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Milwaukee Concert Pick: Victoria Canal at Centennial Hall

Karina Barberis

The first thing I noticed about Victoria Canal when watching a live video for one of her newest songs, “Black Swan,” was the bare emotion across her face as she sat at the piano, simply playing, eyes closed.

The camera zeroed in on the expressions crossing her face like little clouds as Canal sang vibrating lines like: “Dissatisfied with the nature of me / You breathe the smoke of my constant emotional state.” Her beautiful singing and poignant writing is matched by her skills as a pianist. And when one considers that Canal — who was born without her right forearm due to amniotic band syndrome — can play piano with such easy grace, it’s truly inspiring to witness.

Canal — who grew up as a true global resident (calling Shanghai, Tokyo, Barcelona, Madrid, Dubai and Amsterdam her various homes) — was raised with classical music as her muse and began writing her own modern poetic ballads as a teenager. After moving to Barcelona at the age of 14, she worked more intently on her own music and began studying at a jazz conservatory.

Not long after attending the Berklee College of Music, notable musicians like Michael Franti, Snarky Puppy, Hozier and Chris Martin of Coldplay began uncovering Canal’s musical talents, bringing her along on tours and singing her praises. Martin, for one, remarked that Canal’s “Swan Song” was “one of the best songs ever written.” Canal’s latest collection, WELL WELL, appears on Coldplay’s label, Parlophone.

The EP features collabs with artists like Madison Cunningham and Wisconsin’s own S. Carey, and has already received accolades from publications such as The Guardian, whose Damien Morris wrote, “On her new record, perceptive, unflinching songs such as ‘Shape’ and ‘She Walks In’ are more explicit, searching her relationships with the person she sees in the mirror, and others.”

Writing about “Black Swan,” Samuel Draper of When the Horn Blows called it “an epic closer, akin to something from a Bond soundtrack. She admits …[that] it’s the ‘resentful older sister’ of last year’s ‘Swan Song.’ It reminds me of the old cliché: ‘go big or go home.’ Victoria Canal is nomadic, so the vibe must [be] stratospheric to compensate.”

Canal will create some of that atmosphere at a pair of free shows today: a Studio Milwaukee Session at noon (doors at 11:30 a.m.), followed by a full concert experience presented by Milwaukee’s Independence First at Milwaukee Public Library’s historic hidden gem, Centennial Hall — Canal’s only Midwest performance. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the concert at 7 p.m. Reserve your free ticket here.

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88Nine Music Director / On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee