Self-described “singer/songwriter/creative type” Sarah Donner graced the stage at Tin Can Ale House this past weekend. The overall tone for the show was set at maximum quirk, partially by opening act Birdie Rae, Donner herself, and her stage partner, the robot from closer Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra.
Donner’s set list was a mix of acoustic tunes with a broad range of subjects. She kicked off her performance with the jolly “Let Him Go”. Performing solo, Donner was obviously unable to recreate the pleasant harmonies from the original track, but cleverly substituted the kazoo solo with a mouth trumpet sequence instead. She followed with a fresh song, written on the road, about how her many of her possessions were stolen after a van break-in. Like many of her other songs, it had the potential to be hokey, but Donner’s engaging stage presence had the crowd in her hands.
Her banter with the crowd between songs is also what kept the audience with her for so long. She threw out a lot of offbeat questions to lead into her music, and at one point told them to “put your hands in the air and praise the lord…Beyoncé”.
Two covers made their way into Donner’s set. The first was the very literal “Dumb Ways to Die”, which fit so well with Donner’s other odd jams that it would have been hard to tell it was penned by her unless she announced it. The second was “One Day More” from the musical “Les Miserables”. The song is typically a tour de force sung by the entire cast, and Donner did her best one-woman rendition, complete with a whiny Eponine and overly angelic Cosette.
More earnest songs, like “Perspective” and “All My Guns” were met with less enthusiasm by the crowd, perhaps because they missed the playful mood established earlier. The wide interval jumps in “Perspective” proved to be problematic for the singer, whose intonation suffered. Perhaps part of the reason those songs felt a little flat was because of how unoriginal they seemed in comparison to Donner’s other work. She truly shined when she got to sing about the geeky stuff, like dinosaurs or the possible rebuttal of Schrödinger’s cat. Her vocals were both more spirited and in tune in the humorous portions of the set. Though she ended on a slightly blander note than she began, Donner generally offered the Comic-Con weekend crowd exactly what they needed – a hearty dose of witty nerdiness with a dash of sincerity.