Live Review: Melissa Polinar at Hotel Cafe

Melissa Polinar

Material: Polinar describes herself as a singer/songwriter with pop and soul influences, similar to Adele and Stevie Wonder. The set includes original songs and a cover. It’s a mix of soulful ballads, like “Find You,” and a Jackson 5 influence is heard on funkier uptempo tunes such as “Off Guard.”

Polinar adds interest by welcoming guest vocalists for songs like “Happy,” co-written with Storey, who accompanies Polinar on stage to trade off and join on vocals. For her song “Above Water,” Polinar is joined by Rosales and Fortgang, members of the acapella group The Filharmonics (Pitch Perfect 2). It is really Polinar, however, who steals the show, holding the notes, especially on “See The Stars.” For this sweet ballad, it is just Herrington on the house piano and Polinar on guitar. The audience was so entranced, they were stone quiet by the song’s conclusion.

Musicianship: The only song that felt loose was “Try,” possibly due to a nonspecific number of rounds between verses. Just the opposite was the case with “Always Need You,” where Perusi and Humphreys nailed a tight refrain and finale. Perusi really put the fun in funk for “Off Guard,” with tempo builds and tight stops. Humphreys applied shakers, brushes and mallets for a nice variety of tones. On “Above Water,” Humphreys and Herrington combined cymbal and keyboard tones that are very evocative of the song title.

Performance: Polinar worked the mic well at this show, backing off as necessary. At one point she let her Dallas accent come through, explaining, “Singing is hard, y’all.” You would not know it from the prowess of her suspended phrasing on her cover of Eric Clapton’s “Change The World.” Herrington best exemplifies holding back his levels for the whole of the band, but he takes to the forefront here, making the song his own by incorporating an impressive roadhouse blues-style solo.

Summary: The singer proclaims that she wishes sets were longer so she could play more songs. The band’s enthusiasm for the music is equally infectious and the positive energy shows as they get the audience to sing and clap along.

Polinar’s original compositions incorporate interesting but subtle key changes and bouncy riffs. While work needs to be done to bring the guitar levels higher up in the mix, the band does have an overall solid grasp of dynamics, demonstrated in the various song bridges.

The Players: Melissa Polinar, vocals, guitar; Rob Humphreys, drums; Andrew Perusi, bass; Will Herrington, keyboard, piano; VJ Rosales, Barry Fortgang, Nina Storey, guest vocalists.

Venue: Hotel Cafe
City: Hollywood, CA
Web: melissapolinar.com