Keren Ann plays the pop sophisticate at Cal State LA


During her too-short visit to Los Angeles, globetrotting songstress Keren Ann played a guitar shop, a house party … and the 1,200-capacity theater at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex on the campus of Cal State Los Angeles.

After her set Saturday night, it’s hard to imagine either of those cozy shows could possibly match the warmth and intimacy the 37-year-old singer/guitarist/composer brought to the Luckman. Performing largely acoustic at the front of a bare-bones three-piece, Keren Ann charmed and cooed through 75 minutes of music weighted toward her most recent – and most pop-oriented – release, “101.” The Israeli-born, French-reared, New York-based chanteuse was at turns lilting and upbeat, her velvety voice and careful phrasing curling around twining guitars and textures from trumpeter Avishai Cohen.

That she was playing a spit-polished theater to a sit-down crowd was not lost on her. “This place is so polite,” she told the crowd with a smile after “All the Beautiful Girls,” “but I know you rock. I can feel it.”

She did too, in her own way. The songs from “101” lost some zip in their stripped-down presentation, but thanks to Cohen, nothing in the way of sophistication was sacrificed. Using pedal effects, he coaxed myriad tones out of his trumpet, creating a remarkable dialogue between the horn and the singer’s alto. It gave another dimension to an evening that still might have been memorable had Keren Ann stuck to plucked-and-strummed guitar pop with occasional twang.

The single “My Name is Trouble” felt more like a ballad than the nifty dance-pop number in the video, but after a set colored by everything from jazzy touches to country noir, Keren Ann revealed that she is no trouble at all.

Soft-spoken Chris Garneau opened the night with a set of spare but riveting baroque pop.