English chanteuse Helen O’Connor’s show at At My Place on Wednesday night was long on kitschy charm, if short on actual musical merit. The highlight of the funny and personable singer’s 45-minute set may have been her doo-wop reading of “Just Like a Woman.” Resembling a Tracey Ullman parody of a lounge singer, it would have made Bob Dylan blanch.
It takes nerve to introduce “God Bless the Child” with a rambling anecdote about nearly being bombed in Beirut while sunbathing on a rubber dinghy, but somehow O’Connor managed to make it work. O’Connor, who played a punkette in the 1980 movie “Breaking Glass,” gives the impression that she suffers no illusions about being a grand diva of song, but she’s confident about what she does do well: entertain with a light, deft touch.
The best number in her repertoire was the one she saved for the end, “Sing Out, Sister,” the title tune of a musical she wrote and which has run in London. The song’s sprightly rhythms coupled with O’Connor’s go-for-broke enthusiasm could give Ullman a run for her money in the lounge singer’s hall of fame.