Had Edward Gorey written The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy would have been named Shara Worden. In her sparkly heels, wild hair, doll dress, and red tights, she single handedly saved my dying faith in the music industry with her pure, vocal raindrops and mystical songs.
Worden, on tour supporting her current release, Bring Me the Workhorse, as My Brightest Diamond, has been showcasing her amalgamation of styles for years, first as AwRY and recently as one of Sufjan Stevens' Illinoisemakers. Last night at the High Noon Saloon, her shockingly gorgeous voice (her signature instrument) was wielded with controlled whimsy, supplying a continuous flow of goose bumps. At times reminiscent of the airy, ethereal runs of Tim and Jeff Buckley, at others conjuring the dark mystique of Portishead and PJ Harvey, her performance proved that despite all the glimmers of her influences, there truly is only one brightest diamond.
When she started off the show with a jaw dropping, mostly a cappella version of Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good," it was evident that grand things come in small packages. If Worden's wee frame were x rayed, one would find a vibraphone in her throat and an amplifier in her belly. Her combination of operatic phrasing, breathy laughter, and guttural growls makes her a rocker you'd expect to have been raised in a cathedral, singing like a harpy to the bats and bells. Slightly gothic, slightly classical, slightly indie rock, Worden's voice and instrumental choices -- a guitar tuned to sound like a hammer dulcimer! -- form a sound that refuses to be confined by categorical boundaries.
Backed flawlessly by the Los Angeles band Pedestrian, her set included a variety of moody pieces, from the light and dreamy "Dragonfly" to the bizarre "We Were Sparkling" to the dramatically somber "Something of an End" to the lovingly beautiful "Golden Arm." Aside from singing and playing guitar and keyboards, she also let her inner ballerina shine. Her limbs jerked with the quick, jagged motions you'd expect from a poltergeist, her mouth turned with the sly grins you'd expect from a naughty child.
Finishing with a lyrical and visual "dance freakout," Worden thrashed about the stage pumping her fists and then momentarily broke into a few bars of David Bowie's "Let's Dance" between meows. Schizophrenic? Possibly, but the conglomeration made the evening more like an all encompassing mood soundtrack than a grouping of mismatched compositions.