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Critic’s Choice: Lauren Ambrose & The Leisure Class at the Lion’s Den

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The band at Joe's Pub. Photograph by Bernie DeChant

Music critic Jeremy Goodwin previews the show at the Lion’s Den in Stockbridge on Monday January 18 at 8:30 p.m.

The only issue is whether we’ll be allowed to dance on the tables.

When Lauren Ambrose and The Leisure Class made their live debut last November at the Brick House Pub in Housatonic, the small dance floor was quickly filled with folks breaking out vintage dance moves and generally reveling in the band’s mix of hot, New Orleans-flavored jazz.

There may be less room for spins and dips when the band brings its hard swing to The Lion’s Den at The Red Lion Inn Monday night, but the energy level is likely to be similar. Like that initial gig, this is a low profile tune-up for another to follow in New York City, at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre on January 21.

The Brickhouse debut was publicized mainly by word of mouth. The same underground, in-on-a-secret flavor informs Monday’s show. The nascent band just launched a Facebook page this month, and it’s unclear when (or if) they’ll string a couple shows together, or perhaps record some songs.

Ambrose’s highest-profile resume item is of course her remarkable work on HBO’s Six Feet Under over its five-season run. She’s since racked up the accolades as a stage actress, winning ecstatic raves for playing iconic Shakespearean heroines like Juliet and Ophelia for New York’s Public Theatre. But she may be most familiar to Berkshirites as someone to bump into at the market, or the one singing the odd Michael Jackson cover at the old Club Helsinki, since she also calls the Berkshires home.

The Leisure Class is a sharply-tuned septet of area musicians (some on loan from other bands), boasting clarinet, accordion, baritone sax, banjo, upright bass, drums and whatever else it takes to crank out its sepia-toned dance music and slow-burn ballads. There’s also plenty of room for Ambrose to turn on the sultry and exercise her pipes, especially on chestnuts like “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” 

If these cats really make a go of it, they may not be long for the no-cover, word-of-mouth, tuneup gig. Get the jazz while it’s hot. —J.G.

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 01/13/10 at 09:17 AM • Permalink