Valerie June: A Darling of a Performer Who Took Fans at the Santa Monica Pier by the Soul and Heartstrings

Valerie June - Photo by Donna Balancia

Irma Thomas Glitters at Twilight Concert Series

By DONNA BALANCIA

One thing about Valerie June, for a little gal from Tennessee, she’s got a boatload of soul.

Love her voice or not, she is a multi-talented musician who hits the figurative high notes better than anyone and turns misty moments into thunderous applause.

Does she sound a little bit like a young Dolly Parton?  More than that, there’s an actual resemblance on many levels. Like the great Parton, June has a similar style, with glittery appearance, big hair, cleverly heartfelt songwriting and solid musicianship.

Valerie June entertains at the Santa Monica Pier – Photo by Donna Balancia

Valerie June: ‘The Order of Time’

Her music covers everything from being held down to being set free and most of life’s relationship experiences in between.

On the new album, The Order of Time, the standout songs include “Shakedown,” “As If,” “Astral Plane,” “Two Hearts” and the upbeat showstopper “Got Soul,” which she shared with an audience that was eager but relatively small in number compared to some of the previous sessions of Twilight Concert Series.

Valerie June captures life's ups and downs in her music - Photo by Donna Balancia
Valerie June captures life’s ups and downs in her music – Photo by Donna Balancia

Snapchat Spat

For the most part, her performance, part of the Twilight Concert Series presented by Venice-based Snapchat, was a hit. Snapchat, however, received a strong round of boos from the audience and it was unknown if that was for its overwhelming real-estate dealings or its timed release of weird flying things into the air during the series. Some people even went as far as violently stabbing and puncturing an inflatable Snapchat beach ball until it was little more than a small pile of limp vinyl cast into the trash.

Valerie June kicks up her heels at the Santa Monica Pier – Photo by Donna Balancia

‘Midst of Great Fortune’

It was clear it hasn’t been all wine and roses for the gal from Tennessee.  That was evident from some of the songs on her 2013 breakout album Pushin Against a Stone, produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. In Santa Monica, her voice was shaky during some brief times during the show.  At one point, she declared: “I am in the midst of great fortune. You don’t have to beg for the blues.”

June gave good insight into her songwriting process when she recalled that she prayed she wouldn’t lose the melody and unique riff in “Man Done Wrong,” keeping it in her head until she could get home to get it all down.

Irma Thomas is the grandmother of soul – Photo by Donna Balancia

Irma Thomas

But the day into night on the pier wouldn’t have been as special had it not been for the elegant and grandmotherly presence of the grande dame of song, Irma Thomas.  She’s a great-grandmother, actually, and she pointed out her family among the fans in the crowd. Thomas has been an inspiration to the biggest soul singers of our day.

She is known for songs such as “Time Is On My Side,” “Wish Someone Would Care and “It’s Raining.”

Thomas won a Grammy in 2006 for her album After The Rain, but her biggest achievement has been family, she said.

The 1960s icon has still got it goin’ on, extending a great rapport with her audience and joking about everything from her age to the lengthy and loving marriage to her husband, who escorted her up the stairs and onto the stage. She had the crowd cracking up when she said her husband was so high maintenance he could run away but he would be returned.

Valerie June is on a worldwide tour with new album – Photo by Donna Balancia

 

 

Valerie June Setlist:

The Hour

Man Done Wrong

Love You Once

Tennessee Time

Shakedown

Slip slide

With You

Two Hearts

Can’t Be Told

Workin Woman

If And

Somebody

Astral

Lonely So Long

Got Soul