Linda Perry Performs a Rare, Riveting Set Following Tribeca Premiere of Emotionally Raw New Documentary

As someone who’s achieved massive success on their own terms as a singer-songwriter (the 1993 single “What’s Up?” from her band 4 Non Blondes hit No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has 1.7 billion views to date on YouTube) and written a cornucopia of hits for other artists (P!nk, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys), Linda Perry seems like someone who must have it all figured out. And while she’s certainly managed a lengthy, impressive career in the fickle music business on her own terms (her guitar at the 1993 Billboard Music Awards proudly displayed the word “d-ke” at a time when few women were out and proud), a new documentary reveals the tormented human behind the edgy, imposing exterior.

Linda Perry: Let It Die Here, directed by Don Hardy, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday (June 6) and offers a compelling portrait of an artist who can’t stop searching and reaching, but is never quite sure what for. While Perry is full of uncertainty and self-laceration, talking heads such as Brandi Carlile, Christina Aguilera and Dolly Parton offer a far more positive (and accurate) summation of her substantial talents.

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Following the riveting film, Perry and a full backing band took the stage for a rare live performance of several of the songs featured in the film. The new material demonstrates her uncanny songcraft and distinctive creative voice (abetted by her demanding work ethic) hasn’t diminished one iota since she blew up on the national stage more than 30 years ago and then promptly backed out of the spotlight. Marvelous new song “Feathers” is a heady blend of soul, alt-rock and Americana, “Let It Die Here” is worthy of Oscar consideration and “Beautiful” (made famous by Aguilera) was a treat to hear sung by the woman who wrote it.

Between songs, she thanked the filmmakers and opened up a bit about the emotionally raw film, including one scene where she dances while sobbing and reflecting on her life. “Sometimes [the creative process] can get the best of me as you witnessed for a whole hour and thirty minutes of how I can spiral because simply I don’t believe in myself,” Perry said. “It’s a wonderful thing to know that something that I say, something that I write, something that I do might matter.”

With characteristic candor (and a bit of a laugh), she admitted that “the closet seen is beyond embarrassing to me, but I feel for her, that girl on that screen during that time. I just wanted to give her a hug and say, ‘Jesus, chill out.’”

Toward the end of her eight-song set, Perry’s child, Rhodes (whom she shares with ex-wife Sara Gilbert), presented her with a bouquet of flowers. Perry kept Rhodes with her on stage for the final two tunes, including the requisite “What’s Up?” finale, even giving her kid the mic to belt a bit of the anthemic tune (to be honest, her child fared better than a few of the folks from the audience she invited onstage to sing).

While Perry keeps plenty busy — she worked on projects from Ringo Starr (Crooked Boy) and Kate Hudson (Glorious) this year already — the documentary and her live set makes one hope that the singer-songwriter gives equal footing to both of those nouns in the near future. It’s been far too long she’s since Linda Perry has written songs for Linda Perry, and it’s clear that she has plenty left to say.

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