reviews and NPR airtime the new album has garnered, he may be soon.
Over the course of an hour, Lipke and his tight, versatile band proved themselves equally adept at Coldplay swell ("The Fire") and Pixies snarl ("Mindgames"), offering something for everyone to like.
Lipke's mutability is both asset and Achilles' heel. Much as artists may chafe at their own limitations, it's often their failings that drive them to innovate.
Lipke's proficiency comes at the expense of individuality. His songs are well conceived and executed, and they cohere on their own merits, but they don't hang together as a whole.
It's hard to imagine hearing a new Andrew Lipke song on the radio and identifying it right off the bat.
The devotion of Lipke's local fan base is apparent at his shows, and he's more ingratiating in person than on record, where his self-involvement is not tempered with self-deprecation.
A little of the playfulness that transpired between him and his bandmates, much of it inspired by their overly cozy physical situation, would go a long way towards leavening the moodiness.
There's no question he is talented, but it's not yet clear whether he's as good at sounding like Andrew Lipke as sounding like others.