BY DAVE ALLEN Only minutes into Ingrid Michaelson‘s set at the TLA on Sunday, there was already talk of wardrobe malfunctions. Michaelson took the stage in a satiny blue ballroom gown with, as she soon discovered, a large slit up the middle. Why the elaborate get-up? Inspired by theTLA’s red curtains and chandeliers during her last Philly appearance in June, Michaelson declared that her next show there would be a ballroom dance. Thus Ballroom Madness was born, drawing a sold-out crowd last night, only some of whom seemed to have got the dress-up memo. Michaelson’s music, though perhaps better suited to cozy sweaters and scarves, soared over the precious, prom-like atmosphere.
Michaelson brought a surprising amount of depth to her mall-friendly pop-rock, complete with a great set of pipes and better-than-capable skills on both piano and ukulele. She also showed great chemistry with her backing vocalists Allie Moss and Bess Rogers, engaging in some nimble call-and-response on “Far Away” and “The Chain.” The overall vibe was light and upbeat, even with a few love-gone-wrong tunes that in the hands of, say, Tori Amos, would have veered toward pretension. Michaelson banished any chance of that type of over-emoting with her between-songs banter, satirizing her Staten Island roots with exaggerated tawk and griping about sweaty hands caused by her long, gold dress gloves. Her patter got the best of her during an unaccompanied set on ukulele when she let a conversation with an inebriated fan drag on too long, but her execution of some snappy covers — Radiohead’s “Creep” and Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” — salvaged the concert’s middle portion.
She summoned her band for the title track of her new album, “Be OK,” and the too-cute “The Way I Am” before closing with a head-scratcher: “Locked Up,” a pouty stomper she’s been road-testing lately. An odd choice, but one redeemed by her encore selections: a ukelele-backed cover of “Over the Rainbow” that honored Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s 1994 version, and the lusty, mostly-a cappella “You and I.” That number featured an on-stage menagerie including openers David Ford and Newton Faulkner (both British, cheeky, and dedicated to looping numerous instruments during their sets), a member of her crew and his two young daughters. The raucous sing-along sent the masses, whether dressed to the nines or confused about the whole thing, home happy.