Rita Redshoes does, to begin with, wear red shoes. They were rarely glimpsed Monday at Joe’s Pub, amid the onstage monitors, but accented her black outfit assertively. Redshoes’ given name – she is Portuguese – is Pereira. Whether there is a story to the stage name, I don’t know, but it fits her art pop persona, and, I suppose, signals that she sings, more often than not, in English. It’s a genre appropriate choice, and she turns a light accent to expressive advantage. She used to front, also in English, for the rock band Atomic Bees, whose album love.noise.and.kisses is worth a listen for its intelligent sound and decisive edge.
The edge is still there, cutting through the cabaret elegance. The voices of singers are, when you see them, often ironic. It is hard to predict from sight, or even manner of speaking, how the voice will sound. Redshoes is like that, the fullness of her voice something hidden inside and shared as enigma. I expected, and got from her, a certain artiness. It’s there in her videos, from the nautical sauciness of “Captain of My Soul,” with its sailor costumes and role reversals, to the gauzy glamour of “Broken Bond” or “Choose Love.” Her songs are, as pop most often is, about love, but always with a challenge. She talks you back to the moment love slipped, or, dares you to look forward to it, and at what choice had or will have to do with it. She addresses you as a character in her drama, the drama, that is, of who it is she has become by calling herself Redshoes.
At Joe’s Pub she performed solo, alternating between piano and guitar, with a touch of electronica, which worked most of the time, to round out the sound. Petite and high energy, with features sharp as paper cuts, she moved quickly between songs, never, as I recall, naming or describing them, other than to note whether it was old or new, or in Portuguese (as two were), or by Joni Mitchell, as the encore was. She was, for all that, unfailingly personable, the edge leavened by modesty and a hint, even, of shyness. It was in the arc of the songs, which became fuller and more substantial over time, that an emotional power accumulated: empowerment as theme and also as quality. The show had, by instinct or design, a shape revealed by the Mitchell song that ended it, love, life, and illusion, looked at differently and resolved, felt and reflected upon, the romantic crafted with passion and care.