Jill Sobule and Erin McKeown: Live Last Night

Jill Sobule

Live Last Night

By Dave McKenna

Cute is hard in pop music. Touching is harder. Monday at Jammin Java, Jill Sobule was both cute and touching, often in the same song.

Even after all the punchlines she threw into "Mexican Wrestler" -- sample lyric: "I can crack all your ribs, but I can't break your heart" -- Sobule's admission at song's end that this particular love will forever be unrequited can jerk tears as surely as anything Streisand ever crooned. "Lucy at the Gym" made an anorexic's death seem heroic. And her delivery of the 2004 novelty, "Underdog Notorious," somehow gets listeners rooting for a sociopath in the making.

(A perfectly good pop song ruined by Katy Perry, after the jump.)

From her new and publicly financed CD, "California Years," Sobule rendered "A Good Life," a glass-half-full end-of-the-world tune that puts Sobule as a distaff Ben Folds, a rare performer who can project vulnerability one verse and enviability the next, with melody to spare.

Sobule, 44, stayed away from her biggest song, "I Kissed a Girl." It probably hurts too much, knowing that she kissed a girl long before Katy Perry did, but didn't get paid. (Sobule sang about girl-on-girl spit swapping in 1995, when that act had some edge to it; Perry's song of the same name was a monster hit in 2008.)

Co-headliner and Fredericksburg product Erin McKeown shared the stage with Sobule for a night-capping medley of Beyonce smashes, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and "Survivor." The duets were cute. But touching? Not even close.

By David Malitz |  October 20, 2009; 3:29 PM ET Live Last Night
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