If immense talent, unique artistry and fascinating lineage were keys to success, the pairing of My Brightest Diamond with Clare and the Reasons should have packed the Wachovia Center on Friday. Instead, it was the cozy confines of First Unitarian Church that hosted each woman's brand of chamber pop with a polite, raptly attentive throng at their feet.
Intimacy was essential, giving the low-lit proceedings the feel of a 1930s radio program, as did the costumed string ensemble that accompanied both women.
Clare and the Reasons' Clare Muldaur Manchon - legendary folkie Geoff Muldaur's daughter - was quietly showy and sweetly trilling, a lilting quirky songbird. My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden was more direly dramatic - a grand falcon - yet playful and giddy when the mood struck.
Worden is the granddaughter of a traveling evangelist-guitarist, daughter of a national accordion champion father and a classical-organist mother. Add to that pedigree a connection to indie music hero Sufjan Stevens (she plays in his band) and she becomes an alternative-cultural dream date.
Worden has a low, operatic voice capable of creepy, soaring highs; her vocals lent her lonesome romantic texts and the spare sounds below a chilled sensual vibe. "I want to shake myself and turn my heart inside out," she grumbled through the beat box-filled "Ice and the Storm." While the gently diabolical "Black and Costaud" alluded in lyrical and sonic elements to Ravel, her gut-wrenching "From the Top of the World" had all the rapturous chords of a James Bond theme.
The flash of her patent-leather shoes and upswept hair, swooping verbal tics, noisy guitar bits ("Golden Star") and silly pantomime paled in the face of grand, sad moments like "If I Were Queen."
Muldaur Manchon and her Reasons had a jazzy, folky, breezy sound whose flirty vocal timbre couldn't help but make one smile - she was that delightful. Her voice was quietly audacious, trills floating atop the strings and kazoo breaks of "Nothing/Nowhere." And when she took to Tears for Fears' anthemic "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" with tender tininess, all one could think was "if only."