Sheffield Wharton News Group

Sultry, sensual music

Velvet Chain is impressive at the Key Club on the Sunset Strip

By G-Man - Immedia Wire Service

Velvet Chain seduces you. The hypnotic delivery of lead singer Erika Amato is the obvious starting point. She can sell a song with a gesture or a vocal inflection. And certainly the stellar musicianship is admirable, especially the interplay between leader Jeff Stacy's supple bass, Arif's exceptional guitar and their studio-quality jazz-cat on the drums, Brett Chassen (sounding especially good on one of Charlie Watts' drum kits).

Add in gorgeous keyboard accompaniment /samples from David Fraga and tasteful fills from Mark "DJ Swerve" Murray, and you have a formula for excess that they turn into success. (And this is one of the few times you will legitimately see "tasteful" and "DJ" in the same sentence.)


Stacy, Amato and the Chain constructed a set that kept building in intensity until it felt like the place was going to explode. Along with the extraordinary way Amato connects with the audience, this inspires unusual devotion from their fans. Many were hanging onto every word; others surrendered to the beat and launched into a style of touch dancing the likes of which you'd probably see in adult-oriented videos.

At the heart, it may be Stacy's song construction that makes a Velvet Chain show so rewarding. Here are tunes the likes of which you just can't get anywhere else. It's a style all his own. It's liquid trip-hop one minute, Euro funk-rock the next. Whatever you call it, it's mystically attractive. Stacy designs in the groove right from the start, then adds on otherworldly melody for Amato so caress with her voice. On top of that comes beats and rhythms and counterpoints and textures and all manner of sonic embellishment that fits perfectly.

Fraga's keyboard work is unusually supportive of the singer. Arif plays with precision and fluidity, always assisting the melodic flow and often taking the tune into the clouds with fantastic, inventive runs. And his arsenal of sounds is amazing; there may be another guitarist who can play so many different tones but nobody play so many of them so perfectly.

Velvet Chain is a sneak attack on your senses. Like their name, they come on all touchy-feely and ethereal, then they slam you up against a wall and have their way with you. For their melodic overdose, for the pelvic action they inspire, for their obvious visual delights, I heartily recommend you go experience a Velvet Chain performance. They probably won't hurt you, but they will haunt you for days afterward.