It isn’t often that I will travel over the county line for a norwichblog away day gig but there are exceptions for people I find very special. Yes, I’m talking about you Rainbow Girls et al! Marissa Nadler is most definitely one of those and having tried and failed twice before to catch her in London (one was sold out, the other turned out to be a gig-clash night with Lera Lynn) I wasn’t prepared to miss her a third time. So it was I headed deep into the heart of hipster-central Shoreditch where there must be a ratio of a barber for every five resisdents. Just a mile or so from Liverpool Street I thought I’d check out the walking time as it was cutting things rather fine for the last train home, as I got there I had the good fortune to meet Marissa herself and Mary Lattimore who was maneuvering quite the largest harp I have ever seen out of the tour truck. The venue itself is pretty decent with good sound and lighting though I was a bit surprised at the 450 capacity claim as it feels a lot more intimate than that, which of course is perfect for a gig such as this. Arriving so early it was a fairly relaxing place to hang out for a while although the sight of a coffin being wheeled out of the auditorium and through the bar was disarming to say the least, and made me question if I was at the right gig! 🙂 I still haven’t figured what that was all about…
Asheville’s Mary came onstage shortly after 8:30pm and played an absolutely beautiful set to a hushed crowd in an almost full Hoxton Bar & Kitchen. She has performed and recorded with the likes of Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile, Jarvis Cocker, Meg Baird, Sharon Van Etten, Steve Gunn, Ed Askew, and Fursaxa as well as contributing to the score of Lopapeysa, a short film set in Iceland. That’s impressive stuff, as she was live too, using interesting and atmospheric effects to her gorgeous playing. It was quite haunting and extremely creative, the range of notes on her Lyon & Healy Concert Grand Harp was breathtaking, the lower end notes sounding close to an upright bass. It almost totally obscured her visually with her face hidden by the harp although we could see her hands and their intricate playing. Beautiful.
Around 9:30pm the divine Marissa Nadler in a stunning dress took to the stage to play to a rapt and devoted audience and was soon joined by her excellent band. Touring “Strangers”, which is without question one of my favourite albums of the year it was clear to see that there are lot of people who are equally touched by her words and music in the same way that I am as there was a special atmosphere and anticipation, nobody wanting to miss a moment, there was a lot of love for her. Her sublime voice and music is incredibly haunting and seems to speak to and touch my soul, she has mastered the art of expressing exquisite beauty in melancholy and solitude. This is music for sensitive souls.
As well as the tracks from Strangers I was also hoping to hear a few favourites from her previous album, 2013’s enchanting July. She did not disappoint me. The musical pefection that is Drive appeared early in the set and she also gave us some others I hoped to hear from it, such as Dead City Emily, and Firecrackers and the treat that was an astonishing cover of Neil Young’s Cortez the Killer. The set was moving like a dream and closed with a tribute to Leonard Cohen and her cover of Famous Blue Raincoat.
With just two days off on an 18 date tour covering eleven countries that is real dedication and so I had no qualms about the journey I was making to see her and despite worrying about my train as the time edged closer to the 11pm curfew I caught her encore, bought the only vinyl album on the merch stall that I didn’t already have and even got a signature and a goodbye before going to the station for the last train. I really feel as though I floated there being on such a post-gig high. A true artist, she creates beauty and expresses such soul in an achingly poetic, expressive way that moves me deeply. Marissa Nadler takes me to a special place. Thank you. I hope she’ll come to our special place next time and has a date with Norwich on the next tour. Marissa and Mary also continued this run of exceptional gigs by women that I have been privileged to experience.
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