Town Hall, Birmingham
Those of long memory and patience might recall a plaintive post I put up on our predecessor, seeking advice around going to see this duo, afeard as I was of a lynching, on grounds of my gender. Assured, perhaps by Twang(othan) or Vulpes, maybe Steve T, there tonight incidentally, I brewed up my courage and waited this 9 years for their next tour. And I was not disappointed.
Supported by Lucy Wainwright Roche, another Wainwright scion, she was charming, witty and self-deprecating. She could sing and play the guitar well too, but I can’t recall a hint of her songs. Even the ones from the record I have. And disarmingly and obviously her fathers daughter, Loudon in a wig being the look. Which is harsh as I warmed to her. Such is the role of a reviewer.
A short gap and she was back, albeit alongside a fiddle player, very good, of chinese extraction and interesting hair, the two being the current band alongside Amy Ray (darker hair, lower registers) and Emily Saliers (fairer hair and the higher notes). I have their debut and a couple of others, so was anxious I may not know newer material, but was swiftly comforted: after a 9 year gap this was a consolidation greatest hits show. And it was wonderful. With an array of strings available, routinely changed between every song, acoustic to electric, mandolin to electric banjo, the duo were on stellar form, allowing for a shaky first number to get the sound balance right. The trademark counterpoint vocals, the singing of separate phrases in different tunes as chorus, soared. The songs I knew, I knew. The songs I didn’t I could have, the style and template immediately memorable and alive. Some were getting their first airing, Emily putting out a solo album soon,from which she featured a song. If she is the singer songwriter songbird, then her sidekick is the grungier and rockier contrast, upon which their worth is measured, the mix of mild and wild, rough with relaxing. High points? Hell, yes, Power of Two from Goodbye Ophelia (1994) and, inevitably, last track,side 1 from their 1985 debut, Closer to Fine, the encore and closer.
Um, well there wasn’t much of, if any, queue in the gents. An enthusiastic throng of women, making for delightful audience “your turn” singalong in the encore.
It made me think..
This is a really good set of players, singers and writers. Really good. Would they be better known, better admired as a less overtly niche option? The LGBT forefront they extol might also have prevented them being the female REM, to whom they most compare, sonically and stylistically. Or maybe, as a man, I talk out of my arse. Brilliant night out. Glad my parents hadn’t locked me up in advance.