Towards the end of his set, Borts Minorts took a moment between songs to tell the audience something: “It’s good to have something you love that makes your life happy. This is it, guys!”
Minorts was one of two acts to bring their passion to the stage of Lyric Hall Theater on a bitter cold Friday night. This bill, which included the return of New Haven’s Tet Offensive to Lyric Hall for the first time in six months, more than delivered on the promise written on the show flyer to “entertain the crap out of you.”
The inimitable Borts Minorts, who hails from New York, began garnering a favorable response from the audience even as he hopped on and off the stage setting up his equipment. Barefoot and shirtless with a rainbow-colored wrap tied around his waist, a rainbow-colored scarf around his neck, a headband wrapped around wild blond hair, and white stripes painted on his face. He moved and posed about the stage in a colorful and unique interpretive dance along with his short, catchy songs, occasionally requesting a singalong and even coming off stage to dance with delighted audience members. The smile never leaving his face, he joyfully bantered with the audience between songs, proclaiming such statements as “this is epic” and “America loves Borts Minorts.”
The music came in short but powerful bursts of prerecorded electronic sounds that Minorts anchored by playing his ski bass — which, yes, is a bass made out of a ski. For other songs, he took up the flute or electric mandolin. For still others, he sang and danced, keeping the energy level in a beautifully high, joyful place. Even his song “It’s Not My Fault,” which he described as “fucking sad” and brought him to his knees, brought only enthusiasm from the audience. By the time the set, and his dance with a pool noodle, came to its close, Minorts’s shout to “do what makes you happy” sounded more like a personal mantra than a rally to the crowd, though the crowd appeared ready to follow his lead.
New Haven’s own Tet Offensive was last seen at Lyric Hall celebrating vocalist, composer, and musical conductor Brian Robinson’s 41st birthday. The group arrived with some new members — Bob Breychak on drums, Celeste Cumming on cello, and Anjanine Bonet and Alexis Thorne on violins — and their omnipresent leader Robinson, who continued to captivate the audience with his stage presence as well as his vocal and lyrical bravery. Like Borts Minorts, Robinson found the joy and passion in every aspect of his performance, whether he was describing his love of the movie Space 1999 playing on the screen behind the band throughout its set or talking about the next song he was going to sing.
The theater in the performance was also ever-present. One minute Robinson was in a white judge’s wig and fully clothed. The next, he removing his dress shirt and pants to reveal leather pants. The next, he left and returned from off stage in a black robe decorated with two huge red hands (from the movie Manos: The Hands of Fate). Another wardrobe change, and his dress shirt was back on. Whether remaining still in front of the microphone and delivering a song more delicately or thrashing about the stage, Robinson found the core of each song’s tempo and lyrics and conveyed them both emotionally and physically. He blended pathos and humor in “Regular Girls,” in which he longingly described a date that was “just regular”; in the chorus to “Dumb,” he lamented that “you’re dumb, but it’s not your fault.” The quartet of musicians found and followed him precisely at each turn. When Robinson asked the audience if they wanted one more song, they screamed yes almost in unison and the show was brought to its exquisite end with a song called “Dinner.” The audience was more than grateful to be served this one last course.
Lyric Hall lends itself to many types of musical acts, showcasing bands that run the gamut from classical to folk to punk to pure rock ‘n’ roll, but at its essence it is a theater. On its stage, Friday night’s performers found the theater in their music as well. As the crowd dispersed from the crystal and candlelit rooms back into the bitterest of winter nights, they took more than a fair share of the joy, passion, and pathos they had just received with them.