Laura Veirs – Joiners (13/2/2008)

Pre-script: Apologies for not posting a review here for a while, I’ve been swamped with DJ-ing, exams, studying (you know, that degree thing) and generally not being able to devote time to a good review.

I do like getting the seetickets email. It lets me know exactly what I won’t be doing on many nights of the week, and also informs me exactly which hot young Americans are using the tour buses outside the Guildhall each weekend. Occasionally, bands I like are featured, and so thusly, I drag my tortured soul (see what I did there?) to the actual review.

Bought the ticket down in Oxfam (whatever they might do that I disagree with, they are a) still a charity and b) they have good vinyl) and housemate, fellow DJ (yes, of course I was going to slip that in there) and music-phile chipped in for another, but he couldn’t make it. I wandered down from the dinner we all had beforehand, and slipped inside. I’ve never seen a gig in Joiners before – I got pretty close, once, had a ticket and all, and then realised I was double booked. Never mind. Got myself a pint, hid in a corner and saw the support.

Your Heart Breaks, the support, had just the singer/guitarist, who also drives the band around… Clyde was absolutely hilarious, with inter-song banter that made the highly snug venue laugh, giggle, and snort into their collective pints. I have never really laughed properly at a gig, only wry smiles at the poor attempts at humour a lot of bands put on. It was great to see someone actually display honesty, humanity and emotions, and yet not seem “emo”, or a poseur, or in fact, pretend to be a tortured soul (how many times can I get that reference in, do you think?)

So, songs about relationships, songs about paranoid schizophrenia, a discussion of the phrase “fucked off”, and a brilliant piece where the audience became the sound of a rocket ship taking off into the deepest black. I have to admit, I am particularly unsure as to the gender of said Clyde: to me, that’s a male name, but I had a distinct feeling, somehow, that Clyde was in fact not a chap. Must have been the vocals, or the way a lyric mentioned pigtails. Not to worry, though. I loved the song about New Orleans. Having just done a basic google of said Clyde, it turns out he is in fact, as that personal pronoun ought to have alerted you all, a chap. My radar is in fact hideously skewed (I blame the lighting/the beer/the sound guy)

As the crowd moved their collective consciousness to the bar, I removed myself from the back and made my way to the front. Who do I see there but Zeshan, my Laura Veirs acolyte, and his own convert to the cause, Anya. Sounds like I’ve got some kind of weird twisted musical pyramid scheme going on, but I assure the world, it’s nothing but word of mouth. So, we stand right up at the front, Joiners not having a silly security barrier or anything like that. When Veirs popped out, tuned her guitar and just said into the mic that she was ready, it felt almost coffee house-ish, especially as the old Tortured Souls, now the Saltbreakers, were in fact just chilling by the side of the stage (is that a Tucker Martine I see before me, band member towards my hand? Hideous Shakespeare adaptations aside, I think I did in fact spot said producer, bandmember and all round good chap in the wings).

The set kicked off with the new album’s opener, Pink Light, which, in the acoustic setting (ish – the looper and the distortion pedal kind of make it a solo, as opposed to completely acoustic, but now I’m quibbling) sounded quite lovely. Ether Sings was a song with which I am not familiar, only being into her since Year of Meteors (for once, the Grauniad actually came up trumps), but much like it’s name, it certainly floated along with a nice lilt. It’s odd, going to a gig and just standing there, listening. Normally, it’s a case of turning up, chatting through a support act (Cougar and Art Brut the exceptions) and then moshing madly at the main act, but tonight, both artists had me intellectually, emotionally and culturally spellbound (you don’t manage to drop Mississippi John Hurt’s name and not expect me to laugh inwardly as my term’s worth of ethnomusicological studies kicks in).

Wandering Kind, Magnetized, Cast A Hook, Rialto and the trio of Nightingale, Ocean Night Song and Wrecking were all familiar, and all got me humming, clapping and overdubbing, in my head, the rest of the band’s parts, whilst still being spellbound. When it came to the older songs, it was plain that they had been written in a way that precluded being played solo on a guitar – they sounded more comfortable, almost natural, sounding like they were meant to be played that way, instead of feeling unplugged (which, I have to say, is a lovely feeling).

The two mid set folk songs, Through December and Cluck Old Hen, were respectively melancholy and rip-roaring, the latter involving a stamp and clap routine, and a banjo. This wonderfully American instrument was kept out for One Thin Dime, and then a few songs later, the main set closed with Riptide, a gorgeous early piece.

“Encore!” – not exactly difficult, seeing as she stood off stage for about a minute, chatted to the band, and came back on, to play Rapture, a crowd request. Finishing off with Wrecking (I cheekily asked Laura for the setlist, so I could get the right songs, the right order, the right rightness), the gig closed fairly early, considering the normal kind of hours Joiners keeps. In essence, a brilliant performance, full of light, magic, humour, and a wonderful closeness to the audience that I’ve missed for a long long time.

8/10 – I wish I could have heard more from Year of Meteors, and maybe some more banjo-ey folk stuff, but hey, they had a plane to catch!

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