Leslie Mendelson Performs at Flour & Salt

Amid the freezing cold temperatures on Saturday, Feb. 4, more than 40 people came to Flour & Salt Café to hear the musical talents of Leslie Mendelson. The performance was advertised and organized by the Colgate Live Music Collective, an organization that looks to bring more live music to Colgate and the Hamilton community. The Collective will continue to host events throughout the spring semester.

Mendelson is a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter who was nominated for a Grammy for her debut album “Swan Feathers” in 2009. Her second album, “Love & Murder” (which she jokingly referred to as “a family album”), was released in 2017. Mendelson’s most recent work is her studio album, “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…” which was released amid the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020. The singer has cumulated a number of other impressive achievements over the course of her career. She has collaborated with other well-known musical talents such as Jackson Browne and Bob Weir, and she previously opened for The Who at Madison Square Garden (MSG) in New York City, N.Y.

When asked about the difference between playing MSG and Flour and Salt, Mendelson responded that “I love playing live – it doesn’t matter if I’m at Madison Square Garden or a smaller venue like this. Sometimes these are a little more nerve-wracking than playing a big venue because everyone is quiet and looking at you.”

The singer performed under a purple light with her guitar, immediately capturing the attention of the audience. Mendelson made quips throughout her set, joking that she was going to “turn this bakery into a nightclub” when her colorful lights were being set up.

She started singing almost immediately after being introduced, starting with her song “I Gotta Go,” which, appropriately, was about the weather. Mendelson’s set was entirely composed of her original songs, including the biblical-inspired “Jericho,” the Andy Warhol-inspired “After the Party,” and “Rock & Roll on the Radio,” which included the use of a harmonica. The performer’s songs confronted some darker themes, which mimicked the stormy weather outside. Even though the songs were acoustic and had slow tempos, they were no less impactful or engaging. Her creativity did not just result in melancholy—audiences chuckled and whistled along to Mendelson’s amusing tune “I know a lot of people, but I don’t have many friends.” In her song “Medication,” Mendelson sang “The devil sitting on my shoulder / I’m tired of feeling over.”Such lyrics drew the audience into Mendelson’s unique musical world. 

“I feel like the lyrics were really well written, and the lyrics were really descriptive of the human experience and there were a lot of variation in the different songs […] It was almost like a lot of them were written like lullabies,” first-year Madison Elias commented.

Live performances are enjoyable for artists and audiences alike. Mendelson commented, “I like being able to play songs and feel people’s reactions to what I’m putting out there. You can play your songs in your room and feel like you’re making something, but it doesn’t mean anything until you can share it with people.”

Audiences were quiet and attentive during the singer’s time performing and even encouraged an encore after the set finished. The encore included a cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” and a tune from her first record, “Goodnight.” Mendelson’s strong voice and guitar filled the cafe for over an hour, creating a warm, soulful spot amid the frozen New York winter.