Monday, January 22, 2007
Joanna Newsom & The LSO @ The Barbican, 19 Jan 07
Going to see Joanna Newsom at the Barbican was a bit of a step up for me. Firstly quite literally, as we had to make our way up to the gods to look down at Joanna, faraway on the stage below. But also because the last time I saw her live, it was at the 12 Bar Club for her first UK gig, along with about 50-odd other people. Although tonight was quite different, what both gigs shared is me being blown away. The first time, because I had literally not seen anything like her. This time, because, well, there's still nothing quite like her. I mean, can you imagine in another time and place a crowd of 2000 indie kids being drawn to a classical concert hall to watch a harp player with a medieval fixation playing with an orchestra? You know something unique's going on here.
Tonight Joanna is playing with the renowned London Symphony Orchestra, who are filling out the Van Dyke Parks score on her current album Ys. The fact that she's playing Ys though in its entirety tonight, in the correct order might at first seem to be a bit unimaginative. But nothing could have been further from the truth. Now, I haven't previously been as convinced as many other bloggers by the genius of Ys, but tonight it really hit me. Right from "The meadowlark and the chim-choo-ree" at the start of Emily and onwards. But it was midway though Only Skin that something clicked into place and I became a true believer. She really is amazing.
And impressive though the performance with the LSO was, her return after a short interval to play songs from The Milk-Eyed Mender, an old Scottish folk song and a new song was nothing short of rapturous. I mean the orchestral stuff was great, brilliant even, but there's nothing like just Joanna and her harp, unencumbered by arrangements, and her utterly compelling songs. I wanted this bit to last forever. When she played Crab, Clam, Cockle Cowrie, I almost cried, it was so good.
She couldn't top that of course, but her encore of Sadie was spine-tingline and rapturously received. As she skipped quickly off the Barbican stage at the end, you got the impression that she was even slightly wary of the mass adulation from the vast auditorium before her. But if she continues to dazzle like this, she better get used to it.
It's just gone midway though January, and already we may have gig of the year.
Download: Joanna Newsom - Crab, Clam, Cockle, Cowrie
Download: Joanna Newsom - Sadie
Buy Ys and The Milk Eyed-Mender. Yes, both of them! (my friend did on Saturday, after the gig)
Joanna Barbican closer-up shot from inkognitoh's Flickr photostream. The faraway one at the top is mine of course.