Share Tweet Submit Pin Whether one was aware of Laura Nyro or not, almost anyone who listened to popular music in the lates and earlys has been touched by her work. Although Nyro was a captivating performer and an accomplished composer and lyricist, her greatest commercial success occurred between and when other popular artists covered her songs. Nyro's songwriting style was a distinctive hybrid of Brill Building-style pop that generously incorporated elements of jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, show tunes, and rock 'n' roll.
Despite the critical praise for the depth and sophistication of her songs and her gift for writing beautiful pop melodies, Nyro's own recordings sold modestly. Uncomfortable with performing on television and with fame in general, newly married Nyro announced her retirement from the music industry in and settled into a life of domesticity at age Nyro's musical hiatus finally ended in , as did her marriage.
She released an album of new material, titled Smile, and with some of the best New York City-based musicians eager to work with her, assembled an outstanding band and embarked on a tour. This tour resulted in her live album, Season Of Lights. It was during this time that she became pregnant with her only child. Largely ignored or misunderstood upon initial release, Nyro's next album, Nested, can in retrospect be heard as the bridge between her earlier and later work.
Despite being well into her pregnancy, Nyro decided to tour, performing at select intimate clubs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and New York City, wearing maternity clothes that celebrated her pregnancy, rather than trying to hide it. The most anticipated dates of the tour were her first ever engagements at New York City's Bottom Line on the 12th and 13th of July.
Thankfully, the King Biscuit Flower Hour recorded all four sold-out concerts. This is particularly significant as Nested would again turn out to be Nyro's last album for nearly five years. With the exception of the final gig of the tour, an appearance at the Dr. Pepper Music Festival in Central Park, she would not perform live again for nearly a decade, preferring a life of domesticity raising her son. With that in mind, this final performance of the four Bottom Line concerts is a fascinating glimpse into the last days of the pre-maternal Laura Nyro and the Nested material in particular.
Here the songs are stripped down to Nyro's rich voice and piano, as she performs much of that album solo acoustic before an intimate and totally enthralled audience. A few classic older songs also surface, as do a few well-chosen covers. Nyro begins this third performance of the run with two Nested tracks, starting with "Rhythm and Blues. This is followed by the introspective and quiet "Mr. Blue Song Of Communications ," which compares favorably to Nyro's best earlier work. Before continuing with more new material, she delivers "Sweet Blindness," one of the most jaunty and soulful songs from her album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, its lyrics reflecting a drunken encounter.
Nyro returns to core Nested material for the next three songs. All three are melodious songs with penetrating, intimate lyrics. Again resurrecting a vintage number, Nyro next performs "And When I Die," one of the most recognizable songs from her debut. Nyro delivers a delightfully understated take that embraces the beauty of the melody and accentuates the unforgettably catchy chorus. As one may begin to notice, Nyro's Nested themes revolve around relationships, but now with an emphasis on motherhood and childhood, soon to be the most important aspect of her life.
Rarely has a women expressed the trepidation and excitement of impending motherhood so honestly. This precedes the undeniably catchy "In A Country Way," a delightfully humorous outtake from the New York Tendaberry album sessions. From the opening line "My old man, he's a Peter Pan, in the city Nyro concludes her set with an unfamiliar song that turns out to be a lovely early reading of "Man In The Moon.
Throughout this performance Nyro sounds more content and genuinely happy than she ever had before. Her soulful voice, unexpected melody changes, and her unparalleled emotionality was never more present than at this second major turning point in her life.
Following this run she would again retire from music as she devoted her time to raising her son, who was born just weeks after these Bottom Line performances.
At a time when punk rock was starting to have a huge impact and disco ruled, Nyro was that rare commodity that still felt every word she sang.
Her voice, seemingly untouched by time, reaches more emotional heights and depths throughout these four Bottom Line performances than many more popular songwriters reached in a lifetime.
Nyro herself was never compared to anyone.