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Concert Fri Sep 16 2011

Review: Marissa Nadler, James Vincent McMorrow @ The Hideout 9/15

[This review comes to us from writer Davis Inman.]

Last night at The Hideout, with summer all but gone, James Vincent McMorrow and Marissa Nadler were speaking in fall tones. Even sans one of Tim Tuten's legendary band introductions, the sold-out concert got off without a hitch.

Marissa Nadler, a singer-songwriter from Boston, draws on the haunted minor key dirges of Gillian Welch with some of the atmosphere of Kate Bush. But with long black hair, a white dress, and black stockings, singing songs about loss and death, she could also be the ghost of Joan Baez, ca. 1963.

Nadler pulled mostly from songs from her new self-titled, self-released album. Whereas album versions feature weeping steel lines and occasional synths, on stage it was Nadler, alone. It's hard to be entertaining in a quiet room these days, but it helps to have a great voice or great songs, and Nadler has both.

For "Salutations," a song from the lo-fi CD-R Ivy and the Clovers, Nadler picked up her C-tuned 12-string guitar and channeled her Eastern, mystical Jimmy Page side. The heavy delay on the guitar was a bit intense for the room, but fit the trance-like quality of the song. "Wind Up Doll," a song from the new album, is a twisted lullaby: "Shannaddee a dee a dee a dee...she ain't nothing but a ghost now." Not recommended subject matter for little ones.

Before her last song of the evening, "All Love Must Die," a song "about being a mistress," Nadler recounted her experience the night before at the airport hotel bar, with the businessmen and escorts. In the song, Nadler sings, "I spent the summer breathing in the scent of your arms again/ But I was not your woman those times," and concludes, "I'd rather be your mistress than your nobody." To write so vividly about being a mistress surely isn't a simple gift. And whether Nadler draws on real or imagined experiences in her songs, her characters always seem to come to life in a way that only Appalachian folk stories, passed down and adapted through generations, can.

For the small number of the crowd who made their way to the back room for Nadler's performance, it would have appeared that James Vincent McMorrow had a tough act to follow, on the eighth day of his first headlining tour in the U.S. But it wasn't so, as the front bar emptied out, and the back room swelled as he and his five-piece band took the stage.

McMorrow.JPG
James Vincent McMorrow at the Hideout (photo by Davis Inman)

McMorrow is an Irishman who holed up in a beach house to record last year's Early In The Morning, which, with its high harmonies - not too mention its genesis in seclusion - seems like a European answer to the Midwest's Bon Iver.

Opening with the rollicking folk number, "Breaking Hearts," the group was in strong form, making a case for being the next in the Mumford & Sons lineage. McMorrow has both a throaty R&B belt and a high falsetto and his choruses are big and a little bland, making for instant sing-alongs. Given the chronology of Early In The Morning and Bon Iver's To Emma, Forever Ago, it's hard also not to think the Irishman is borrowing something quite original to Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

The highlight of McMorrow's set was his solo piano/vocal version of the Steve Winwood 1986 hit, "Higher Love." The song, recorded and released for a charity covers record, has lately picked up on the Internet, and McMorrow lamented the fact that his song choice has been called ironic. He said the song's deep meaning gets obscured by its killer hook. Luckily in McMorrow's version, both came through.

-Davis Inman

 
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