Haunted: The amazing chanteuse Chrysta Bell

Gig Scene star - The singer Chrysta Bell.
Gig Scene star - The singer Chrysta Bell.

Review by Graham Chalmers

If there’s one gig which has continued to haunt me this year, it’s a show by modern American vamp Chrysta Bell.

This smouldering alternative ‘torch’ singer played the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds earlier in the year as part of a short UK tour.

Forget Lana Del Ray, Chrysta Bell was the real deal, slightly spooky but utterly memorable.

I turned up at the gig partly because this Texas chanteuse’s debut album The Train was co-written and produced by famous filmmaker David Lynch but also partly because her seasoned touring band features an American musician friend of mine from Harrogate.

Quadrod plays keyboards and ‘soundscapes’ (it’s the Texas link - he’s from San Antonio).

The show which unfolded was as heavy with atmosphere as any I can remember.

Lynch himself introduced this strikingly beautiful singer and her band - albeit in a video on a big screen.

Maybe it was the shady lighting or the constant David Lynch film projections or the Nick Cave meets the Cocteau Twins sounds of her brilliant ambient blues accompanists - who also included Christopher English Smart on bass, guitar and backing vocals and the mighty Pat Mastelotto on drums - but this was no ordinary gig.

It was almost as if Chrysta Bell was operating in the centre of a 3D film noir, trapped in her own lost highway.

With a haunting voice, flick knife eyes and perfect poise, Bell was no fluffy Julee Cruise, to mention a previous Lynch musical collaborator from his Blue Velvet Days.

This was a dreamy but dangerous woman with a damaged history - Julie London singing at the scene of a murder, who just also happens to write her own songs.

As good as the music was - her self-penned single Real Love, deliciously warped cover versions of rock n roll and early blues classics Be Bop a Lula and Baby, Please Don’t Go, they aren’t the reason this show haunts me still.

That night in Leeds nearly six months ago it felt as if Chrysta Bell and Quadrod and the rest of her impressive band were in the middle of a weird but beguiling movie .

And it felt like myself and the rest of the hushed audience were in it, too.