Saturday, November 18, 2006

Joanna Newsom at the Black Cat

Last night, I was lucky to go to a sold out Black Cat to see Joanna Newsom play.
I've been a huge fan of hers since her first record, The Milk Eyed Mender, came out a couple years ago. My friends are split between those that love her music, and those that find her voice too annoying to bear. I understand their complaint, but I feel her voice perfectly matches her music and songs.
Her new record Ys just came out this week to great reviews. It's got amazing arrangements by Van Dyke Parks as well as recording by Steve Albini and mastering by Jim O'Rourke.
Last night started with Joanna Newsom coming onstage by herself. She did "Bridges and Balloons", "The Book of Right On", and a traditional Scottish song. Her harp playing was beautiful. I liked how she mentioned she had a callus that was particularly squeaky that night.
After warming up, she brought her band onstage: a guitarist who also played the banjo and a Russian guitar; a barefoot drummer who used mostly mallets and brushes; a musician who played accordion, jaw harp, and the saw; and a backup singer who also played the glockenspiel.
The whole group then played the Ys album in its entirety. They modified the orchestral arrangements for the smaller group- like a chamber music version of the album. The show was amazing. I was pretty astounded at Joanna Newsom's virtuosity on the harp and her ability to sing and play so intensely for a whole concert like she did.

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