Lady Rizo: Luxury, sexuality, and sass

“Internal luxury,” is how Lady Rizo describes the feeling she hopes to provide for her audience when she introduces music from her new album, Indigo, at Feinstein’s at the Nikko next week.

“I believe in using the elements of the glittery nightclub chanteuse for restoration and rejuvenation. I want you to feel like you’re in my velvet palm, being held there, in the intimacy of other people for an hour. You should be able to return to the confusing, chaotic world of politics and to-do lists and social media a bit soothed.”

Her sultry vocals and idiosyncratic approach to performance have led to projects with an delicously eclectic group of collaborators, including Reggie Watts, Moby, Taylor Mac, and Yo Yo Ma.

In concert, Rizo—a fixture of New York’s alt-cabaret scene and a standing-room sensation at festivals in England and Australia—intersperses her smart, torchy tunes with snappy, often sexually charged banter.

“I look at Bette Midler’s mixture of comedy and music as a model,” she says. “I want to create a very theatrical experience.”

Like Midler, Rizo (born Amelia Zirin-Brown) has a devoted core following of gay men.

“I’d say they make up 35% of my audiences.”

But Rizo feels like straight men could learn something from her performances, too.

“I’m presenting a vision of self-empowered glamour that isn’t relying on the male gaze. I think about that moment in the Sound of Music where Maria is twirling on top of the mountain with her arms outstretched. It’s just this moment of joy that’s being expressed physically. I think it’s very rare that straight men are able to express joy physically.”

In addition to joy, there’s a strain of anguish in the music on Indigo.

Over the four years since recording Violet, her prior record, Rizo split with her husband of 12 years, bumped through a couple ill-fated affairs, married for a second time and had a baby son, Tennyson (who she breast-fed mid-performance in a series of Australian shows).

“I had a tumultuous time over the recording of this music and I want listening to the album to feel like a full experience rather than being heard as individual tracks, which is how most music is listened to these days. I want people to hear this current of mystery that connects the love and pain and joy.”