For Michelle Gurevich, music – as well as her stage name, Chinawoman – was an accident. While still in her native Canada, she wanted to become a filmmaker – a dream that was broken as soon as she uploaded one song to MySpace for fun. ‘That is how it all started’ – she said smiling… ‘Whole thing was just an accident!’.
Three great Chinawoman albums and one full decade later we were sitting and chatting with Michelle at the backstage of Bi Nuu, one of Berlin’s most delicate and intimate venues after her sold out and rather stunning live performance last night. She played in front of the home audience for the first time after three full years. Not frequent enough, that much is for sure but ‘things need to be done the right way and it is kind of music that shouldn’t be played live too often’ – she said.
Three years of waiting was more than worth it since Michelle’s live band – guitarist and the drummer – coupled with her own guitar, synth and vocals now sound really ‘tight’ and after four years of practicing together they clearly feel more than comfortable to even improvise on stage. This was probably best illustrated by Life Time in One Night – one of her latest tunes – which, with bursting second guitar and drums, sounded hugely different (and may I add, way better) than the recorded version of the song. Same could be said for a number of other songs performed – from opening Lovers are Strangers to I’ll be Your Woman to even closing, iconic one, Oh, My Mother Russian Ballerina. When a band sounds better live than in the studio you know you are witnessing something rather special.
Audience, made out of really colourful characters of various origins (including fair few Chinese women – no pun intended!) took the whole thing passionately (is there any other way to take this sound!?) – so much so that some engaged in really passionate slow dance reminiscent of depressing Finish Tango clubs during Blue Eyes Unchanged. Russian crowd in the audience enjoyed the cover of ‘Без Тебя’ while Turks loved the pumping live version of Taksim Square. It came as no surprise at all when at the very end everyone demanded more. Hopefully, us Berliners, won’t need to wait further three years for this.
Michelle’s work is hard to describe due to its intimate nature and therefore its originality but, if you are really pushed, you could say that Leonard Cohen, Mark Lanegan & Isobel Cambell would probably sound similar if they were born and working in Eastern Europe. To some extent you would be even forgiven to call it ‘lo-fi’ version of PJ Harvey and Nick Cave. Yet, of course, Chinawoman’s sound is none of that. It is an emotionally charged, hypnotic and unique entity for itself.
‘Broken dream’ – in her own words – ‘is not necessarily a bad thing.’ I would tend to agree. The world, at least music related one, needs more such accidents and broken dreams.
This article, together with the photos, was translated and published by Gaffa: http://gaffa.dk/anmeldelse/100666