Concert review: Space Lady at UFO Factory

WHO: The Space Lady
WHERE: UFO Factory, Detroit, MI
WHEN: Saturday, May 2, 2015

While the terminal mania of Blowout rose to a fever pitch across the rest of the city, the Space Lady landed at UFO Factory for a moment of Casio-inspired reflection. Known for her stripped down, reverberation-laden covers of radio hits like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and “Strawberry Fields,” performer Susan Dietrich brought every ounce of her quiet, yet awesomely confident, persona to bear on Saturday night’s show.

Though the outlandish outfit and smattering of blinking lights did a lot to convey her extraterrestrial persona, perhaps the most ethereal quality of her act was the almost unbelievably earnest execution of rock songs so ubiquitous now that their meaning has all but disappeared. Her performance of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” was perhaps the best of example of this reimagining: sad, distant, and maybe a little bit tongue in cheek; punctuated at the end by a series of amazing and alarming yelps and howls that shouldn’t have sounded so good after being passed through her magical reverberation device. Completely absent were the burned-in images of biker dads on motorcycles driving through a bad pastiche of California counterculture.

The Space Lady’s performance of “Major Tom” was also noteworthy. Starting out as a simple and relatively straightforward keyboard-heavy cover of the Peter Schilling original, the song took on layer after layer until at the very end it contained a fullness of sound that evoked images of cathedrals and feelings of religious introspection. Her vocals reinforced this experience and on the last few choruses in particular she demonstrated an incredible capacity for vocal flourish and projection. Watching the audience, you could see as their initially frenetic movements faded to stillness that the Space Lady’s vibes were getting to them, too.

The audience was asked to join in on the last song, “Imagine,” but most of us were too mesmerized – and intimidated by her haunting voice – to do anything but sway and take in the final moments of optimistic retro-futurism. The Space Lady playing at UFO Factory? The suitability of the match was kind of overwhelming.
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