Live Review: Vonda Shepard

Vibrato Jazz Grill  Beverly Hills, CA

Contact: Jon Bleicher, [email protected]


Players: Vonda Shepard, vocals; James Ralston, guitar, backing vocals; Jim Henson, bass, backing vocals; Paul Taylor, drums

Material: Leading up to the Fall release of Red Light, Green Light, pop songstress Vonda Shepard delivered a comfortable, lounge-y set to a passionate and supportive room. The happy collective of career-long friends and fans sang along to most of the evening’s songs in back-to-back sets covering material from the '90s through to her latest project—with particular enthusiasm for the songs made famous by Shepard’s involvement with Fox’s Ally McBeal.

Musicianship: Opening gently on the piano with “Shine Your Light” and “Red Light Green Light,” the audience began to snap along with the mellow vocalizing opener on “The Wildest Times of the World.” Longtime band members delivered a fantastic musical backdrop for Shepard’s gentle, loose vibrato, with guitarist James Ralston and bassist Jim Henson adding beautiful backing vocals, especially on “Dirty Laundry Lines,” “In July,” and “Walk Away René.” Upbeat pop number, “I Just Don’t Get It” brought more great blended harmonies and lovely vocal runs.

Performance: “Walk On The Water” shifted gears, adding southern rock guitar sound, with the easygoing crowd clapping along. The piano focus returned for “Maryland,” while the audience jumped in on vocals for the “la la” scat refrain. Between jazz vibes and southern rock sound, the crowd clapped, snapped, and sang along to the sassy girl power, lighting up on intermittent belting vocal outros. “Respect Yourself” rounded the first set with heavier bass lines and bluesy-feeling vocals. Letting her personality out more fully, “I Know Better” highlighted Shepard’s great vocal leaps and scoops and her new song, “To The Stars,” revealed her beautiful falsetto. 

Summary: Crowd favorite, “Searchin’ My Soul” (from Ally McBeal) had the room fully energized, inspired by a guitar solo walkabout on the stage from Ralston. Shepard thrilled the room as she let loose on “Tell Him,” standing at the mic with tambourine in hand, full of fun energy to finish off the night. Between anecdotes about the launch of her career with Jackson Browne and gentle self-deprecation, Shepard is easy to love and creates a fun atmosphere, genuinely connecting with and respecting her audience. – Andrea Beenham