Lauren Ambrose and The Leisure Class at Club Helsinki

Here’s my dilemna: When I go to shows, I like to take videos so I can share with everyone who wasn’t in attendance just how great the musician/band was — and so that people who were in attendance can revisit the music they heard. Sometimes, however, the music is so good and so perfectly danceable that I simply want to spend the entire show dancing, even at the expense of precious footage. Well, my selfishness won out on Wednesday night when I saw Lauren Ambrose and The Leisure Class at Club Helsinki in Hudson, NY. I only got two videos because I couldn’t resist taking my tapping feet to the dance floor!  (And by dance floor I mean tighter than usual space in front of the stage. There’s generally decent room to dance downstairs where the concerts are held — as opposed to upstairs where there’s an entire ballroom where monthly swing and tango classes and dances are held — but extra tables were set up on Wednesday. Even so, there were many people crowded in the club who stood, and the show sold out so the venue had to turn people away at the door). I was not prepared for the amazement and joy I felt during the show, even though I had read about the band, watched videos from past performances, and have seen each member — excluding Lauren Ambrose — in numerous other bands and projects over the years. Words cannot begin to describe the greatness of this group, nor can videos do it justice, but I will use both means to try to convey just how fun Lauren Ambrose and The Leisure Class are.

First off, Lauren Ambrose is a powerhouse of a singer. Her voice is a little more Broadway than bluesy, but she sure can belt out jazzy swing tunes with a power you wouldn’t expect from a slender actress wearing a sparkly, hot pink mini-dress. The Leisure Class classily warmed up the audience by playing a few songs without their leading lady until she finally came out amidst cheers and applause, kicking things off with the band’s theme song, “The Leisure Class.” Lauren’s stage presence seems sweet and innocent, but you know there’s a wicked side to it as well. This was reflected in her outfit, for when she first came out she had a black leather bomber jacket on over her dress (she removed the jacket a few songs later, having warmed up by dancing around on stage). Her acting background serves her well in this musical venture, and she’s a very charismatic performer. Lauren was playful with the audience throughout the show, as well as with the incredibly stylish and gentlemanly men of the Leisure Class: Kip Beacco on clarinet and guitar; Andy Bean on banjo, guitar, and vocals; Matt Downing on bass; Lyon Graulty on saxophone and clarinet; Evan Palazzo on piano and accordion; and Brian Kantor on drums.

The band played a packed two sets, each of which contained a mix of originals and swing standards as well as the occasional old-school throwback such as “Cooking Breakfast For The One I Love,” a 1930’s song which has been sung by the likes of Billie Holiday and Annette Hanshaw. The one complaint I will lay against the band is that its music lacked spontaneity at times, but I can hardly complain at all. Between the music, the well-heeled attire of the musicians, and being at as gorgeous a venue as Helsinki, I felt like a privileged patron in a wealthy jazz club of the mid-1900s. When the end of their second set came, just as the musicians opened the show in style so did they close it in style: each musician left the stage one at a time, Lauren being the first to go, as “New York I Love You” winded down. Eventually only Kip and Lyon were left, and the other band members shouted from the audience and cheered them on as they playfully dueled with one another on their respective instruments. After they prolonged leaving by teasing the audience with their musical conversation, they too finally left and the stage was empty once more. Lauren Ambrose is an excellent front woman, and The Leisure Class is aptly named — not just because the members seem to be in their leisure when they play, but because they are one classy group of guys. If you’re looking for a night of dancing, or just a comfortable evening of good tunes, this fashionably old-fashioned gang is just the ticket.

Here are the videos:

I Love You

Cooking Breakfast For The One I Love

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